1000 Ways to Die
Happy Death Day 2U is written and directed by Christopher Landon and stars Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, and Charles Aitken, all of whom return to reprise their roles from Happy Death Day. Newcomers to the cast include Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, and Steve Zissis.
There is an argument to be made for Happy Death Day not fully answering every basic question regarding its time loop concept and how the time loop ever got started. The film ended with Tree happily getting together with Carter, so had no sequel ever come out, I doubt anyone would lose sleep over how poor college girl Tree Gelbman came to be killed over and over again. Groundhog Day never fully explained how Bill Murray's character got trapped in a time loop, and, last I checked, that movie is still getting rave reviews. The point being: a sequel to Happy Death Day of course would have to give us more on how this whole time loop thing got started, and what we get turns out to be a much more involved, Back to the Future-style sci-fi story that transforms this straightforward, comedic slasher story into a bonkers, what-the-hell-is-happening journey into the unknown.
The story of Happy Death Day 2U begins on Tuesday, September 19: the day after Tree was stuck in the time loop. Carter's roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) awakens from his car and goes to work with fellow science students Samar (Sharma) and Dre (Yarkin) on his thesis project: a quantum reactor. The reactor has caused several power outages around the college, and the school dean, Bronson (Steve Zissis), will not stand for it any longer, so he has the reactor shut down and taken away. Shortly afterwards, Ryan is murdered by someone wearing the Babyface mask of the school mascot, and he awakens in his car to find the events of Tuesday the 19th repeating themselves. Ryan goes to Tree and Carter to explain his situation, and after Tree explains her experiences from Monday, September 18th, they come to the conclusion that the reactor created the time loop. Ryan tries to close the loop using the reactor, but it malfunctions and sends out an energy pulse that sends Tree back into the loop from Monday the 18th.
Tree finds out, however, that things are a little different this time around in the loop, different enough that she considers staying. Ryan proposes that Tree was not sent back in time to the previous day, but was sent to an alternate dimension. Despite some new perks in this dimension, the Babyface killer is still after Tree, and now Tree must find a way to keep the killer off her back and return home to the correct dimension.
- I suppose if there was any way to peel off the layers of a story that involved time looping, this is one way to do it. Happy Death Day 2U nearly strips itself completely of anything that can be labeled as "horror", in favor of a much more comedic tone and a moderate dosage of science fiction. Much like Happy Death Day, the extent of which the movie tries to frighten you is Tree or Ryan or whoever else walking through a dark hallway and slowly approaching a corner or another spot where Babyface might jump out. What Christopher Landon is more concerned with this time around is making things even sillier than they were before. He knows how ridiculous this alternative dimension concept can be, so instead of hammering you over the head with copious details on how it all works, he gives you just enough of an explanation on what is going on, while erasing any leftover confusion by having his characters go through the movie as if they're all thinking, "None of this makes any god damn sense, but we gotta roll with it." It's really one of the best directorial approaches that Landon can take with this concept: having fun by embracing the absurdity for what it is. Why bother trying to make the next Blade Runner or some other kind of trippy, mentally stimulating sci-fi classic when you can put your efforts towards generating some good laughs? Typically, the best science fiction movies are those that are either super smart or ludicrously funny. Landon goes for the latter, and that's what makes Happy Death Day 2U function at full capacity.
- I really hope Jessica Rothe's career takes off now that people have seen what she can do in these Happy Death Day movies. Once again, Landon challenges Rothe to display a wide range of emotions, and, like before, Rothe proves more than capable of being goofy and smiley or teary-eyed and sincere whenever the movie requires her to be. Oh yeah, and she continues to be unbelievably charming, but I don't think I need to go over that again.
- It's hard to deny that Happy Death Day 2U isn't a little derivative of the first film, mostly in how it has basically the same premise, except now we have a few extra characters, and the chain of events are shuffled around a little bit. It's also a bit disappointing that the Babyface killer now takes something of a backseat to Tree's search for getting back to her own dimension, taking away more chances the movie might have had at being gory, slasher fun. Not that the movie isn't fun with what it does. There's just not quite enough new material to make Happy Death Day 2U feel like a whole new experience that we could never get from Happy Death Day. Thankfully, it does do one thing that every sequel should do: extend upon the original film.
Putting it all together, I found Happy Death Day 2U to be just as good as Happy Death Day. The heightened comedic tone and the science fiction direction that the movie takes are welcome extensions upon the original film's concept, and Jessica Rothe is incredibly charming and fun to watch just as she was the first time around. The story doesn't do enough to fully distinguish itself from Happy Death Day's story, but that doesn't keep the film from being funny and enjoyable to watch. It's a perfectly suitable follow-up to one of the more memorable horror films in recent years, and if and when a third film is going to happen, Christopher Landon will surely make it worth our while.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure the first film's plot is fresh in your mind before you see it.
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