Tree Gelbman has finally managed to escape a ghastly time loop which ended in her being murdered over and over again. Peace has been restored. Right?
Wrong. The sequel to the 2017 film 'Happy Death Day', titled 'Happy Death Day 2U' and directed by Christopher Landon, returns to Tree's universe where the time loop is back in a new and much more dangerous way.
Jessica Rothe (who also appeared in 'La La Land' in 2016) takes on the character of Tree, a temperamental college student with a streak of determination that rears its head when a baby-masked killer comes after her. This sequel examines the characters from the first film even more carefully, including Tree.
“It's one of the things I absolutely love about Tree, that I get to do all that stuff,” Jessica says about the many emotions of her character. “I never get to pull out my bag of tricks and do everything.”
More broadly, the rise of strong, female protagonists in film is something Jessica says she is immensely proud to both witness and be part of.
“It's about time,” she declares. “Getting to watch women be gritty and complicated and love them but hate them [in their roles]... I think it's an amazing time to be an actress in Hollywood right now.”
In an early cut of 'Happy Death Day', there was no intention for a sequel.
“I originally died in the first film, it's on the DVD extras. Chris (Landon) called me about a month before the first one came out and pitched me the idea for the sequel and I was like 'you're insane, that's crazy and so out-there and wild, but you're the only person I know who could pull it off, so if you're in I'm in!'”
“It was such a gift to go back and expand that world and delve even deeper into these complex, multi-dimensional characters.”
Without giving too much away, the plot essentially provides something of an explanation for the events in the first film, taking quite the unexpected turn.
“It was so much fun to make and it was so fun to find out ourselves why the loop was happening,” Jessica says. “To play with all of the things that happened in the first film and explain them in different ways... And flip them on their head to keep the audience guessing.”
It must be a challenge to come up with a sequel for a film about time looping over and over again.
Jessica says Christopher was very adamant that he didn't want to stick to the exact same concept, which is why what happens in 'Happy Death Day 2U' will most likely throw fans for a loop... No pun intended.
Not only does it play with new ideas... It also attempts to take everything audiences loved from the first film (horror aside, 'Happy Death Day' could almost pass as a romantic comedy) and heighten it, giving the characters recognisable nuances that make them so much more relatable.
“Every single time Tree wakes up in the first film or the second one, she is assessing her world. She is learning, she is absorbing, she is changing. So even if I did some similar things, even if I had certain physical movements that I would repeat or mirror, it was affected by the new information that I was receiving.”
“She experiences so many different emotions,” Jessica says. “She goes from being an action hero, to a person who is solving a mystery, to a bad-ass, to a bitch, to a heartbroken and spurned lover, to this very innocent young girl mourning the death of her mother.”
Jessica is joined by Israel Broussard jumping back into the role of Carter, the shy but welcoming fellow student who helps Tree solve her own murder. The convincing nature of the couple's on-screen chemistry is helped by a genuine off-set friendship, which got them in trouble during the shooting of a kiss scene for this sequel.
“Israel, for some reason, had Pat Benatar's 'We Belong' stuck in his head, so every time they would yell 'action' he would hum under his breath 'dun du-du-dun, dun du-du-dun... Many times I tried to tell youuuu', and I would lose my sh.t every time,” Jessica laughs.
“And then I started doing it back to him as revenge. It took us a good 30 minutes to do it because we were moving so slow and because we both kept on breaking.
“Chris finally had to be like 'guys, you're hysterical but also, we need to get this shot'.”