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“Happy Death Day 2U”: could surpass original

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“Happy Death Day 2U”: could surpass original

Ben Wheeler, Online Editor

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2017’s “Happy Death Day” was a horror-dark comedy, taking the basic premise of “Groundhog Day,” of living the same day over and over again, and applying a baby-face-masked killer to the formula. Each time the main character Tree (Jessica Rothe) is killed, on her birthday no less, the day resets. Tree eventually unmasks her killer and along the way grows more disheartened with who she has become. Through her repeated days she makes peace with herself, her family and friends concluding in a feel-good ending as she escapes the time loop to kick-start her new life. A fine one-off form of storytelling from director Christopher Landon.

Then, the sequel hit theaters last week, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Christopher Landon also helmed the director’s chair for this sequel, titled “Happy Death Day 2U.” Along with Landon, all of our main and side characters returned for this sequel. In “Happy Death Day 2U,” Ryan (Phi Vu) experiences a similar repeat-day event to what Tree experienced in the first film when he is killed in a science building on their college campus. Tree, her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) and Ryan start investigating this new time loop, inadvertently sending Tree back into a time loop where she again repeatedly re-lives her birthday. The same time loop as the first movie? Perhaps not. That is about all I can say without revealing anything the trailers didn’t.

Let’s face it, the first movie most definitely did not need a sequel, and it seemed like the type of movie that would be ruined by a pointless rehash. The fact that the sequel came about as quick as humanly possible in today’s Hollywood machine was a huge red flag. A major part of the plot of the sequel was investigating the time loops, how they work and how to stop them; the mysterious nature of the time loop was a huge part of what made the first movie work so well. The only way to make this approach work was to write an explanation and story that are both extremely creative and fresh.

Lo and behold, that is what Landon did. The narrative goes in so many different directions from the first, making it feel almost like a totally different story, despite the same characters appearing and similar events taking place. Once you realize that knowledge gained from the original has little to no value in navigating the events in this film, you edge forward a bit in your seat and get really engaged with what’s happening on-screen.

A major difference between the movies is in the film’s tone; the first film felt like a horror movie with a dark-comedy influence, this sequel is more sci-fi with a comedy influence and a slightly smaller amount of horror mixed in. This may disappoint you blood and gore fans out there, but I assure you there is enough of the knife-wielding baby mask killer to remind you what a threat it is to our characters. The comedy here is mostly a hit, though a few jokes miss. A lot of the humor feels new however, and that is always a positive. The sci-fi here is solid, but I could see why some may have issues with it. The explanations of some elements are rushed and vague, but I think this is by design. The film wants the audience to use their imagination a bit. Remember this is a fictional movie and not a scientific documentary. That will allow you to have more fun with the sci-fi aspects.

With horror franchises like this one, there isn’t much to be discussed regarding the more technical aspects. Still, this sequel did an amazing job of recreating the look of the first film, which no doubt had to be a very difficult task for the location scouts, set designers and make-up artists. The more dramatic scenes have excellent tension and are mixed in perfectly with both the more light-hearted and the heartfelt scenes, making the pacing of the film a huge win. The whole cast gives a great performance, and the transition work from death scene to waking up on the beginning of the same day is just as amazing as in the first film.

“Happy Death Day 2U” does everything a sequel is supposed to do: expand on the story and world of the original, add new twists and turns and keep the elements from the original that worked the best. As a result, this sequel matches the quality of the first film, and may even surpass it. I give it four stars out of five and I definitely recommend seeing it. I know I will be watching it again in the near future. “Happy Death Day 2U” has a 66 percent score from both the critics and audience on Rotten Tomatoes, according to the official site.

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