Directed by: Christopher Landon
Written by: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Rachel Matthews, Phi Vu, Steve Zissis
Some premises work well when it works as a surprise, but then after it continues, it may lose what made it so interesting. With this sequel, it uses the same ideas, but with a different twist and while it does not execute them to the same level as the film that came before, it still provides an emotionally resonant story.
After breaking out of the cycle of death she had to endure, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Roethe), finally has the perfect relationship with her boyfriend and has found a new purpose in life. Due to unexpected circumstances, once again she gets dragged right back into the cycle and must find a way to break it for good before it kills her permanently.
The first Happy Death Day brought such a refreshing take on the Groundhog Day type of story as it injected horror elements to it. It became a big mystery as to who kept killing Tree and the reveal and resolution worked so well. This film certainly took a more playful approach with the idea, where the first one had its funny moments but contained more a horror film structure. Instead of relying on potential scares, this film shifts its genre to resemble science-fiction, which made it fresh but not as effective as its predecessor. It took away the suspense found in the previous film, but it did add unexpected and resonant storylines.
The highlight of this film shined with the emotional arc of Tree because the repetition of the day causes the opening of different timelines. These opened timelines show Tree the different ways in which her life could change. This particular choice serves as a growing moment for this character and her values. I will not get into what she has to encounter because it turns into a genuinely nice surprise, but the decisions she must make take a toll on her in a beautiful way. I was pleasantly surprised that this film went down this route.
What made this film not work as much for me came down to shifting the story towards science-fiction. I love science-fiction but adding it to this type of film did not entirely land. The film became too focused on trying to explain everything to the audience that it lost what made the first one so effective. Happy Death Day offered no explanation as to what caused the repetition of the day, it just happened and then it ended. The explanations in the film did nothing to add to the story and it made the middle-third of the film really drag.
Jessica Roethe will undoubtedly become a star and it all starts with this film and the original. She has the great qualities of being a scream queen, but can also be a comedic force when on screen. In the film, in order to figure out the repeat of the cycle, she has to die over and over again to piece together the solution. The deaths are made to be comedic and it really works because of Roethe’s performance. She has a special type of charisma and screen presence that will aid her in whatever genre she wants to try out.
Even with its faults, Happy Death Day 2 U still has plenty of humorous moments in the film and the premise did not become completely tired even when Tree kept having to die to figure out the algorithm to end the nightmare. It serves as a good and fun film that can be enjoyed by everyone, but it just lacked what made the first one work so well. I would still recommend it for anyone to watch and I hope Jessica Roethe gets the opportunity to take this experience and have her career expand into other great roles.