From slasher flick to sci-fi, ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ thrills
Veering away from an expected rehash of its “Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” plot, “Happy Death Day 2U” surprises with major, revelatory changes. The sequel still has those basic elements—the repetitive rebooting of a day until the protagonist gets it right—but this new chapter actually explains the science behind the recurring nightmares.
In the first film, college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is stalked to death multiple times by a baby-masked assailant. She wakes up, over and over, in the gentlemanly Carter’s (Israel Broussard) room. She eventually pieces together the truth behind her many deaths, which coincide with her birthday.
With her ordeal finally over, Tree is sure that she and Carter can start becoming a couple. But, the sequel starts with his roommate, science nerd Ryan (Phi Vu), who wakes up to a seemingly normal day—until he finds himself stalked by a familiar, masked murderer.
When Ryan’s violent demise starts looping, he desperately tells Carter of his discombobulating day, which sounds
suspiciously familiar to Tree. Could her “curse” have transferred to Ryan? And what can she do to help?
Revisiting Tree’s cyclical doom and rebirth, “Happy Death Day 2U” brings back director Christopher Landon, who also takes over screenwriting duties this time. Lighter and more experimental than its predecessor, the sequel nonetheless has gallows humor imbued into its many heart-stopping proceedings.
Death becomes darkly funny at times, mainly because the resurrecting Tree—a more defined character, thanks partly to the now-endearing Rothe—can laugh at its face many times over. The sorority girl-turned-hesitant heroine also has new things to do, and more emotions to process, thanks to her many “alternate endings.”
And speaking of other realities, Tree even finds herself smack-dab in the middle of an alternate universe, with more sanity-testing differences to adapt to. The less-seen characters from the first film get to do much different things than what she and the viewer are used to, and that benefits the story immensely.
From being a mashup of comedy and horror, “Happy Death Day 2U” wisely utilizes its slasher roots, but offers a more trippy science-based backbone. A mid-credits scene cements that changed alchemy, a new status quo that shouldn’t be screwed with—if there aren’t better ideas for the next part.
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