Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day is a 2017 American slasher film directed by Christopher B. Landon, written by Scott Lobdell and starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, and Ruby Modine.[2][3][4] The film was produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions banner. It follows a college student who is murdered on her birthday and begins reliving the day over and over again; at that point, she sets out to find the killer and stop her death.

Originally announced in 2007 under the title Half to Death, the film was released on October 13, 2017, by Universal Pictures.[5] It has grossed $122 million worldwide on a $4.8 million budget and received generally positive reviews, with critics deeming the film entertaining while acknowledging the familiar premise,[6] and describing it as "Groundhog Day meets Scream".[7] A sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, began production in May 2018.

Happy Death Day
Happy Death Day poster
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Christopher B. Landon
Produced by Jason Blum
Written by Scott Lobdell
Music by Bear McCreary
Cinematography Toby Oliver
Edited by Gregory Plotkin
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • October 13, 2017 (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.8 million[1]
Box office $122.6 million[1]


Theresa "Tree" Gelbman wakes up on her birthday in the dorm room of classmate Carter Davis after a drunken binge the previous evening. Tree ignores her father's calls, dismisses Carter as she leaves his room, throws away a birthday cupcake given to her by her roommate Lori Spengler, and has an affair with her married professor, Gregory Butler. That night, on her way to a party, Tree is lured into a tunnel and murdered by a hooded figure wearing a mask of the campus mascot.

Tree wakes up the next morning in Carter's bed with the previous day's events repeating. Unnerved, she relives the day and avoids the tunnel, instead heading to a fraternity house for a surprise party. However, the masked killer follows her to the party and kills her again. Tree realizes that she is in a time loop and tries to avoid her death by barricading herself in her room, but the killer hides in her room and kills her again.

Upon waking up, she relays her story to Carter, who suggests that she take advantage of the loop to identify her killer. She spends the next several iterations trailing suspected classmates and getting killed each time. After a loop where she is bludgeoned, she faints shortly after waking up. She awakens in the campus hospital where she learns that her body shows evidence of recovery from multiple traumatic injuries, indicating that she has retained physical damage from her previous deaths. Shortly after escaping the hospital, she is pursued and killed again.

Waking up in Carter's bed again, Tree convinces Carter of her predicament by showing that she holds knowledge of the day's events. Tree tells him that she hates who she has become since distancing from her father after her mother's death. Later, Tree sees a local news report on John Tombs, a serial killer being held at the campus hospital. Concluding that Tombs is her killer, Tree rushes to the hospital to warn of his escape. Tombs breaks free and nearly kills Tree, but Carter follows and rescues her. Tombs kills Carter before chasing Tree to a nearby bell tower where she manages to subdue him with a crowbar. Realizing that Carter will remain dead if she ends the loop, Tree hangs herself.

Believing she has solved her murder, Tree is happier and more relaxed during the next loop. Tree ends her affair with Butler and meets with her father. That night, she goes to the hospital and attacks and kills Tombs. Relieved to finally be free, she celebrates her birthday in Carter's room and eats the cupcake given to her by Lori.

Tree wakes up in another loop. Confused and angry that the time loop continued after she killed Tombs, Tree returns to her room where Lori offers the cupcake again. Tree realizes this was the only time she had ever eaten the cupcake and died in her sleep. Tree deduces that Lori is the true killer; Lori had poisoned the cupcake, but when Tree declined to eat it, she utilized her job as a nurse in the hospital to drug and frame Tombs for Tree's murder. Tree tries to coerce Lori to have a bite, however when Lori refuses, Tree decides to take the cupcake to the police. Lori lunges at Tree, locks the door and confesses that she was jealous of Tree's affair with Butler, before engaging in a fight. Tree manages to stuff the cupcake in Lori's mouth before kicking her out of a window, sending her falling to her death.

Tree and Carter muse over the day's events in a restaurant. He offers her his room for the night, and Tree wakes up the next day believing herself to be in another loop. Carter reveals it to be a prank, and the two kiss.


  • Jessica Rothe as Theresa "Tree" Gelbman
  • Israel Broussard as Carter Davis
  • Ruby Modine as Lori Spengler
  • Rachel Matthews as Danielle Bouseman
  • Charles Aitken as Gregory Butler
  • Rob Mello as John Tombs
  • Phi Vu as Ryan Phan
  • Caleb Spillyards as Tim Bauer
  • Jason Bayle as David Gelbman
  • Laura Clifton as Stephanie Butler
  • Cariella Smith as Becky Shepard
  • Tran Tran as Emily
  • Blaine Kern III as Nick Sims
  • Dane Rhodes as Officer Santora
  • Tenea Intriago as Student Protestor
  • Missy Yager as Mrs. Gelbman



"The movie was in pre-production or soft production at the time, and I came on and I loved the concept of the movie. I loved the idea of a girl, trapped in a time loop who has to solve her own murder."

– Director Christopher B. Landon about the concept of the film.[8]

The film was first announced in July 2007, with Megan Fox attached to star. The film was originally titled Half to Death, produced by Michael Bay and Rogue Pictures, and directed by Antti Jokinen.[9] Christopher B. Landon was hired to rewrite the Scott Lobdell screenplay, and while he liked the reworked script the studio decided to not move on with it. The project was only revived years later, as original producer Angela Mancuso had lunch with Landon and remembered about Half to Death. Landon decided to send the script to Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, with whom he had worked in the Paranormal Activity sequels, and he approved it, leading to a green-light by Universal Pictures.[8] Blumhouse announced the project on October 11, 2016, with Landon directing and Jessica Rothe cast in the lead role of the film.[10] On November 8, 2016, it was announced that Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken and Rachel Matthews had joined the cast, alongside Rothe and Israel Broussard.[11] The film got eventually retitled Happy Death Day in June 2017.[12]

The mask was constructed by Tony Gardner, the same man who built the "Ghostface" mask from every Scream film, and its design was personal. Landon explains, "During preproduction... I was expecting my first son. I don't know if I just had babies on the brain, or if I was subconsciously scared to become a father, but that baby image was floating around in my head. Tony made us a pig mask, too, but when I wore the baby mask in the office, I scared a co-worker, and we thought... yeah, this is it. This is the one."[13] Scream itself was listed among the influences Christopher Landon took for the film, along with Halloween (1978), Groundhog Day and comedies of the 1980s such as Sixteen Candles and Back to the Future,[14] given he aimed to make a "fun, silly horror movie". He also aimed to emulate the protagonist's personal growth in Groundhog Day to comment on "this age of social media and all the crappy things that kids do to each other."[15]


Comic book writer Scott Lobdell said he wanted to play with the tropes of the slasher genre, as according to him "every slasher film opens up with the mean girl getting killed and the good girl living till the end. And I thought, 'How can I make the mean girl and the good girl the same person?'" [15] In the original draft, Lori and Dr. Butler were the killers together. Landon says, "They were a psycho couple murdering Tree together. That ultimately didn't work for me. I thought Gregory was a great opportunity to be a suspect. To make him a killer, it didn't help me. That was a change I really wanted to make."[16] Also, in the original draft there was no birthday,[16] and no romance, which Landon added to humanize Tree.[8] Landon decided to shorten the protagonist's name Teresa into Tree, which also conveyed her character arc as "trees need to grow and you see this character go from one person to another".[17]


Filming took place at and around Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana,[18] and it lasted 5 weeks.[19] The scenes where Tree awakens in Carter's bed after her death were filmed back to back in a span of two days.[20] The scene after Lori dies was supposed to be at the sorority house, but the filming permit was over before production was able to shoot there, forcing the location to be changed into a Los Angeles diner also featured in another Blumhouse production, Split.[17]

Alternate ending

In the original ending of the film, Tree is taken to the hospital after her encounter with Lori. The doctor instructs her to stay away from pain medication for at least a day due to the extent of her injuries. After he leaves, a nurse comes in and tells Tree she is giving Tree something for the pain and Tree informs the nurse of the doctor's orders. The nurse reveals herself to be Dr. Butler's wife Stephanie, who says it is for her pain and then murders Tree in revenge for the affair between her and Dr. Butler.

This version was shown in the test screenings for the film, and was received negatively by the audience, forcing the writers to come up with the theatrical ending. Director Christopher Landon also revealed Lori and Dr. Butler were the killers in the rough drafts, which later inspired the idea of the poisoned cupcake.[21]


Happy Death Day (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Happy Death Day Score
Soundtrack album by Bear McCreary
Released October 13, 2017
Genre Film score
Length 39:57 (Standard album)
44:16 (Bonus track version)
Label Back Lot Music
Professional ratings
Review scores
Soundtrack Dreams8.4/10 stars

Bear McCreary composed the score of Happy Death Day. Reflecting the film's blend of horror and comedy, McCreary stated that he wanted "a schizophrenic, dual personality, with light-hearted comedic scoring on one end, and genuinely terrifying soundscapes on the other." This approach is highlighted by the two main leitmotifs, an energetic theme for Tree evoking contemporary pop music, and one for the killer that consists of distorted vocals provided by McCreary's young daughter Sonatin. The percussion in the score are mostly sampled from college marching band drum lines to evoke the collegiate setting.[22] While the film's trailer featured 50 Cent's "In Da Club" as Tree's ringtone, Landon said the film could not afford to use the track, but still preferred the eventual song music supervisor Andrea von Foerster improvised, the comedic "Busy Day Birthday".[13]

Standard album[23]
1."Day One"5:26
2."Day Two"6:05
3."Day Three"4:18
4."Day Four"2:17
5."Hospital Pursuit"5:55
6."The Bell Tower"3:30
7."Righting Wrongs"3:40
8."Tree Takes Control"4:30
9."The Cupcake"4:16
Total length:39:57
Bonus track
10."Happy Death Day End Title Credits"4:19
Total length:44:16


Box office

Happy Death Day grossed $55.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $67 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $122.6 million, against a production budget of $4.8 million.[1]

In the United States and Canada, Happy Death Day was released alongside Marshall, The Foreigner and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and was expected to gross $15–20 million from 3,130 theaters in its opening weekend.[24] It made $1 million from Thursday night previews at 2,450 theaters, similar to fellow Blumhouse release The Visit ($1.05 million in 2015)[25] and $11.6 million on its first day, increasing weekend projections to $26 million. It went on to debut to $26 million, topping the box office, making it the third Blumhouse Productions film of 2017 (after Split and Get Out) to do so.[7] It fell 64% in its second weekend to $9.4 million, finishing in third behind newcomers Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and Geostorm.[26]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 70% based on 127 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Happy Death Day puts a darkly humorous sci-fi spin on slasher conventions, with added edge courtesy of a starmaking performance from Jessica Rothe."[27] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[28] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 52% "definite recommend".[7]

Critics noted that although the film makes laudatory attempts at merging genres—including romantic comedy, horror and "campus satire"—the end results were mixed.[6][29] Jamie East from The Sun likened it to a "slasher Mean Girls," while Chris Agar of Screen Rant said that the "fun, if silly, blending of genre tropes...ends up being a double-edged sword."[30][31]

Home media

The film was released on digital HD on January 2, 2018 and was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 16, 2018. The home release features the original ending.[32]


Director Christopher B. Landon talked about the possibility of a sequel, focusing on why Tree went into a time loop.[33] Jessica Rothe stated that while most horror sequels retread the original, Landon's pitch instead "elevates the movie from being a horror movie into a Back to the Future type of genre film where the sequel joins us right from where we left off, it explains a lot of things in the first one that didn't get explained, and it elevates everything."[34]

The sequel was officially announced with filming scheduled to begin on May 10, 2018.[35][36] Most of the original actors return, including Rothe, Modine, Israel Broussard, and Rachel Matthews. In addition, Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin have been cast,[37] with a release date set for some point in 2019.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Happy Death Day (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  2. ^ https://www.ocregister.com/2017/10/12/horror-comedy-happy-death-day-reasonably-kills-it-with-groundhog-day-formula/amp/
  3. ^ https://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/time-loop-horror-comedy-happy-death-day-gives-viewers-deja-vu/Content?oid=9197192&media=AMP+HTML
  4. ^ https://www.theringer.com/platform/amp/movies/2017/10/13/16469734/happy-death-day-film-review-blumhouse-horror-christopher-b-landon
  5. ^ Miska, Brad (April 20, 2017). "Get Scared 'Half to Death' This October". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Giles, Jeff (October 12, 2017). "Happy Death Day Is Familiar but Fun". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c D'Alessandro, Anthony. "Blumhouse Has Plenty To Smile About As 'Happy Death Day' Scares Up $26M+ Opening". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "How it took nearly 10 years to make the horror movie 'Happy Death Day'". October 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Megan Fox Joins Half to Death". Beyond Hollywood. July 15, 2007. Archived from the original on September 28, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  10. ^ McNary, Dave (October 11, 2016). "Jessica Rothe Starring in Horror Movie 'Half to Death'". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (November 8, 2016). "Ruby Modine Joins Horror Movie 'Half to Death'". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  12. ^ Universal, Blumhouse Retitle Film 'Half To Death' To 'Happy Death Day'
  13. ^ a b "THE STORY BEHIND 'HAPPY DEATH DAYS CREEPY BABY MASK AND TREE'S BEST LINES". October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  14. ^ "Happy Death Day Influences: 10 Movies That Inspired the Director".
  15. ^ a b Fitz-Gerald, Sean. THE GUYS BEHIND 'HAPPY DEATH DAY' TALK TIME-BENDING ENDING & SEQUEL IDEAS (October 13, 2017), Thrillist
  16. ^ a b "'Happy Death Day' Ending: Director Shares Sequel Plans for Part 2". The Hollywood Reporter. October 15, 2017.
  17. ^ a b The director of 'Happy Death Day' answers all the questions you have after watching the movie, Insider
  18. ^ Production Notes for Happy Death Day
  19. ^ "Happy Death Day's Jessica Rothe On What It Means To Be A Scream Queen in 2017".
  20. ^ Philip, Tom (October 18, 2017). "Happy Death Day Star Jessica Rothe Explains What It's Like to Die a Dozen Times in the Same Movie". GQ. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  21. ^ "Happy Death Day Shot An Original Ending That Made Test Audiences Furious". Cinema Blend. 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
  22. ^ Bear Blog: Happy Death Day, Bear McCreary
  23. ^ "Happy Death Day (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Bonus Track Version]". iTunes Store. 2018-10-13. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  24. ^ "'Happy Death Day' expected to unseat 'Blade Runner 2049' at the box office". Los Angeles Times. October 11, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  25. ^ "Blumhouse Makes a Wish for Another #1 Opener with 'Happy Death Day'". Box Office Mojo. October 12, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony. "'Boo 2! A Madea Halloween' Reaps $21M+ During October Dumping Ground At The B.O." Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  27. ^ "Happy Death Day (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
  28. ^ "Happy Death Day Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  29. ^ Robey, Tim (2017-10-19). "Happy Death Day review: slasher Groundhog Day gives us a scream queen for the ages". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
  30. ^ "Like a slasher Mean Girls, Happy Death Day nails comedy and horror". The Sun. 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
  31. ^ "Happy Death Day Review". Screen Rant. 2017-10-13. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
  32. ^ From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Happy Death Day
  33. ^ Acuna, Kirsten (October 1, 2017). "'Happy Death Day' isn't out yet, but the director already has an idea for a sequel". Business Insider. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  34. ^ Jessica Rothe on 'Forever My Girl' & a 'Back to the Future'-Esque 'Happy Death Day' Sequel, Collider
  35. ^ "'Happy Death Day' Sequel Reportedly Filming This Summer". March 16, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  36. ^ https://screenrant.com/happy-death-day-2-cast-filming-start-date/
  37. ^ "'Happy Death Day 2': Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard Return; Suraj Sharma & Sarah Yarkin Joining Blumhouse Sequel". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-05-01.

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