In the tradition of Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day, the runtime of director Chris Landon's Happy Death Day doesn't include a full explanation for its main narrative device. The protagonist experiences a seemingly endless time loop from which she must try to escape, but there isn't any detailed breakdown as to why it is that she's experiencing the loop in the first place. It turns out there are a couple of very good reasons for this, and one is that the concept is being considered for a potential sequel that Landon has already planned out. When I recently asked him about him about the larger machinations of the story, he told me,
It's more than a discussion. I know what it is. I know what it is. But I can't talk about it. And that's not a cop out! It's a genuine 'If.' If we have the amazing fortune of getting to make another one of these, that's what that movie is about.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with both Chris Landon and producer Jason Blum at Happy Death Day's domestic press day late last month in Los Angeles, and it was at the end of our chat that I inquired about the time loop that drives the feature. I was simply curious if the filmmaker himself had personally decided what it was, and his response surprised me, as I wasn't expecting that the answer could eventually come in sequel form.
Chris Landon clearly wasn't game to more openly discuss the existence of time loops in the universe of Happy Death Day, but he did open up about why he kept the explanation out of the first film. I followed up with him about the fact that the reasoning isn't in the movie, and he said that it was about much more than saving a good idea for a potential sequel. He noted that he wanted to leave the film with a sense of mystery while also keeping focus on the central story at hand:
I felt that often, when I think it's the origin story, the first movie, that often the answer to the question is less interesting than the question itself. And I think that's a principle that happens a lot in these kinds of movies. So rather than getting bogged down in a bunch of exposition that nobody really wants to care about or wants to hear, I was more interested in just sort of seeing how she approaches her dilemma, and how she tries to not only solve her own murder, but also how she changes as a person. That's where I wanted to spend my time.
You can watch Chris Landon talk about the larger mystery of Happy Death Day by clicking play on the video below!
As for the possibility of Happy Death Day 2, it should be recognized that Chris Landon isn't banking on the idea that there will be one. When I followed up with the filmmaker later for an off-camera interview, he explained that he would love to make a sequel, as he has a fully fleshed out idea that he is excited to execute, but he also fully recognizes that he may never get that chance:
I think you never want to count your chickens. So we have zero expectations of how the movie will do. I hope people find it. I hope people like it. And I hope we get a chance to make another one. I have an idea that I have not shared with anyone, but I have a full-blown, bonkers awesome sequel idea.
The good news is that things look to be working in favor of Happy Death Day. The movie has earned a positive reception from critics, and box office prognosticators are saying that it could taking the top spot from Blade Runner 2049 and make between $17-18 million in its first three days (not too shabby for a horror comedy with a reported budget of $5 million.
In Happy Death Day, written by Scott Lobdell, Jessica Rothe stars as Tree, a young college student who is having a rather terrible birthday. She wakes up hung over in a dorm room with a stranger (Israel Broussard), gets whined at by her sorority sister (Rachel Matthews), gets food spilled all over her, and then, to top it all off, ends the day getting murdered. What's strange, however, is that every time Tree dies she finds herself once again waking up in the dorm room and living the exact same day. In order to break the curse she has to stop being killed, and the key to that is finding the identity of her killer. The film is in theaters now, and we'll have more from my interview with the director and producer this weekend!