Sequel breaks free of typical slasher movie characteristics
Not every movie sequel is a rehash of the original, unless that movie is stuck in a time loop.
“Happy Death Day 2U” is a worthy sequel to the 2016 horror-comedy “Happy Death Day,” managing to live up to the promise of being something unique while maintaining the same tone.
Both movies feature Tree (Jessica Rothe), a college student who finds that she has become stuck in a time loop and keeps living the same day ad nauseam while there is a killer on the loose. This movie begins minutes before the end of the first movie.
What makes this movie unique from others in the horror genre is its science fiction angle. It is revealed that the time loop is the result of a science experiment conducted by Ryan, a side character in the first movie, and two of his friends.
When they run the machine again in order to fix a problem, Tree gets knocked back into the day she has lived over and over again — the previous day. This time, however, she is sent into a parallel dimension with slight differences: Tree’s love interest from the first movie is dating someone else, the resident bitch puts up a much nicer facade, the killer in the first movie is now being pursued by a masked killer, et cetera.
Now, the focus of the movie is on finding the right algorithm through trial and error to end the time loop problem with the slasher element taking a far backseat. With the day resetting, and along with it everyone’s memories, Tree has to become a living record of their progress, which is one hell of an incentive to learn and understand quantum mechanics.
I liked the movie following through on the oft-repeated promise of a sequel being other than a rehash of the first one and give points to the writers for creativity.
Like the first movie, there is a heavy focus on Tree’s emotional journey, which is rare for many horror movies. Whereas the first movie has her seeing how self-centered and inconsiderate she was and working on correcting her behavior, this one has her dealing with the question of past versus future and the need to take a leap of faith. This focus on character is complemented well by the film’s excellent cast. Rothe portrays the desperation and frustration of Tree’s situation well and is superb in the more emotional scenes.
I did have some minor problems with the movie. There’s some inconsistency in the long-term effects.
It’s established in both movies that she accumulates physical damage from each time she dies, but in both movies it’s inconsistent. Given that this movie takes place the day after most of the first movie, it also lacks signs of the physical toll from the first movie. Tree has to reset each day by killing herself, which she seems a bit too gung-ho about given how it’s established that “dying sucks.” Granted there does appear to be traces of resignation during this montage.
My other quibble is that the movie at times follows the structure of the original a bit too closely: Montage of her dying while learning about people around her, passing out and waking in the hospital, making a sacrifice to prevent the loop from being closed, an emotional birthday conversation with a parent, et cetera. It is still somewhat organic to the plot, but the point remains.
Overall, “Happy Death Day 2U” is a good movie in its own right. If you’re a fan of the first one and are open to something different, you should like this movie. The duality would make for a killer double feature.