HAPPY DEATH DAY
University Life and Baby-Mask Killers
The production of the thriller took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, where
Landon set up a core team led by production designer Cecele M. De Stefano,
cinematographer Toby Oliver, editor Gregory Plotkin, costume designer Meagan
McLaughlin Luster and composer Bear McCreary.
De Stefano worked alongside Landon to bring Tree's college experience to life,
and they chose Loyola University in New Orleans as the principal location for
filming. She explains her process of designing for the feature: "Loyola ended up
being the most film friendly, and our best choice. Since we shot at a real
university, we had the bones available to make the college atmosphere authentic.
We added our flair where necessary. Specific scenes required specific set
dÃ©cor-like a coffee cart on campus or an outside lunch area-and we added our
designated school color scheme to the design when necessary."
Two of the most commonly visited locations in Happy Death Day are Carter's dorm
and Tree and Lori's room at their sorority. The filmmakers were sure to design
each room to match the personalities of their occupants. They carefully took
each character and ran with their back-story to give spaces that defined each
Discussing Carter's quarters, De Stefano shares: "Carter comes from a nice
family-his mother raised him to be sensitive, honest and a good human being. He
loves comic books and cult-classic movies. He is not ashamed to have photos of
him and his mom on his desk. We furnished his room with awesome movie posters
and cool band stickers, which Chris was involved in choosing."
When it comes to Tree's room in her well-manicured sorority house, the
production designer took a different approach: "Tree's bohemian chic and
carefree style is reflected in her side of her bedroom, while we gave Lori a
harsher edge-clean and stark-which reflects her character."
As the same day is repeated over and over again, Landon commissioned
cinematographer Oliver to assure each scene and day had a different look. "Toby
and I decided that we wanted to make each day feel different, stylistically
speaking," Landon says. "We started the film with very steady camera moves, but
as Tree's time loop evolves, and as she keeps waking up in each new day, the
camera work changes. It starts to become shaky and frenetic."
In addition to the movement of the camera, Landon felt that the color and look
of the film needed to change as each day went on. He shares: "The first day
things are bright and crisp, as the movie evolves, things start to get darker.
There are long shadows, and the movie starts to take on kind of a sickly vibe.
The audience is living Tree's nightmare, so I wanted this to mirror her point of
On styling the actors, McLaughlin Luster shares: "Chris and I worked together to
come up with what was best for each character. Chris is into fashion, so it was
fun to collaborate with him. He had a clear vision, and it was a joy to see him
get excited about the clothing. You don't often have that with a director, so
that was a plus."
After seeing the rough cut of Happy Death Day, McCreary knew the exact direction
he wanted the sound to go. The composer explains: "I found myself grinning,
laughing and gripping my armrest in terror, at all the right moments-I knew I
had to be involved. I strove to capture Tree's confidence and swagger. As her
day repeats, the music repeats, becoming increasingly discordant, tense and
McCreary stumbled across the sound for Tree's killer in a highly unconventional
way: "I wanted to write an iconic theme for the film's antagonist: the creepy
baby-mask killer. I was playing around with digitally manipulated audio snippets
of my adorable two-year-old daughter-almost jokingly at first-to find the right
approach. I was stunned and horrified at the effectiveness of what was created.
The serial killer's music became vocal, alien, innocent and menacing all at
once. And it all originates from my little girl playing around in front of a
microphone. My daughter is now part creepy baby-mask killer. What madness have I
unleashed upon the world?"
Production wrapped, the team reflects upon its hopes for audiences' experience
with Happy Death Day. "Blumhouse lets you make the movie that you want to make,"
ends Landon. "There is a real spirit of everyone working together to try to
create the best film that they can. It was vital to all of us that we not make
this movie a disposable horror film; there is a love story, there is a real
message and it is quirky."
Lobdell offers his praise for his captain: "Any other director would probably
have chosen one tone over the other. Chris successfully made the funny parts
funnier, and the scarier parts scarier." He pauses. "Like Tree and her killer, I
am hoping we get to work together again and again and again."
Another delightful horror-comedy under his belt, producer Blum jokingly
concludes: "Audiences should see this movie because it is a good movie to get
out your revenge fantasies. It made me think about my enemies..."
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