Can we laugh at death?
Review: Happy Death Day 2U
Content warning: This article includes discussion of suicide.
From the marketing and the trailer, it would be easy to mistake Happy Death Day 2U for a horror film or another slasher movie.
From the poster featuring the infamous poisoned cupcake from the first film, to the cut of the trailer itself, the film is easily mistaken. Its actual genre is slightly harder to pin down, but it’s a combination of a dark comedy, a horror film, and a comic book film.
Written by former X-Men comics scribe Scott Lobdell, Happy Death Day 2U strikes a balance between horror and comedy, eliciting laughs and jump scares in equal measure.
It picks up shortly after the events of the first film, with Theresa “Tree” Gelbman finding herself cursed to repeat the day of her death over and over again. Thanks to a haywire quantum mechanics experiment at her university, she finds herself in another reality and stuck in a time loop, one that repeats every time she dies. The Baby mask wearing killer from the first film returns, but this time it’s a lot less clear as to who is behind the mask.
Where Insights must add a caveat here lies in Happy Death Day 2 U’s treatment of suicide. In order to aid the experiment, and return to her home dimension, Tree must die repeatedly and begin the day over again. This is where the film’s dark humour comes in. For those who cannot find this potentially funny, pulled off as it is with aplomb by talented comedic actress Jessica Rothe, the film is better left avoided.
On the other hand, the way in which Happy Death Day 2U deals with the subject of grief and saying goodbye to loved ones stands as one of the film’s strengths. Tree is confronted with the fact that her mother is still alive in the timeline she has entered. This brings an extra element to her grief and the film in general, as she has the chance to directly communicate with her late loved one, something that computer programmers are trying to recreate with AI.
While the idea of a dark comedy does not automatically conjure thoughts of something to commend to Christians, the idea of laughing at death has a wider pedigree. Perhaps its most famous incarnation is in the celebration of Halloween, originally a festival designed to deal with the fear of impending winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The idea also has some basis in Christianity, with Paul declaring that, in Christ’s death and resurrection, death has lost its power (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Happy Death Day is rated M and is now playing in cinemas.
If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call Triple 0.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor