This Wednesday Jessica Rothe, playing Tree Gelbman, and Israel Brossard, playing Carter Davis, will grace the big screen again in “Happy Death Day 2 U,” the thrilling sequel to “Happy Death Day.” The film, produced by the same company that gave us the smash successes “Get Out” and “Split,” stars Tree Gelbman, described by Rothe in an interview with The Ram as a “self-centered, b—hy sorority girl” who is forced to live the same day over and over. A horrifying twist sets “Happy Death Day” apart from other time loop films: each day Tree is brutally murdered by someone in a baby mask.
In the first movie, audiences watch as Tree, originally in a state of bewilderment concerning her predicament, comes to somewhat embrace it (as much as anyone can embrace being repeatedly murdered). She makes a list of potential suspects and observes one each day until his or her innocence is confirmed. During this process, Tree transforms into what Rothe called “a total bada–,” sporting pink hair and walking across campus naked. This pattern of guess and check continues until Tree discovers her killer and preemptively murders them, effectively ending the cycle. Along the way she falls in love with Carter, an innocent college kid who took her home the night before. Carter provides much-needed emotional support throughout Tree’s traumatic experience.
However, neither Tree nor fans of the film get to bask in this relief for long. The second movie picks up exactly where the previous one left off, immediately throwing Tree into a similar, albeit worse, quandary. She is again stuck in a time loop, forced to relive her birthday continuously until she can somehow find an escape. However, this time aspects of Tree’s world, such as her family dynamics are drastically altered and escape seems both harder to find and to accept for the character. While the film may frustrate fans with Tree’s short-lived grace period, it satisfies a number of inquiries “Happy Death Day” left unanswered, such as the cause of the time loop and Tree’s family issues.
“Happy Death Day 2 U” does a fantastic job of maintaining the integral plot points that made the first movie such a success while simultaneously adding new twists that will likely preserve this interest.
These subtle twists are especially remarkable when considering the film’s repetitive set up. Rothe and Braussard continue to act out relatively similar scenes, yet bring a fresh spark each time. Broussard credits this dynamism to the film’s director and screen writer, Chris Landon.
“Landon brought in so much new energy to each wake up,” he said.
Broussard also explained that the actors took the liberty of interpreting each day and changing their behavior accordingly.
“[Landon] gave us a lot of freedom to kind of go around and find our pockets, find our moments with each [day].”
Sometimes the actors’ mix-ups or mistakes would get incorporated into the final scenes, helping to generate subtle novelties that allowed Broussard to overcome what he described as a somewhat arduous process. “There’s just a lot you can play around with,” he said.
The time loop also provides a unique opportunity to showcase Tree’s character arc, which evolves seamlessly from the first film to the second.
“Well and the funny thing is, even though the scenes are the same thing over and over again, every time Tree learns something new and slightly adjusts herself,” said Rothe.
These subtle changes also result in alterations to other characters. “It’s going to change how Carter will respond or how Danielle [Rachel Mathews] will respond,” helping to weave in “tiny little nuances that kept it fresh and alive.”
In this way, Tree undergoes a unique transformation that also pushes the characters around her to be dynamic. In the time loop, she is solely responsible for her fate, and she must reflect on previous wrongdoings and learn to seek out the help of others.
Watching her slowly abandon her sorority girl ways and confront family demons over the course of two films helps foster a connection between Tree and the audience.
The second movie also finds success in its mixing of genres. While officially classified as a horror film, “Happy Death 2 U” is also wildly emotional and humorous at times, something Rothe believes strengthens the film.
“I kind of feel like this genre meshing, bending actually serves each of the genres incredibly well,” said Rothe. “I found the horror moments made the comedy moments more hysterical, the sci-fi moments made the emotional moments land more, that our director Chris really did an incredible job weaving everything together.”
Instead of utilizing separate acting styles in the dichotomous scenes, Rothe played into the similarities between horror and comedy.
“The setup of a scare and the setup of a joke are incredibly similar,” she said. “You have to make sure the timing is right and there’s a punch line whether it’s a scream or a laugh.”
Rothe does a great job of hitting all of these punch lines, leaving the audience of “Happy Death Day 2 U” on the edge of their seats during certain scenes and in hysterics during others.
If you are in the mood to laugh, cry, shout or simultaneously do all three, hit the theaters this Wednesday to see what “Happy Death Day 2 U” has in store. Better yet, bring your Valentine and ask yourself: would they die over and over again for me?
By Rachel Gow