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. 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.
The film was released on October 13, 2017, by Universal Pictures. It has grossed $112 million worldwide on a $5.8 million budget and received generally positive reviews, with critics deeming the film entertaining while acknowledging the familiar premise, and describing it as "Groundhog Day meets Scream".
|Happy Death Day|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Christopher B. Landon|
|Produced by||Jason Blum|
|Written by||Scott Lobdell|
|Music by||Bear McCreary|
|Edited by||Gregory Plotkin|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$112.4 million|
Theresa "Tree" Gelbman wakes up on her birthday on Monday, September 18th in the dorm room of classmate Carter Davis after a drunken romp the previous evening. Tree goes through the day being self-centered, dismissive and condescending to her fellow classmates and previous hook-ups, ignoring her father's invite to a restaurant, throwing away a birthday cupcake given to her by her roommate Lori, and having an affair with her professor Gregory Butler. That night, while going to a party, Tree is lured into a tunnel where she is murdered by a hooded figure wearing a mask of the campus mascot.
Tree wakes up the next morning back in Carter's bed with the previous day's events repeating. Unnerved, she relives the day and avoids the tunnel, instead returning to her sorority house for a surprise party. However, while hooking up with her classmate Nick, the masked killer murders him before killing Tree once more. Tree realizes she is in a time loop and tries to avoid her death by barricading herself in her room. However, she is murdered again when the killer hides in her bathroom.
During the next loop, she relays her story to Carter, who suggests that she take advantage of the loop in order to figure out who her killer is. She spends the next loops trailing several suspected classmates, all of which end in her murder as she is stalking the current suspect.
On the next loop after being bludgeoned by a baseball bat from her previous death, Tree passes out shortly after waking up. She awakens in the hospital where she learns she has retained damage from her other murders and is growing weaker. Tree escapes the hospital room only to be chased by her killer until she manages to flee in Butler's car. While driving, she is pulled over by a police officer and volunteers to be arrested in order to be spared. However, the killer runs down the officer and sets her car on fire, burning Tree to death and sending her through another loop.
Waking up in Carter's bed again, Tree convinces Carter of her predicament by showing that she holds foreknowledge of the day's events. Tree admits to Carter she doesn't like who she's become; she has also grown distant from her father ever since her mother passed away three years ago and that they had shared the same birthday. Tree catches a local news report on John Tombs, a serial killer who is being held in the hospital on her campus. 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. Unfortunately, Tombs snaps Carter's neck 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 doesn't restart the loop, Tree hangs herself from the tower.
During the next loop, Tree goes around righting the various wrongs she has caused, ending her affair with Dr. Butler, finally meeting with her dad to resolve her inner grief, and resolving to be a kinder person. That night, she prepares to stop Tombs. He manages to get the upper hand on her until Tree utilizes a campus-wide blackout that occurs during her loops to disarm him and shoot him to death. Relieved to finally be free, she celebrates her birthday in Carter's room and eats the cupcake given to her by Lori.
However, the next morning Tree wakes up again on her birthday. Confused and distraught over the fact that killing Tombs didn't stop the time loops, Tree returns to her room in order to run away, where Lori offers the cupcake again. Tree realizes that she had died in her sleep, and also notes that this was the only time she had ever eaten the cupcake. Tree realizes Lori is the true killer; Lori had poisoned the cupcake, but when Tree didn't eat it, she utilized her job in the hospital to frame Tombs for Tree's murder. Lori confesses she was jealous that Dr. Butler had shown interest in Tree over her before the two fight. Tree manages to stuff the cupcake into 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 back in the restaurant, and he offers her his room for the night, also commenting her situation is a lot like the film Groundhog Day. Tree wakes up the next day believing to be in another loop, but it turns out to be a prank by Carter and the two share a kiss.
The mask was constructed by Tony Gardner, the same man who built the infamous "Ghostface" mask from every Scream film, and that 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 subsconciously 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." Christopher Landon was inspired by films such as Groundhog Day, Scream (1996), Halloween (1978), Sixteen Candles, Back to the Future, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, The Goonies, Gremlins, An American Tale, Innerspace, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Black Christmas (1974) and Heathers.
The film was first announced in July 2007, with Megan Fox attached to star. The film was originally titled Half to Death, and was to be produced by Michael Bay. Years later, on October 11, 2016, Blumhouse Productions announced that Jessica Rothe had been cast in the lead role of the film, with Christopher B. Landon writing and directing, and Jason Blum producing. On November 8, 2016, it was announced that Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken and Rachel Matthews had joined the cast, alongside Rothe and Israel Broussard.
In the original draft of Scott Lobdell, Lori and Gregory 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." Also, in the original draft there was no birthday.
Filming took place at and around Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and it lasted 5 weeks. The scenes where Tree awakens in Carter's bed after her death were filmed back to back in a span of two days.
As of December 9, 2017, Happy Death Day has grossed $55.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $56.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $112.4 million, against a production budget of $4.8 million.
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. It made $1 million from Thursday night previews at 2,450 theaters, similar to fellow Blumhouse release The Visit ($1.05 million in 2015) and $11.6 million on its first day, increasing weekend projections to $26 million. It went on to debut to $26.5 million, topping the box office, making it the third Blumhouse Productions film of 2017 (after Split and Get Out) to do so. It fell 64% in its second weekend to $9.4 million, finishing in third behind newcomers Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and Geostorm.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 71% based on 113 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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Critics noted that although the film makes laudatory attempts at merging genres--including romantic comedy, horror and "campus satire"-- the end results were mixed. Jamie East from The Sun likened it to a "slasher Mean Girls," while Chris Agar of Screen Rant observed that the "fun, if silly, blending of genre tropes...ends up being a double-edged sword."
Director Christopher B. Landon talked about the possibility of a sequel, and it would focus on why Tree went into a time loop.