Happy Death Day 2U is a 2019 American science fiction black comedy slasher film written and directed by Christopher Landon. It stars Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Rachel Matthews, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine, and Steve Zissis. The film again follows Tree Gelbman (Rothe), who is accidentally transported to another dimension, where she must relive a different version of the same day repeatedly as she tries to return home, while a new killer is on the loose. The film is a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day, with Jason Blum again serving as a producer through his Blumhouse Productions company.
The film was released in the United States on February 13, 2019, by Universal Pictures. It received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Rothe’s performance, as well as the film’s shift to a more sci-fi tone, although some noted it as derivative of the first film. It grossed $64 million worldwide against a $9 million budget.
College student Ryan wakes up in his car on Tuesday, September 19. Returning to his dorm room, he walks in on his roommate Carter and his girlfriend, Tree. He resumes work on an experimental quantum reactor with fellow students Samar and Dre. After Bronson, the school dean, shuts down the project for triggering several power outages, Ryan is murdered by someone dressed as Babyface, and wakes up again on Tuesday the 19th. Tree explains her experience reliving Monday the 18th, and she and Carter agree to help Ryan. They learn the reactor was responsible for creating the loop. The new Babyface tracks Ryan down, but Tree unmasks him to reveal another Ryan. The second Ryan warns that the original must die for the loop to close. Terrified, Ryan activates the reactor, releasing a powerful energy pulse that knocks everyone unconscious.
Tree wakes up in Carter’s room on Monday the 18th, and relives her original time loop, with certain differences: Lori is not the Babyface killer, and Carter is now dating a nicer Danielle. Ryan theorizes that the reactor caused Tree to drift into another dimension. When Tree learns her mother is still alive in this new reality, she decides to stay.
That night, Tree goes to the hospital to intercept serial killer John Tombs before he escapes, but is confronted by a police officer. Babyface kills the officer and Tree runs into Lori, who tells her that Babyface cannot be Tombs because she just took him in for surgery. Babyface stabs Lori, then chases Tree to the roof, where she accidentally falls to her death. She wakes at the beginning of her loop, and demands that Ryan and his team help her escape it, requiring they test dozens of algorithms. At Carter’s suggestion, Tree serves as the group’s recorder, killing herself at the end of each day so they can start again. Eventually, her injuries catch up with her and she faints. Waking up in the hospital, Tree steals a gun to go after Tombs, only to find Lori already dead. Babyface attacks and Tree shoots him dead. However, a second Babyface appears, forcing Tree to kill herself and Babyface.
The group finally discovers the correct algorithm, but a technical issue forces a delay. Faced with a choice of which reality she wants to be in when both time loops close, Tree decides to remain in the current dimension. Carter urges Tree to consider the consequences of living a life that is not truly hers, and states that her experience with grief helped shape the person she is now. Tree hides from Babyface in a hotel. That evening, the news reports that Carter was murdered trying to save Lori at the hospital. Tree kills herself and deactivates the reactor so she can save Carter and Lori. The loop restarts, and Tree decides to return to her own reality. She advises Lori to end her affair with her professor Dr. Butler, discovers that Danielle is cheating on Carter, and has a final conversation with her mother.
Bronson confiscates the reactor before the group can activate it. Believing she is too weak to survive another loop, Tree insists they retrieve the device. The group enlists Danielle to distract Bronson while they recover the reactor. As Ryan readies the device, Tree goes to the hospital to rescue Lori from Tombs, but is trapped by the second Babyface—revealed to be Dr. Butler trying to bury the evidence of his affair with Lori. Dr. Butler’s wife Stephanie appears and shoots Lori, revealing she is in league with her husband, before he betrays and shoots her as well. Tree outsmarts Butler and kills him. Lori survives, and Tree and Carter kiss as the reactor activates, sending Tree back to her original dimension on Tuesday the 19th.
Later, Tree, Carter, Ryan, Samar and Dre are escorted by agents to a DARPA laboratory, where the reactor has been moved for further experimentation. When the agents say they need a test subject in order to see how the machine works, Tree says she knows the perfect test subject. In her bedroom, Danielle wakes up screaming in horror.
My Personal Thoughts
Tree Gelbman is living the same day again — again. Horror hit factory Blumhouse has returned to theaters with a mindbending sequel to Happy Death Day, its surprise success story from 2017, and this time, everything’s different. The sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, is taking audiences back to Bayfield to finish what the first movie started — or at least build on it.
If you’re confused about some of the movie’s weirder plot points, have no fear — we’ve diagrammed out the timelines and sorted through the sordid details with a summary you can follow, no matter which universe you’re watching from. The plot is weird and winding, throwing time-twisting turns and alternate dimensions at you faster than you might be able to process. But while this follow-up may be a little headier than the movie that came before it, there’s no reason to be caught out of the loop. Let’s break down the ending of Happy Death Day 2U.
The first Happy Death Day follows Tree’s journey from a stuck-up sorority mean girl to a sympathetic, gun-toting survivor — a satisfying character arc that felt like Groundhog Day by way of Friday the 13th. In that movie, much like in Groundhog Day, the mechanism that causes Tree to go into a day-repeating time loop is never revealed, appearing simply as a mystical phenomenon that serves to drive the story. But since the movie’s release, director Christopher Landon has promised there’s an explanation to the phenomenon hidden in the movie, all set to be explored in a possible sequel.
“The answer to why she’s literally stuck in a time loop — it’s something I have the answer to,” he told Insider in 2017. He also encouraged viewers to look for clues about the loop’s origins in the movie itself, saying, “The whole idea for my sequel is actually already in this movie. It’s hiding in plain sight.”
This assurance from Landon (who has sole writing credit on the sequel, picking up the torch from original movie writer Scott Lobdell), along with the emphasis on Tree’s dead mother and a long-lost birthday tradition, led to theories about her mother’s spirit having something to do with the loop, with Tree’s mother somehow manipulating time from beyond the grave to keep her daughter safe. But Happy Death Day 2U debunks those theories, revealing a source for the phenomenon that’s more sci-fi in nature than anyone saw coming.
In what feels like a wild departure from the original Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U reveals that Tree’s time-twisting journey was caused by a literal time machine, located in a science lab on the Bayfield University campus. The device, somewhat surprisingly, is the invention of Carter’s roommate Ryan, the oafish goober from the first movie with a tendency of barging in every time Tree wakes up.
While the first movie paints Ryan as awkward, boorish, and sex-obsessed, the sequel reveals hidden depths and intellect that would do good by Doc Brown himself. As the opening of the sequel shows us, Ryan is in the process of developing the machine with a team of fellow student scientists named Samar and Sarah. While they haven’t perfected the device just yet — and lord knows how they’re funding this thing — the team soon discovers that it’s capable of disturbing the fabric of space-time, unintentionally sending Tree on her most bogus birthday journey. (Tree is decidedly not happy with Ryan upon discovering this information.)
The lab students who developed the machine call it the Sisyphus quantum cooling reactor, or “Sissy” for short. The name is an on-the-nose reference to the Greek legend of Sisyphus, a man punished by the gods to spend each day eternally rolling a boulder up a hill, doomed to crumple under its weight while never reaching the top. As viewers of the first Happy Death Day know, it’s a trial that Tree can quite viscerally relate to.
The introduction of Sissy marks a clear pivot from the first movie’s horror genre trappings toward straight-up science fiction, with the plot-explaining time machine having little in common with the more traditionally frightening tone of the first movie. But Happy Death Day 2U also leans into a more romantic angle than its acerbic slasher predecessor, becoming more of a sci-fi rom-com than the Scream-like original.
When the machine as activated to kick off the movie’s second act, it sends Tree into a parallel dimension, in which her relationships with the people around her are ever so slightly askew. The changes are small but significant, forcing Tree to reevaluate her own life and what she wants out of it.
While the first dimension’s Carter is single until he meets Tree, the second dimension version is happily dating Danielle, a rival of Tree’s and the alpha dog of her sorority. In Tree’s world, her mom is dead — in the second world, she’s still alive. As a result of these character change-ups, the tension this time around isn’t so much “will Tree survive this nightmare” as it is “will love prevail,” with the heroine’s biggest challenge being in figuring out whether she wants to live in a reality with her still-alive mother, or her original dimension in which she’d just begun what felt like it could be a loving, long-term relationship with Carter.
Much like Scream, Cabin in the Woods, and other winking works of meta-fiction, the characters in Happy Death Day 2U are cognizant of the fact that they seem to be living through the plot of a movie. In this case, parallels are drawn with Back to the Future Part II, the super-fun 1989 movie that saw science student Marty McFly not just revisiting the past, but also the plot of the previous movie, intersecting with the older narrative in new and unexpected ways.
On top of the Back to the Future sequel being surprisingly relevant to this movie’s plot, Happy Death Day 2U also sports a few cute references to the sci-fi series, such as the “Biff’s Tree Removal” wood chipper that Tree cheerfully kills herself in at the end of one loop, as well as the fateful speed of 88 mph she attains during a later desperate death behind the wheel.
While not necessarily hard to follow, Happy Death Day 2U clearly doesn’t want audiences to linger too much on the how of its storytelling, breezing through plot points faster than you can say “wait, what?”
After being shot through a hole in space-time to begin the September 18 time loop in a whole other dimension, Tree is faced with two tasks. The first goal is to return to her own reality, a course of action which she can’t immediately decide if she even wants to take, considering that her beloved mother is still alive in this new world. But the second goal of stopping the time loop is something she has to achieve no matter what, regardless of which reality she decides to live out her days in.
The problem is that Sissy is a work in progress, a powerful machine that neither Ryan nor his lab mates yet entirely understand. In order to get it under their control, they need to do more research — lots of research. Each time the loop resets, they lose their progress, with the memories of everyone but Tree being reset to the state they were in when the loop started. As a result, Tree is forced to become the team’s institutional memory, keeping track of the complex quantum mechanics that make the machine work. It’s a tall task and a battle of inches, with the team only making progress thanks to Tree resetting the loop via offing herself, elaborately and hilariously, over and over again.
Complicating all of this multi-dimensional quantum confusion is the inconvenient fact that, just like the first movie, there’s a killer on the loose. In the first film, the Babyface masked killer is portrayed by two characters — Tree’s sorority sister Lori, and a serial killer named John Tombs, whom Lori manipulates, collaborates with, and sets up to frame for Tree’s murder, with her capacity as a nursing student giving her close proximity to the hospitalized criminal.
In the first movie’s reality, Lori was motivated to kill Tree out of jealousy due to her romantic relationship with Gregory Butler, a married professor and medical doctor whom Lori coveted. The doe-eyed nice girl was a most unexpected villain, making for a satisfying twist when she’s actually innocent in the second world. So who’s killing people in 2U?
The sequel features three characters wielding knives behind the Baby mask. For the most part, the killings in the second world are being committed by Dr. Butler himself, as well as — shockingly — his wife Stephanie, who seems to have been driven insane by Gregory’s infidelity. (While they appear to be in cahoots at first, that doesn’t really hold up after Gregory decides to shoot Stephanie during the movie’s climax. They’re apparently just both crazy, and totally deserve each other; what a shame that it doesn’t work out.)
The third killer only appears in the movie’s first act, while Ryan is experiencing his own time loop on September 19th — and the reveal is a weird one.
One of the weirdest threads in Happy Death Day 2U is the idea that the Babyface killer pursuing Ryan in the movie’s opening is actually another version of himself, invading Ryan Prime’s reality in an effort to stop him from causing the time loops in the first place. It’s an electric, tantalizing reveal, promising doppelgängers, evil twins, and intertwining timelines that the movie… just doesn’t follow up on. Seriously. If you went to the bathroom at some point and thought you missed something, you didn’t. You’re not crazy — the origins of this second Ryan are never explored, and the mystery of his motivations just isn’t answered.
As John Orquiola with Screen Rant points out, this second Ryan seems to be from the future, possessing knowledge about the time loop’s effects that no one beyond Tree should really have yet.
As much as it seems like it could be a setup for Tree’s own doppelgänger being the killer in dimension two, Tree is explicitly told that there aren’t two of her in dimension two. When Tree goes to the second universe, she replaces herself in it, and despite the clear establishment of two alternate realities, an alternate version of herself never shows up. So how did Ryan end up with two of himself running around in dimension one? There are many possibilities — but in the movie itself, no answers.
Happy Death Day 2U seems to end on the cheerful note of Tree returning to her own reality, the time loop broken, and all of her hard-earned progress in life restored. But the world of the movie gets blown wide open in an out-of-left-field mid-credits sequence, which takes the sci-fi trappings of the sequel and goes all the way with them.
The scene begins with Tree and her cohorts doing campus clean-up as recompense for their destructive, insubordinate, reality-shattering lab work, the destructive effects of which the faculty can only begin to imagine. But just because the dean and company are in the dark doesn’t mean everyone is. Out of nowhere, the students are approached by a whole fleet of dark-suited special agent types, pulling up with stern expressions and a serious agenda.
A man introduces himself as Dr. Issac Parker with DARPA, an acronym for the real-life, federally-run Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The G-People promptly transport the students to their agency’s headquarters, where they’ve set up the confiscated Sissy machine to suit their own purposes. In what seems like a fantastic idea with no possible downsides whatsoever, Dr. Parker reveals that the agency wants to do research with the machine, and requires the students’ know-how to make it work. They also need a suitable test subject for further experimentation, proposing a sadistic experiment that no one deserves to experience — except maybe Danielle, who ends the movie waking up and screaming, caught in her own time loop.
The ending of Happy Death Day 2U marks a bonkers tonal shift that the sequel has spent its whole runtime building toward, setting up a third movie in a way few could have anticipated. We’re not just theory-crafting, either — writer-director Christopher Landon and producer Jason Blum have already said they would like to make a third movie, with the likelihood of it happening all depending on the box office performance of 2U.
As Blum explained in an interview with CinePOP, the genre-twisting nature of 2U and its stakes-raising ending aren’t unintentional.
“What’s different about Happy Death Day,” Blum said, “Is I’ve never seen a franchise where one movie is a certain genre and the next movie is a different genre. And that’s certainly the case with Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U, and hopefully if we make a third one it’ll be a different, third kind of genre.”
As disappointing as it might be on some level to leave behind the slasher tone, it’s hard not to be interested in where this story could go. From the sound of the filmmakers’ comments, the sequel’s already abandoned horror quite deliberately. So if the audience turns out for it, why not abandon everything, and just go full-bore nutso in the next one? Could this movie be designed with loose ends to be tied up later, such as the mysterious second Ryan? It certainly seems that way — and if the threequel gets the greenlight, we can’t wait to see where the story goes.
I will rate this Movie 6/10.
|Directed by||Christopher Landon|
|Produced by||Jason Blum|
|Written by||Christopher Landon|
by Scott Lobdell
|Starring||Jessica Rothe Israel Broussard Rachel Matthews Phi Vu Steve Zissis|
|Music by||Bear McCreary|
|Edited by||Ben Baudhuin|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date||February 13, 2019 (United States)|
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Box office||$64.5 million|