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.
Originally announced in 2007 under the title Half to Death, the film was released on October 13, 2017, by Universal Pictures. 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, 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||$122.6 million|
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 does not like 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 does not restart the loop, Tree hangs herself.
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 angered that killing Tombs did not stop the time loop, 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 did not 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 contemplates taking the cupcake to the police. Lori lunges at Tree, locks the door and confesses that she was jealous of her affair with Butler before engaging in a 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 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.
– Director Christopher B. Landon about the concept of the film.
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. Christopher B. Landon was hired to rewrite the Scott Lobdell script, 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. Blumhouse announced the project on October 11, 2016, with Landon directing and Jessica Rothe cast in the lead role of the film. On November 8, 2016, it was announced that Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken and Rachel Matthews had joined the cast, alongside Rothe and Israel Broussard. The film got eventually retitled Happy Death Day in June 2017.
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." 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, 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."
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?'"  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." Also, in the original draft there was no birthday, and no romance, which Landon added to humanize Tree. 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".
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. 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.
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.
|Happy Death Day (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Bear McCreary|
|Released||October 13, 2017|
|Length||39:57 (Standard album)
44:16 (Bonus track version)
|Label||Back Lot Music|
Bear McCreary is the composer of all tracks.
|6.||"The Bell Tower"||3:30|
|8.||"Tree Takes Control"||4:30|
|10.||"Happy Death Day End Title Credits"||4:19|
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.
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 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 119 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, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 52% "definite recommend".
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 said that the "fun, if silly, blending of genre tropes...ends up being a double-edged sword."
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.
Director Christopher B. Landon talked about the possibility of a sequel, focusing on why Tree went into a time loop. 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."
The sequel was officially announced with filming scheduled to begin on May 10, 2018. On May 1, 2018, it was announced that Rothe and Israel Broussard will be returning for the sequel, reprising their roles as Tree Gelbman and Carter Davis, respectively. In addition, Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin have been cast, with release date set for some point in 2019.