Back in 2017, Blumhouse found itself a surprise hit in the early fall. Happy Death Day took the premise of Groundhog Day and applied it to a slasher flick. It also put Jessica Rothe on the map as a potential comedic lead. The slasher hammed up the deaths, leaning into the absurdity of the premise. It also showcased some interesting visuals and kills that made the movie an enjoyable ride. The surprise nature of the movie and its success at the box office gave it a cult following that sung its praises.
However the sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, does little to live up to the first film. Rather than proceeding down the path of other popular slasher sequels, Happy Death Day 2U turns into something of a sci-fi film. For the most part, the movie ignores its horror roots, only showcasing a few interesting kills over the course of the feature. Instead, there are discussions about theoretical physics, alternate dimensions, and a montage of suicide kills. No really.
The plot of the second film follows Tree (Rothe) in the week after events of the first film. She’s dating Carter (Israel Broussard) when his roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) reveals he has inherited the time loop. When they investigate, they realize that Ryan has been working on a machine for his thesis that attempts to slow down time. However, it may inadvertently create the time loops. When the dean of students tries to unplug the machine, the Tree is sent to an alternate reality. Carter is dating Danielle (Rachel Matthews), her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) is good friends with Tree, and Tree’s mother is alive. Now Tree must choose to end the loop and stay with her mother, or return to her reality and be with Carter.
Ultimately, the film crumbles under the intensive amount of exposition needed to make this plot make sense. Even with the script attempting to move mountains, it still doesn’t work. For good chunks of the story, the movie drags on, and the humor that worked so well the first time out is nonexistent. This creates is a tonal unevenness within Happy Death Day 2U, with the film never embracing its horror roots. Instead, the movie comes off as a romantic comedy of sorts, but one that you’ll likely only enjoy if you are already invested in the story.
The movie does little to stand out visually or in the design of the kills. Instead, the moments that stick with you are ones that Tree brings upon herself. Rothe does a good job trying to portray an arc and struggle for the character. She’s not given much to play up this time out, but in some moments she raises the script up. However, there are not as many standout moments this time around, and Rothe cannot save the movie that crumbles around her.
There’s not much more to say about Happy Death Day 2U. While there are some funny sequences, the horror really struggles to live up. Worst of all, this movie drags, despite the movie only lasting an hour and forty minutes. There are entire plot points that are dropped, and the movie never lives up to what could have been. Instead, this will serve fans of the existing film but will do little else. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for Blumhouse should be to leave some of their hits alone as one-offs.