Sunday, 24 February 2019

Happy Death Day 2U by Landon and Lobdell

Back in 2017 I wrote about Happy Death Day, a surprising little left-field delight of a movie. 

It took the simple premise of reworking Groundhog Day as a slasher flick, and explored the possibilities with cheeky good humour.

The film deservedly became a minor classic. And when I discovered there was a sequel, I was eager to see it.

The first movie was written by Scott Lobdell and directed by Christopher Landon. This one is both written and directed by Landon, and I have to say — as much as I am wary of a director taking over another writer's creation — he's done a great job.

The premise of Happy Death Day was that a rather unpleasant and vain young university student, Tree Gelbman (brilliantly played by Jessica Rothe), is given a chance for growth and self improvement — the hard way...

By being stuck in a time loop whereby every morning she wakes up on her birthday and ends up getting murdered. The plot of the film followed Tree's attempts to work out who her mystery killer was, and charted her development as a character.

The new film takes this concept and runs with it, inventively and amusingly exploring variations.

For one thing, it focuses not on Tree at all but on Ryan, a minor character from the first movie played by Phi Vu. My disappointment about this soon faded as the movie cleverly drew me in.

And then Tree turns up after all! At first she is apparently herself a minor character in Ryan's narrative. 

But then she's gradually moved to the centre of things and it turns out that this indeed her story, and it's exactly the sequel that I (and millions of other viewers) wanted it to be.

Full marks to Christopher Landon for so imaginatively manipulating our expectations.

Once again we're plunged into a time loop narrative, involving a killer wearing a baby-face mask, representing the mascot at the university in the story — "Who chooses a creepy baby for a mascot, anyway?" says Ryan. "I knew I should have gone to MIT."

This sequel is more of an ensemble piece, throwing Tree in with Ryan and a group of other students, mostly physicists.

Because Landon has fashioned a non-supernatural rationale for the time loop, involving a science experiment gone wrong (or maybe gone right, depending on your point of view). So Tree has allies to help her solve the puzzle: "We're scientists. This is what we do."

And the solution involves our old friend, the multiple universe theory — "Do I look like someone who knows what a multiverse is?" asks the blonde, pretty Tree.

My only complaint about Happy Death Day 2U is that the first movie had one of the greatest title sequences that I've ever seen. The title sequence for this one is dullsville.

Never mind. This movie is ingenious, funny, audacious and — most unexpectedly — very moving. Because Tree finds herself in an alternate universe where her beloved late mother is alive again...

Seldom has a sequel added so much value to the concept of the original. Nice work, Christopher Landon.

(Image credits: There is only one official poster for this film, and it comes from Imp Awards. Luckily there are a load of striking alternative designs at Talent House, where there certainly is a lot of talent on display. The clock face one is from Reddit. The photographic one is from Deviant Art. )

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