(Don’t) See It Instead: Happy Death Day 2U.
We flip the script on Happy Death Day 2U, highlighting three time-loop films to avoid getting stuck with forever.
Here we are again. It feels like this has all happened before. I was sitting here, looking for time-loop movies to recommend for the new movie, Happy Death Day. Then some lunatic in a baby-face mask leapt out…and it’s all a blur…
OK. Here again. Since we already picked out three fine films to see when we covered the original film, let’s try to break the cycle. This time around, we’ll choose three lousy flicks. To lessen the sting, we’ll also choose a much better alternative for the bad film. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. We’ll be out of this time paradox in no time…
Happy Death Day 2U (2019).
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) thought she had escaped the time loop that saw her dying over and over again. Several months later, she notice that her reality has been subtly altered, and the masked killer who tormented her is back. This time, she’s not alone as her closest friends are also stuck in the loop. They must work together to discover the cause and make it out alive.
The Serious(ly Bad) Pick: Repeaters (2010).
Three troubled teens at a rehabilitation center struggle with family problems. This comes to head one day when each is confronted with a pivotal chance to reconcile, which each fails to take advantage of. When a freak electrical storm strikes them, they are forced to relive the previous day. Instead of turning over a new leaf, they indulge in every antisocial and risk seeking behavior they can think of.
This film had promise. The set-up is by now formulaic, but the results are potentially incisive. If you had a lifetime of trouble and addiction but suddenly found yourself functionally immortal, I doubt simply eating a whole box of donuts would be the extent of your acting out. The twist of each time loop being seperate, so you can get yourself free if you complete the “best version” of your day is fascinating. It means you are back to square one, never sure which actions will erase your immortality. Scary stuff.
Unfortunately, the film prefers to luxuriate in the misanthropy of the characters rather than delve deep into the psychology of the situation. The acting and effects are questionable, to boot. I missed opportunity.
See It Instead: Primer (2004)
Two friends, Aaron and Abe build a machine that will supposedly transport them back six hours in time. As they take turns in the one-person machine, they become paranoid. Each tries to better their own situation, but Aaron takes risks Abe finds unacceptable. It devolves rapidly when they suspect that another acquaintance has discovered the machine and used it without their knowledge.
Shot on a shoestring, Primer is dense with ideas and implications. Rarely do time-loop films really dig into the guts of the conjecture. Shane Carruth (who wrote, stars in, and directed the film) really sinks his teeth deep into the paradox. The noir elements aid the film, which is smartly made and enjoyable even if time travel doesn’t move your needle.
The Laughably Bad Pick: Naked (2017)
Rob (Marlon Wayans) wakes up an hour before his wedding. Stuck in an elevator. Naked. Extricating himself after the mother of all bachelor party benders, he tries to rush to the chapel. Naked. Just as he arrives to his fiance’s horror, the church bell rings and he wakes up stuck in an elevator. Naked.
While Naked is a better comedy than most of the inane parodies Marlon Wayans has been associated with, Naked (created by the same brain trust behind those crappy films) still falls flat. Wayans physical comedy and funny faces can’t carry the premise for the full run time, and the humor is sprinkled with the same crassness as his other flicks. What’s worse, it’s one of those Hollywood remakes of a much better films. So without further ado…
See It Instead: Naken (2000).
Same premise, just Swedish.
So, it’s not exactly like Naken is much better than Naked…it’s just it was first, and is a touch less crass. I guess that’s good enough for me. Moving on.
The Unconventional(ly Bad) Pick: 12:01 (1993)
A normal guy with romantic interests in a beautiful scientist working on time travel gets caught in a time-loop when her greedy boss (Martin Landau) tinkers with her faster-than-light experiment.
12:01 is one of those “so inoffensively bad” movies that it becomes actually offensive. There’s nothing worse than a film that is trying to take zero risks when it comes to story, acting, and visuals. As soon as you’ve finished this film, your own experience is that time has looped back to before you’ve seen it, it’s so forgettable. And, once again, it’s a remake…
See It Instead: 12:01 (Short Film, 1990).
A normal guy notices that his lunch hour keeps repeating. As desperation sets in, he learns about a scientist who has theorized about such loops being real. When he finally convinces the scientist he isn’t crazy, he learns that the loop is real…and unending.
Both films are based on a short story. While the feature film turns everything into a bland and saccharine version of “guy gets girl, plus time travel”, the short film goes dark and moves in for the kill. It works because the film has been unrelenting in its tone the whole time. It also helps that Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s Show, Robocop) just slays it as a stereotypical businessman whose normal day feels like a soul crushing loop before the actual loop sets in. If you’re intrigued by the premise, watch the short film instead.