Another Day, After day, After day… Another Quality Entry Into the Franchise
DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER LANDON/2019
The first Happy Death Day was a horror/comedy, in that order, that really had a heart at its center. In many horror films, a good person is faced with an evil entity, and in order to survive, they most harden themselves, become like the monster, and fight it at its own terms in order to defeat it. Ripley had to become a machine (literally) in Aliens. Final girls in slasher films have to give the killer a taste of its own medicine.
In a cynical way, the survivors are only surviving life, but broken emotionally. And by flipping that on its head in Happy Death Day, Tree (Jessica Rothe) goes from being a mean girl, who could have been plucked right of the movie Mean Girls, and by becoming a good person, she wins. Softening her heart. Learning to love. And realizing that if she narrowed the list of people who wanted her dead by not making everyone hate her, perhaps the mystery wouldn’t be so hard to solve.
So now with a sequel, titled Happy Death Day 2U, which is a comedy/horror, more in that order this time, Tree finds out the source of her repeating day. The beginning of the film flirts a little too hard with explanation overload. But you can tell that once the explanation is out of the way, which I’ll leave for the reader to see for themselves, the director Christopher Landon is happy to move forward and focus on the comedy, to focus on Tree and the amazing performance again by Rothe, and to have a lot of fun once again.
To an extent, the movie reminds me of Evil Dead 2. By taking essentially the same story as their respective first films in the series, facing it in a more meta and humorous way, and acknowledging where the audience is and what they bring to the movie, they avoid rehashing anything.
What propels the movie to another level is the way it takes details from the first movie, including Tree’s roommate, who turned out to be the killer in the first, and changing the details of the day she is reliving. So the roommate is now innocent. So who is the killer? And get ready for your heartstrings to be tugged when you find out a crucial character from the first is still alive.
Just like Happy Death Day happily wore its Groundhog Day influence on its sleeve, Happy Death Day 2U wears its Back to the Future 2 influences on its sleeve. Like the first, it’ll leave you feeling happy. And the hint of part three, which comes after the credits, will have you counting how many days we have to round out the trilogy.