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Sequels are often feared for one key reason: in the worst case scenario, you’re basically just remaking the original with some minor changes. As such, the decision to make Happy Death Day 2U might have scared fans more than being hunted by a knife wielding psycho with a Babyface mask. After all, the Groundhog Day-esque film already accomplished that sort of feat in its own darkly comic way the first time around. If you’re one of those people fearing such a film, it’s time to put away those worries, though, as Happy Death Day 2U takes the original premise and jacks it up to a degree that not only pivots genres with the greatest of ease, but makes the sequel even more fun than the original.
Picking up immediately where the last one ended, Tree (Jessica Rothe), having finally freed herself from the loop of death and revenge at the center of Happy Death Day, thinks that life has gone back to its normal, idyllic pace. Unfortunately, however, due to circumstances beyond her control, our heroine once again finds herself reliving the same day over and over – except with a couple of extra surprises packed in. Make no mistake, the events of the first film have prepared Tree for the challenges of Happy Death Day 2U, but she doesn’t have all the answers for this particular journey – and only has a limited amount of time to figure out a solution.
While Happy Death Day operated more as a slasher horror film with a comedic bent, Happy Death Day 2U crosses over into the realm of sci-fi, with some of that horror still mixed in. Much like Alien led to Aliens, writer/director Christopher Landon takes that original concept and turns it into a supercharged thrill ride that plays with the familiar. Now that we the audience know the rules and the setup to such a premise, Landon feels it’s time to have even more fun with Tree and her misadventures in temporal recurrence.
In that respect, the entire recurring cast of characters seem to be having a blast as well, playing their characters a little differently in Happy Death Day 2U’s slightly altered sandbox. Jessica Rothe is the special standout, as her new and improved Tree has become more emboldened to solve the mystery, and willing to sacrifice herself as many times as necessary to end another crazy loop. Both her character, and her performance, are big steps forward from what was already a fantastic start to the adventures of Tree Gelbman; and the difference isn’t only in the portrayals.
The story to Happy Death Day 2U branches out not only into other genres, but also into more human and emotional stakes, allowing it to feature a resonant climactic sequence in the film’s third act that plays like something you’d see typically from a serious drama. And therein lies the beauty of Happy Death Day 2U, as instead of just getting a slasher sequel, we get a mashup of genres from 80’s sci-fi comedy to emotional drama that never forgets what it’s here to do - while never being afraid to mix in a surprise or two.
Happy Death Day was a novel original feature the did the groundwork for something truly exciting in Happy Death Day 2U. With a cast that’s as game as Christopher Landon's script and direction are to really bring out the bonkers, all involved have not only stepped up their game with the sequel, they’ve set a pretty high bar to clear for any potential follow-ups. The movie is fun with a capital “F-U,” as it plays with your expectations to not only get a bigger reaction than the first film, but to show off the full extent of the premise's possibilities. This is a movie you need to see with an audience, simply because the reactions are as golden as what happens on screen.