HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U
Time After Time
Happy Death Day 2U Launches
Monday, September 18. Tree Gelbman's birthday. A day that will forever live in
When Happy Death Day opened at No. 1 to more than $26 million in fall 2017,
moviegoers were riveted by the idea of a heroine who had the chance to make the
most of the last day of her life-reliving over and again the 24-hour period that
led up to her murder. Needing no one's permission to turn the tables on her
tormenter, Tree would stalk the killer into submission. The film upended the
classic tropes of the horror genre, and audiences went wild for the delightfully
Drawing inspiration from such classics as Groundhog Day, director Christopher
Landon-whose prior films included Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse-revealed a fascinating knack for importing
inspiration from a wide range of films into the horror genre.
And luckily, Landon, who is drawn to tales that both entertain and challenge his
audiences, wasn't ready to let go of Tree's universe quite yet. "We didn't
intend to make a sequel to Happy Death Day, but I had a thought during
postproduction that clicked," Landon says. "It suddenly made perfect sense as a
continuation of Tree's story. I had this idea that she had unfinished business
in her life. A multidimensional world in which everything was the same, yet
different, allowed me to explore her personal loss."
Approached by friends, fans and conspiracy theorists alike after HDD was
released, Landon relished how much audiences dug into the narrative and created
their own theories about what was happening in the story. "When we made the
first film, everyone had a different idea about why the time loop happened," he
says. "It wasn't until I had this idea that I realized that the clues were
buried all along. We built this film from that starting point. Audiences wanted
to know what caused the time loop, and this was a fun way to explore it."
As he delved deeper into the characters' lives and put pen to paper, Landon also
realized that there were a series of unexplored plot devices from the first film
that he could explore. "In the first movie, we see blackouts," he explains. "In
this movie, blackouts are happening whenever SISSY is turned on. I was able to
connect all these dots and discover things that may have been there before. As I
wrote, it was fun to make a connection between those blackouts in this first
movie and this one."
While Tree outsmarted her own death in Happy Death Day, the sequel gave the
filmmakers the opportunity to delve deeper into what was happening behind the
scenes-and just out of our reach-to explain the loop and reveal more of her
tumultuous past. At the beginning of Happy Death Day 2U, we find a protagonist
who has made amends, has forgiven herself and is finally happy. Still, according
to Landon, once Tree realizes that she's stuck in another type of hell, she has
some big decisions to make.
"Tree is in a very difficult place," he says, "and has to choose between her
past and her future. She can stay in one dimension and be with her mom, but
there is a very likely chance that she will lose Carter if she does. This
alternate reality she's living in doesn't belong to her, as the pain and loss
that have happened are essential to her being. She needs to own them and get
back. Initially, she doesn't want to close the loop, but rather, stay put. Once
she realizes this isn't where she belongs, the movie becomes about her getting
back to where she does." He pauses. "She's a bit like Dorothy in Oz. She has to
figure out how to get back home."
It was crucial to Landon to not fall in the trap that so many filmmakers have
when they try to blend genres. For the director, Tree's journey is one of
absolute empowerment. "She thinks there is still a killer after her, and she
doesn't want to be a victim," Landon says. "Tree refuses to be the final girl
and will reset her own day in order to save her friends. That gives a very
heroic aspect to her character. In the first movie, she's the most selfish
person. Now, she's going to go to any length to save her friends and herself."
The film represents the sixth collaboration among Landon and Jason Blum's
Blumhouse Productions, and the producer-known for such blockbuster fare as
varied and as wildly popular as Glass, Get Out and The Purge and Paranormal
Activity franchises-was ready to get on board on a follow-up production with
Landon. When he read Landon's script for the sequel, it took about as much time
for Blum to sign on for the sequel as it did for Tree to wake up after dying.
"Happy Death Day did well commercially and critically because audiences fell in
love with the character of Tree, brought to life by the extremely talented
Jessica Rothe," Blum says. "The experience Tree goes through in the first movie
renders her a more likable, kind person. We leave her triumphant-a better,
kinder version of herself, and I think that's satisfying as an audience member."
When Landon came to Blum with the script for HDD2U, Blum was impressed by how
he'd managed to expand the universe, as well as straddle that fine line between
comedy and horror. "Usually, sequels sit within the same genre, but Chris pushes
the boundaries and amps up the comedy," says Blum. "When he had this idea to
continue Tree's story as a different genre within the Happy Death Day canon, I
was eager to do it. First of all, it's a scary movie and a lot of it is funny.
Chris is an extraordinary writer/director, and he's able to toe this incredible
line. It's hard to make a movie where the audience is laughing in one moment and
screaming in another. He's one of the few people who knows how to do that."
Likewise, the producer appreciated the depth of character development that
Landon was able to bring to the story. "The emotional stakes are higher this
time because both of Tree's parents are now alive, and the loop is affecting a
much bigger cast of characters than just Tree herself," Blum says. "Chris kept
the story fresh by making more of an ensemble movie. The scope of what he's done
is so much bigger. We meet the team responsible for the time-loop machine.
There's a whole gang of students who have created this great-or terrible-device,
depending on how you look at it."
Back 2 Her Future:
Returning Friends and New Foes
Even though production for the sequel commenced almost a year and a half after
the first film wrapped, for Landon it felt like they'd never left Louisiana.
"You feel such camaraderie and friendship among these actors," he says. "They
slipped into their characters' shoes so easily. They all deeply understood their
characters and points of view." Likewise, the new cast dovetailed into the
family. "It felt like our new actors had been with us from day one."
When Landon and Blum cast Jessica Rothe for the role of Tree in the first film,
they were immediately wowed by not just the actress' range, but by the tenacity
and endurance of a performer who had to be in virtually every scene of the film.
Running the gamut for a character that moves from hapless victim to stone-cold
revenge seeker, Rothe showed the range, fortitude and charisma that would propel
the smash success of the film.
The writer/director was thrilled that his star agreed to join the production for
another time loop. One of Landon's favorite parts of the sequel is the moment
that Tree discovers she's trapped in the same day. "Jessica has such great
access to her comedic anger," Landon says. He also appreciated just how
seriously Rothe took the themes of love and loss. "She really understood the
emotional stakes of both movies and connected with this one just as much-she
made it as thoughtful and emotional as the first film was. For both of us, it
was important to be more than a disposable slasher film; we wanted to give this
a heart and conscience and have it say something."
Reflecting on why she chose to return for the sequel, Rothe says: "The role of
Tree is such a unique challenge. Chris created this amazingly complex, badass
character, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to embody her. So
when he approached me with the idea for the sequel, I was beyond excited to jump
back in. I have never returned to a role before, so of course there were moments
I was worried I wasn't 'doing what Tree would do' or that I wasn't doing her
justice. But the beauty of this experience was that the majority of the original
cast and crew returned, which made a world of difference. It felt like summer
camp, and Chris is such an incredible leader. He made sure we were always on the
Because Tree eschews the role of victim-and becomes an active participant in
saving her own life-Rothe feels her character is "a true modern-day scream queen
who untangles the mess other people have made."
The actress feels that the character's self-actualized power is why audiences
continue to respond to the characters. "Everyone loved the first film so much. I
think that's why Chris felt like we had to make a sequel. Not only do we have
this awesome horror-comedy hybrid, but the characters are complex; they're deep
and wonderful people that you care about and want to follow. Tree is owning her
own destiny here. She knows the rules of the game and gets to have a little fun
while doing it."
Rothe appreciates that her character is multidimensional, and she revels in
returning to a part that is equal parts exasperated diva and never-say-die
terminator. "By being forced in this loop, Tree evolves and becomes this very
caring, conscious, sweet human being," says Rothe. "That's who she always was
underneath, but through years of trauma she has built up this wall."
Even though we start this second chapter with a Tree who we believe has learned
her lesson, some core elements that have cemented Tree into a badass are still
there. Says Rothe: "When the movie opens, Tree thinks that she's passed the loop
onto someone else. It's now Ryan who is experiencing the following day over and
over and over again. So even though she's confused by it and having to deal with
it, it's not her problem anymore. Saying that she's relieved would be an
But because nothing is as it seems in the world of Happy Death Day films, Tree
soon discovers that she has actually been sucked into her old loop in a
different dimension. "At first, she doesn't notice it because the changes are
really slight," says Rothe. "Chris and our amazing set tech, and so many other
people, have hidden a lot of Easter eggs for viewers in the new world. For
example, the graphics on Tree's shirt are slightly different."
As Tree moves throughout the day, again, she notices bigger changes-such as her
boyfriend dating the head of her sorority, which rocks her world. Just as she
was with the first film, Rothe was fascinated by the moral questions the series
asks. "It becomes a question of, 'Well, in this version of my life, I actually
don't belong,'" Rothe says. "Is it possible for Tree to live in some ways in the
past, and hold onto a relationship with someone close to her that she's lost,
and not be with Carter? Or does she need to take a step into the future, embrace
the loss and move forward in life? It's very rare to find emotional stakes like
these in a horror film. It's incredibly empowering."
As much a fan of these films as is her audience, Rothe loves the mind-bending
stunts and how the team pushes the creative envelope with them. The actress is
the first to give props to her stunt team, who is as brave as the character they
share. "My incredible stunt double [KELLY PHELAN] did a nine-story freefall off
the top of a building!" Rothe says, laughing. "I am so lucky that she did it,
because I would have definitely peed my pants."
The moral compass in Tree's life-and the one ally she can constantly depend upon
to do what's right-is Carter, played again by Israel Broussard. Once more,
Broussard brings to Carter an honesty and charm that makes audiences understand
why Tree couldn't help but fall for him.
The performer shares which elements of the series brought him back for the new
chapter, and it boils down to the guessing game that Landon has created. "In the
first movie, Tree and Carter were trying to figure out who the killer was, and
there were a lot of jump scares," says Broussard. "You still have those elements
in this film, but it's heightened with 'Wait! We thought this was the killer,
and it's not.' The mystery's back, but once you add all the other dimensions,
now we've got a whole booklet of possible murder suspects."
Broussard particularly appreciated how Landon gave his character and our heroine
another obstacle to climb in the sequel. "Tree went through hell and woke up
right back in it," he says. "They are in an inter-dimensional love triangle, one
where Tree wakes up in this other dimension-where Danielle and Carter are a
thing. Still, Carter has this undeniable attraction to Tree. He's dancing around
being respectful toward Danielle, but still acting out of his heart. He's having
this internal fight and dialogue of 'What am I going to do with Tree?'"
As Landon developed the characters, it was important to give unexpected arcs to
supporting players. A great example is with Ryan, Carter's annoying roommate:
"Last time, Ryan was just a douchey guy barging in the room," Landon says.
"Happy Death Day 2U picks up just where the last film left off. We shot that
scene when he interrupts Tree and Carter kissing from Ryan's point of view.
Where before Ryan was just this random guy barging in, now we discover he's a
brilliant, shining star in the science department-one who has created a device
that loops time."
Back as Ryan, Carter's hapless roommate, and the key to the time loop that keeps
trapping Tree, is Phi Vu. The actor took a relatively small part in the first
film and made it unforgettable. That wasn't lost on his co-star. "I have to give
Phi huge props," Rothe says. "He's done an incredible job stepping up to the
plate. Again, it's such an amazing opportunity that Chris has created with this
sequel because we get a bigger insight into these other characters' lives. We
get to expand upon this world we think we already know, and it becomes apparent
how complex and layered it really is."
In the last film, we are led to believe that Ryan is merely this obnoxious
roommate who thinks of Tree as Carter's one-time hookup. What we don't see until
the sequel is that it is Ryan's genius (and meddling with the laws of time and
space) that has created this mess that has trapped Tree and flummoxed everyone's
destiny. "This whole debacle is because of Ryan," Vu says. "He is this
accidentally mad scientist who built this very complicated machine that loops
time. He actually built it for one purpose, to slow down time on a molecular
level. What he created is something beyond his imagination." The actor says that
his favorite part of the new film is "coming across the alternate Ryan. I'm
pretty sure everyone in the world would love to see their double self."
Dre and Sumar
Sarah Yarkin and Suraj Sharma
New to the franchise, as Ryan's brilliant fellow engineers Dre and Samar, are
Sarah Yarkin and Suraj Sharma. "They're Ryan's scientist sidekick buddies that
help him create SISSY, as well as potentially helping him resolve the problem,"
Vu says. "Now, we have a gang and are off on an adventure together. Who doesn't
want a team, right?"
Broussard appreciated the energy that the new characters brought to the shoot.
"They're quite the ensemble," he says. "They definitely added more of a
dynamic-playful energy and more things to bounce off us all."
No one is more surprised than Yarkin to be in a film that is significantly
terrifying. "I hate scary movies," she says, laughing. "I am scared of
everything. I got scared watching Legally Blonde when I was younger. I find a
way to be scared of anything." When she first saw Happy Death Day, she responded
the way Landon intended. "It was scary but totally so funny. It was enjoyable
poking fun at these tropes and an easy way in."
For Sharma, who had his breakout film in the global blockbuster Life of Pi,
playing a genius coder proved quite a bit of fun. While Tree is the only one who
understands what SISSY has done to the multiverse, Samar-whom Landon calls
"Ryan's right-hand man with no filter"-certainly contributed to its messiness.
"Our characters are living in multiple dimensions, again and again," Sharma
says. "Every time we restart, we start in a different plane of existence. There
are very slight, minute differences between the dimensions. Clearly, we did
something wrong...or extremely right."
The object of Samar's deep affection is no-nonsense sorority president Danielle,
played by the returning Rachel Matthews. Danielle's role expands in the new film
from Tree's frenemy to one of the core people who can help Tree get back home
for good. While Danielle and Tree do not trust one another-and are constantly
taking digs-they must work together to extricate the mess Ryan has created for
all of them.
When last we saw Danielle, she was upset because Lori poisoned the cupcake and,
according to Matthews, "the fact that Lori and Tree made a horrible reputation
for our Kappa house. Danielle is so frantic trying to piece together the
sorority's reputation again. That's all she cares about. She doesn't care about
Lori's death, but rather the crisis at hand with her sorority."
Now that we're dealing with alternate-universe Danielle (in a relationship with
Carter), the actors were able to have a different type of fun with their
characters. In one scene, the passive-aggressive Danielle tries to trick Dean
Bronson (Steve Zissis) into believing she is a blind, French foreign-exchange
student-so that the rest of the gang can access something the dean has taken
from them. For Matthews, that day of shooting pure physical comedy was hands
down her favorite. "It gave Danielle that outlet of just showing a goofier,
comedic side," Matthews says. "She gets to let her hair down and just go for it.
It was nice for me to be able to play that side of the character."
Dean Bronson remains a favorite character of Landon's, who wanted the
fake-foreign-exchange-student scene to have a "Peter Sellers vibe to it." He
laughs: "Steve is so good in this movie as our nemesis. His character harkens
back to a style of '80s bad guy, and he has this Back to the Future 2/Weird
Science-thing going on. He embodies the tone of a type of comedy you don't see
much of anymore."
Once again, Ruby Modine plays the role of the medical student in training who
has a very complex relationship with her roommate, Tree. Homicidal in the first
chapter, Lori is a different character entirely in the new film. "At first, I
thought that I understood the character very well," says Modine. "But after
Christopher gave me notes and told me really specific details about Lori, it was
fun to be able to shift her in subtle ways."
Like Matthews, Modine appreciated the opportunity to explore a different side to
her character. At the end of the first film, Tree is only able to reset the time
loop after she kills Lori, who was then trying to murder her. Now, things aren't
what they seem. "In Happy Death Day, there was a dark, ominous tone to Lori, and
you could see that something was genuinely making her unhappy," Modine says. "In
this film, there's a bit more of a lightness to her, maybe even a bit more
mystery. You definitely don't know where her character is going."
A Cast of Real Characters
The ensemble cast is completed by the returning Charles Aitken, the adulterous
professor Gregory, who was having an affair with Tree in her past. He is joined
by LAURA CLIFTON (Good Night) as Stephanie, Gregory's wife, who has good reason
to be suspicious of her philandering husband; ROB MELLO (The Magnificent Seven)
as Tombs, a psychopathic killer and wounded hospital guest who Tree has to keep
putting down; CALEB SPILLYARDS (Evan's Crime) as Tim, who came out after a
particularly exhausting date with Tree; and JASON BAYLE (The Big Short) as David
Gelbman, Tree's long-suffering father.
Secrets of The Stunt Squad
The Happy Death Day 2U cast and crew laud the work of the extraordinary
performers who executed the daredevil stunts. "Our killer is not after just
Tree, but other people in this film," Landon says. "The sci-fi layer that we've
added elevates the film and makes the stunts even crazier. There are no janky
ones, but there are some big, over-the-top deaths-some of which were very
challenging to execute. I can't fathom having done them without our phenomenal
Speaking of performers, Kelly Phelan, who has worked on both films in the
series, laughs that she "got to 'die' over 20 ways, which is a dream job for a
stunt person." Phelan reflects: "Everyone respected each other and worked hard
to make an amazing product. It trickled down from Chris Landon. He is a dream to
work with; his creativity and attitude were contagious and inspiring. I felt
honored to work on the first movie and overjoyed to get to do the second one as
"Jessica is not only a talented actress, but an amazing human," continues the
performer. "She respects every single person equally and has an amazing presence
and glow that is contagious. She was always willing to train and work with
myself and stunt coordinator MARK RAYNER to make sure the action looked great.
She respected the importance of the action for the movie; and because of her
athleticism and willingness to learn, she was able to do a lot of the stunts.
She would stay late and even came in when she wasn't filming to watch me do my
stunts. She always praised me and said, 'thanks for doing the scary stuff!' I
would feel honored to get to work with Jess again, and I am excited to watch her
career soar. She is a shining star."
Back to The Big Easy
Joys and Challenges of Time-Loop Storytelling
When it came to the design of the sequel, writer/director Landon would lean into
previous collaborators from the first film, as well as bring on new
behind-the-scenes talent to pay homage to the original. To accomplish this, the
team returned to Loyola University in New Orleans as its principal location for
filming Bayfield campus.
"The biggest challenge is that we couldn't be repetitive," Landon says. "I knew
early on we'd have to keep things moving quickly. We had to keep set pieces
coming and pushing stories forward. Therefore, by design, this film has a
Director of photography Toby Oliver, visual effects supervisor Oliver Taylor and
composer Bear McCreary returned to give direction and support to new members of
the behind-the-scenes crew, which include production designer Bill Boes, editor
Ben Baudhuin and costume designer Whitney Anne Adams.
Although thrilled to have new collaborators rejoining core members of his last
crew, Landon admits that one of the biggest challenges was recreating sets from
the first movie. "When we went back to the hospital in Louisiana that we'd used
for the last film, we found it was gutted," Landon says. "So, we had to
painstaking recreate hallways, hospital rooms, everything. As well, typically,
productions destroy sets and get rid of furniture. We had to recreate every tiny
detail-from the actors' clothes, hair and makeup. We were constantly catching
things and fixing tiny details. Even if it was extras walking past, you have to
recreate everything from the past. To do that at that scale was a daunting task
for us all."
THE PRODUCTION DESIGN
Building a World of Physics and Reflection
In the first film, two of the most commonly visited locations were Carter and
Ryan's messy dorm room, and the well-manicured sorority house where Tree, Lori
and Danielle lived. Happy Death Day 2U expands our experience and interaction
with the Bayfield campus. From the dean's office to the quantum physics lab, we
start to see how this non-ending time loop began on campus...and how Tree plans to
end it for good.
To create the signature look for Happy Death Day 2U, Landon brought aboard Bill
Boes. The production designer discusses his keen interest in joining the
genre-defying project: "Chris knows what he needs to tell the story, and he is
always open to interpretation of his ideas. One of the genius aspects of this
film is that the audience gets to explore what caused the time riff in the first
one. Chris came up with the idea to create a student experiment that has
misfired, and this is the reason for the shift. Built in the science lab, the
SISSY machine was imagined by a few quantum physics students who mistakenly
created a time rift."
In fact, SISSY was based on current quantum physics research that the team
stumbled upon, and they ended up creating quite the impressive prop that defines
much of the narrative arc. "It was detailed with numerous wires, screws, lenses
and heat syncs," says Boes. "Chris always knew exactly what he wanted, and he
liked for us to elaborate on the ideas. We decided to pitch an armature that the
machine was bolted onto. That allowed us to get it up to a height that the
characters could relate to. We added wheels to the whole thing, and Chris dubbed
Turns out that the physics-lab set evolved from a dream that Boes had as he was
beginning to design this film. "The night after I read the script, I dreamed
about glass and reflections," he says. "I thought it would be great to
incorporate glass into this set. In this 'art-school' moment, the glass is
reflective and represents multiple universes; ghosting becomes a good visual
metaphor for our characters. Chris loved the glass idea so much that we
incorporated a scene where our students blast through the glass, and the
universe is shattered-an epic conclusion!"
Creating the Look of Sci-Fi Horror
Drawing inspiration from much of Boes' and Landon's work, returning director of
photography Toby Oliver speaks for many of his fellow crewmates when he reflects
on his reason for joining the production. "I had no hesitation when Chris asked
me back for another spin with the sequel," he says. "It was great to reunite
with him. He is a natural director and a wonderful presence on set, with lots of
crazy ideas that are so much fun to execute on camera-like the idea of Tree
skydiving out of a plane wearing only a bikini. Happy Death Day 2U was full of
Because Landon was adamant that he wanted to have a similar look and feel to the
camera work of Happy Death Day, Oliver's department went back to the same camera
package and lenses-the lightweight and compact ARRI Alexa Mini with Angenieux
Optimo zoom lenses and Cooke S4 prime lenses-that they had used to shoot the
Just as they did with Happy Death Day, the team mostly filmed with the Angenieux
zooms, 15-40 mm, 28-76 mm and 45-120 mm. According to Oliver: "They have a
lovely look and gave us flexibility to adjust shot sizes on the run.
Particularly on Steadicam, which Chris and I like to use a lot."
While cameras and lenses stayed constant, in order to achieve the look necessary
for their expanding universe, the filmmakers went with a very different approach
to grading the sequel. In the original, the color starts off warm and
natural-much like a traditional college movie-but then progressively heads into
a greenish, David Fincher-like world as Tree keeps dying at the hands of the
baby-masked killer...and looping her day.
"In Happy Death Day 2U, we again start off with the warm college look, but when
Tree finds herself in the alternative dimension, we switch to a more bluish,
hi-tech-contrast look," says Oliver. "That also reflects the almost sci-fi tone
the movie becomes as our intrepid science students try to find a way to send
Tree back to her own dimension. The new look was influenced by sci-fi superhero
movies like Iron Man, but also of course the classic Back to the Future 2, which
was a touchstone for us and is referenced in this movie."
"Oliver and I wanted the two dimensions to have a different look," agrees
Landon. "As soon as Tree wakes up in the alternate dimension, we went with crisp
and brighter. She's living a better version of her life, so everything is a
little pushed, a little 'more.' People will feel that more than anything."
Considering that Happy Death Day 2U is a time-loop sequel to a time-loop movie,
Oliver had to recreate exactly the filmic look of scenes from the original, such
as Carter's dorm room and the hospital from which Tombs is ready to escape.
"It's always a challenge to accomplish some 18 months later, especially as I had
an almost completely different crew this time around-due to availabilities in
New Orleans, which is a busy town," says the cinematographer. "But we pulled it
off, with fine-tuning in post from my expert colorist ALASTOR ARNOLD."
Speaking of reliving the same day over and over again...in order to accomplish the
design and shooting requirements, the behind-the-scenes crew had to rebuild,
dress and light from scratch Carter's dorm-room set three times in all-from
Happy Death Day and that film's reshoots to the production of the sequel.
One of the pivotal sequences in the film occurs in Ryan's science lab, when the
SISSY quantum generator machine is primed to explode. Oliver explains how his
crew treated those days: "For the super-slow-motion Phantom-camera shots of our
cast flying through the air-after the explosion that sends Tree to the other
dimension-I had to use an enormous amount of light in close proximity to get a
good exposure at 950 frames per second. The hard part was squeezing enough of
the big 20K lights into the set. It got very hot, but the end result with VFX
enhancement is fabulous."
Fortunately, the team created a great deal of special-lighting effects, pulsing,
flashing and strobing to sell the idea of SISSY causing havoc on campus.
Concludes the cinematographer: "My gaffer, JAIM O'NEIL, and his electrics team
did an amazing job using the latest remote LED technology-such as ARRI SkyPanels
to achieve cool effects in a very short prep time."
THE VISUAL EFFECTS
Bigger, Better, and a Bell Tower Redux
Ingenuity Studios' VFX supervisor Oliver Taylor and VFX coordinator KYMBERLY
MURPHY closely collaborated with the production-design team and the camera crew
to take the VFX of the sequel to another level entirely. From Tree's nonstop
scares to her rebirths, everything was bigger. Having the added benefit of the
first film to borrow from and reference made the continuity that much more
For Taylor, the most challenging aspect of this movie, from a VFX standpoint,
was how important the visuals are to communicating information critical to the
storytelling. "There were a lot of visuals that had to look great and had to hit
very specific story points," he says, "and if they didn't, it was clear that the
movie as a whole would suffer."
This is the second time that Ingenuity Studios has worked with Landon, and the
artists admit they couldn't ask for a better leader. "Chris brought us into the
process very early on and wasn't afraid to depend on VFX for some
mission-critical stuff," says Taylor. "At every turn, even when the going got
tough, he was exactly what a VFX studio needs in a director. It really was a
pleasure to work with him and the rest of the Blumhouse team."
The SISSY lasers proved to be one of their biggest creative challenges, and
Taylor gives credit to his team of amazing artists-who came up with an ingenious
solution that allowed them to make fantastic-looking lasers very quickly.
Speediness proved critical, as updated versions of the cuts required
quick-turnaround revisions on a large number of shots.
Fortunately, the infamous bell-tower scene from the first film plays a key role
in Happy Death Day 2U. Initially, there was some debate about the sequence, if
the recall to the first movie was worth the cost of building the bell tower
again. Taylor walks us through how they made it work: "Because we built the bell
tower as a CG model for Happy Death Day, we were able to shoot it as a virtual
set for a fraction of what it would have cost to build it practically. That kind
of collaboration, where VFX enables filmmakers to do something they couldn't
have otherwise done, is one of the most important things we can bring to a
Bikinis and Bayfield Babies
Refreshing and Recreating a Death Universe
For costume designer Whitney Anne Adams, who is new to the franchise, there was
no way that a sequel to Happy Death Day would go into production without her
participation. "I saw the first film in the theater and absolutely loved it,"
she says. "It combined three of my favorite films: Groundhog Day, Clueless and
Scream. I'm a sucker for anything having to do with time travel and/or horror,
so I jumped at the chance to interview when my agent gave me the script. It's an
incredible part two and takes the story in directions I never could have
From the start, the designer felt fortunate that she and her director were on
the same page, finding Landon's "impeccable taste and style" complemented his
ability to "make hard decisions quickly." She says: "Chris was an absolute
dream. Every time I would present fitting or research photos, we would both end
up picking the same one as our favorite."
It's easy to gush about your former co-workers during a behind-the-scenes
interview, but Adams makes it clear that her experience during film was a joyous
one. "I would stay around on set a little longer than I had to just to spend
time with Chris and the cast and crew; everyone was so lovely. Walking into a
sequel as the new person, where the majority of the people had worked together
before, is not always the easiest, but I felt so welcomed into the Happy Death
While many of the behind-the-scenes team had the luxury of shooting the first
film one year prior, the designer knew she had some catching up to do. "I must
have watched the first film five or six times before starting work just to make
sure I didn't miss a single thing before diving into this world." Adams says.
"The tricky part was integrating my new designs into the established aesthetic
of the first one, while making our film feel fresh and give the audience new
Rothe was in almost every scene of the first film, but now that Landon has
expanded Tree's universe, other actors were able to do some heavy lifting. That
said, Rothe worked just as exhaustingly as she did in Happy Death Day. For the
designer, the collaboration with the film's lead was an exciting time. "Jess is
now one of my favorite people in the whole world," Adams says. "Not only is she
an incredibly talented actor, she's so fun and kind; it was a joy getting to
spend hours together trying to pick out her many outfits and discuss how Tree
would put each outfit together. Everything looks good on her, so it was a
challenge to whittle down the choices to our favorites. We get to peek into her
closet more this time, and her clothes help show how she is evolving as a person
from the beginning of the first film."
The designer understood that the only way for the sequel to work is if every
single detail from the first film dovetails into choices for the second. Landon
and Blum insisted there would not be a design stone left unturned. Tree has 17
costume changes in this film, and only two of them are carryovers from Happy
Death Day. For eagle-eyed fans, there are also several Easter eggs hidden in
several of the characters' clothes. Landon and his crew have peppered in small
clues throughout the film. "For example, Tree's T-shirt has a slightly different
design," Landon says. "The pallet of the shirt has been switched."
While the devil was in the details, the designer and Rothe had a great time
giving Tree unexpected outfits. Dressed in a bathing suit and tube socks for her
parachute-less skydive, Tree provides just the perfect middle finger to a
universe standing in her way.
It comes as no surprise that working on a sequel dealing with time loops is
quite difficult. "We had to duplicate many costumes from the original film
exactly," says Adams, "and that included big background scenes with completely
different background actors than the original crop who had been wearing their
own clothes. Thankfully, our casting department was able to get some original
background actors back, but many of them no longer owned the clothes they had
worn in the previous film. So back out to the mall we went!
Adams collaborated diligently with the production's assistant-director team to
study the first film, frame by frame, to try to match all the players as closely
as humanly possible. "I remember running around the quad sets with our second
second AD, Alex, peering at our phones with screenshots of the first
film-rearranging background actors as fast as we could to make sure each person
was in the exact right spot, with the right clothing doing the right actions,"
In the sequel, there is a key basketball scene-in which our friends are being
chased by the killer-that required designing a Bayfield Baby mascot. The
designer took on the challenge with gusto and aimed to make the mascot as creepy
as possible. His head needed to be reinterpreted from the baby mask shown in
Happy Death Day and made out of foam, while feeling like it was made of hard
The finished product is quite disconcerting to look at, especially up close.
"His arms are slightly too long for his body, and we made him bottom heavy...like
there was a fully loaded diaper on underneath that onesie. I couldn't go wrong
with classic white Chucks for the shoes. Full-on baby feet shoes might have
crossed the line," she laughs.
A former competitive player, Adams went back to her roots as she designed the
competing basketball teams' jerseys. "I came up with a long list of names for
the opposing team, and I am so glad Chris chose the Tritons-as that is the
mascot for my alma mater, UC San Diego. As a little surprise, I snuck in the
last names of many of the crew members on to the backs of the jerseys. I gave
Chris No. 1 as our fearless leader and Jason lucky number 13, in honor of
Blumhouse's horror background. I also gave the player with my last name on his
jersey the number 22, which was both my dad's and my number when we each played
in high school.
Adams was glad that audiences are able to see this entirely new side of the
story with characters we haven't previously fully explored. "Both Carter and
Ryan spend a lot of time in their costumes from the first film, but we only had
one copy of Ryan's costume," she says. "He has quite a few stunts, so we tried
to find duplicates of each of the pieces."
When it came to Ryan, the costuming team had to get creative with his
duplicates. "My superstar supervisor, Amy, managed to find one vest, but it was
one size smaller," Adams says. "Unfortunately, we couldn't find anything else. I
was able to find the same brand of T-shirt, but in a plain white, so I bought a
bunch of those and we had to paint the black splatter on by hand to match the
Happy Death Day 2U marks Adams' second time working with performer Suraj Sharma.
They first met during shooting of the film Killerman, which she designed prior
to this production. "His two costumes between the two films could not be more
different," she says. "It was fun to help him transform into a different
character on the other end of the spectrum. There's nothing quite like a
tube-sock-and-Teva-sandals combo, and Suraj totally rocks it."
One of Adams' favorite costumes of the shoot is Danielle's "spirit" costume,
seen at the end of the first trailer. "I loved getting to create new outfits for
Rachel Matthew's character because Danielle turns everything up to 11," says the
designer, "and that's the most fun sandbox to play in. If there was a Spirit Day
at Bayfield, we know Danielle would go all out to put her best outfit forward,
so we had to come up with what that might be.
"Rachel is the antithesis to Danielle in real life," she continues. "We could
not stop laughing when we were putting together her spirit-day ensemble,
complete with the Bayfield Baby-print hair bow. I designed the fabric with the
Baby logo and had it specially printed, as well as gave her giant star
earrings-in addition to a Bayfield shirt and painted jean skirt."
Not only human performers found themselves the subject of Adams' painstaking
attention to detail. "I brought my cat, Xander, with me to New Orleans while we
were filming, and I am happy to report that he makes his feature film debut in
Happy Death Day 2U in a small moment." She ends: "Keep your eye out for his
Accordions and Scary Toddlers
Scoring a Cutting-Edge Comedy-Thriller
When he saw the rough cut of Happy Death Day, Bear McCreary was certain of the
precise direction in which he wanted the sound to go. Striving to capture our
heroine's swagger and confidence, the composer felt the need to evoke in
audiences the same feelings of joy and terror he experienced when he saw her
save her own day in the film.
"My score for Happy Death Day was a strange hybrid, mixing together upbeat
synths, bleak orchestral horror clusters, and a disturbing vocal sample of my
toddler daughter representing the baby-masked killer," McCreary says of the
alien, innocent and menacing themes. "That unusual combination has been pushed
even further with my score to Happy Death Day 2U."
Drawing influence from the film's adventurous plot, his score retains all those
disparate and weird sounds from the original and adds news ones to the mix. "The
music pulsates with upbeat, energetic orchestral flourishes, inspired by the
fantasy comedy-adventure scores of my youth," says McCreary. "I weave in other
genres as well, incorporating sparkling science-fiction woodwind and string
phrases, soaring heroic fanfares and the cool, loop-based electronics of the
heist caper genre. I even played accordion for a scene scored fully in a French
McCreary admits that on paper, the music to Happy Death Day 2U sounds like it
might be insane. "It probably is," laughs the composer. "However, I believe all
these disparate genre influences combine to support the exhilarating, hilarious,
terrifying and heartwarming film that Christopher Landon has made."
Love and Destiny
The Filmmakers and Cast Look Back
With the production wrapped, the team reflects upon its hopes for audiences'
experience with Happy Death Day 2U. For Landon, one of the aspects of his sequel
he is most proud of is that: "This movie is the ultimate companion to the first
movie. Play them back-to-back, and it feels like one movie. The callbacks are
endless. We were able to use shots from the first film not as a flashback, but
as a continuation of the story. Fans get to learn more about Tree, Danielle,
Ryan and Carter-with all the scares they love, the sci-fi element we've brought
in, plus a lot of laughs and deep emotionality."
Fittingly, the heart of the franchise gets the final thoughts. "The love between
Tree and Carter is bigger and better and more heartbreaking than ever,"
concludes Rothe. "Then there's the relationship between Tree and her mom, which
is so beautiful and special but also so incredibly fragile. While this
experience has been so terrifying and physically traumatic, Tree still gets the
opportunity to go back and say all of the things you wish you could say to
someone before you lose them. She gets to sit down, look her mother in the eye
and say, 'This is exactly how I feel about you.' And in the course of doing so,
Tree gets to solve her own destiny."
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