- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “Happy Death Day 2U.”
- INSIDER caught up with director and writer Christopher B. Landon to break down some of the serious and sillier questions you’ll have after seeing the movie.
The sequel to “Happy Death Day” is in theatres and the movie flips the script of the first film. Instead of a straight-up horror flick, director and writer Christopher B. Landon delivers a sci-fi movie inspired by “Back to the Future.”
While you’re watching the sequel, you may be left with a few unanswered questions. Why isn’t this more of a horror film like the last? Did we almost see Tree in any other parallel dimensions? And can Tree die or does she have unlimited lives?
INSIDER caught up with Landon to find out the answers to some of the biggest questions you may have after the movie is over.
Why isn’t the sequel a horror/slasher movie like the first?
“My biggest goal going into this was I told myself I’m not making the same movie twice,” said Landon. “I just don’t think that there’s any fun to be had in that. And that goes for even adjusting the tone and the genre of the movie.”
Landon definitely did not do that.
“There will be some people out there who might feel disappointed that I’m not delivering some big slasher film where every scene is her sort of running away from a killer,” continued Landon. “But I made that movie, so why would I make it again? And it wouldn’t be any more interesting if it was someone else constantly running away from a killer, you know? There’s only so many ways that you can kill people and call it entertainment. So I really wanted to tackle it in a different way and part of that meant shifting even the tone and adding new elements to the movie like sci-fi.”
Where did the idea for the sequel come from?
“Happy Death Day 2U” isn’t a mere rehash of the first film. While the first movie was a rooted in the horror mystery of solving Tree’s murderer, “2U” is grounded in sci-fi and trying to get Tree back home to her parallel dimension.
“The idea for it came when I was editing the first movie and I was watching one of the scenes where Ryan, [Carter’s] roommate, barges into the dorm room. I just started laughing and I said, ‘What if he’s the reason this all happened? What if he created something that caused it? It just immediately clicked,” said Landon.
Landon then imagined Ryan worked in the science department and the plot started to come together from there. “Once I arrived at the device and figured out that I could also knock people into a different dimension that’s when the whole thing really crystallised for me because it allowed me to get to the most important thing, which was that Tree would encounter her mother in an alternate dimension,” he added.
Why didn’t we learn why Tree was reliving the same day over and over again in the first movie?
Landon told us in 2017, he planned to reveal that in the sequel. But he also wanted to avoid a movie cliché.
“With the first movie, I didn’t want to try and answer it because I knew that it would mean it would be a character delivering some kind of a boring speech,” said Landon of keeping the reveal to himself. “It would have been some kind of exposition that I don’t think anybody wanted to hear.”
“I think one of the cardinal sins in movie making is when there’s a character that suddenly pops up and explains everything to you. And it felt like a cheat,” he continued. “So I thought, if I’m going to answer the question then it better open up more doors and ask new questions. And that’s what this did for me. It achieved both. It allowed me to advance the story by answering that question, but it also allowed me to ask new questions.”
Are there any ways Tree didn’t die in the first movie that you got to try out in the sequel?
“At one point in an old draft of the first movie, I did have a version of [Tree] falling by accident while she was running away from the killer. I think she ran off of a cliff, in an old draft,” said Landon of a favourite death he didn’t get to do the first time around. “I knew I loved that idea that she’s so intensely running from the killer that she’s not paying attention to where she’s going. So that was a death that I got to use in this movie.”
“There were a few more that I wrote for this movie that we actually couldn’t afford to shoot,” said Landon. “They were complicated and expensive. So that was a little bit of a bummer but I still had a really good time with the ones that we did.”
Producer Jason Blum told INSIDER separately he likes to keep the budgets for his sequels around $US10 million.
How good is Tree at memorization?
Tree has to remember a lot of scientific maths equations throughout the movie. We’re not talking two or three problems, but pages of notes each time she relives a day over in order for the group of friends to fix SISSY and send Tree back to the right parallel dimension.
Is Tree a low-key genius? What’s her major?
“She was someone who had always used her charm and charisma and looks to sort of get by,” said Landon of Tree at the beginning of the first movie. “But like all good manipulators I think she’s hyper intelligent, she just doesn’t know it. So this very almost, I don’t want to say photographic memory, but she has a great capacity to learn. There’s never been any reason in her life to truly apply herself.” “Finally, in this movie, [she] has a reason, which is sort of like saving her own life. It was a really fun thing to play with,” he added. “Instead of her being the helpless victim, she’s always kind of having to be her own saviour. This was another opportunity to explore that.”
We saw the movie from Ryan’s perspective at the start. Was it ever considered for us to see the movie from anyone else’s point of view?
“No. So the idea of Ryan sort of being the victim trapped in a loop it was a very deliberate choice because what I was going for there was something that was pretty unconventional which is to mislead the audience into thinking that we have a new protagonist and that we’re going to be following a different story,” said Landon.
“For me it was a really fun way to just start misleading the audience in a certain direction and then pivot sharply,” Landon said of the movie starting off following Ryan instead of Tree. “We almost have a first act of a movie that is about someone else only to be put in a slingshot and then sent back into Tree’s story. So again for me it was sort of playing with expectations and then subverting that.”
Did the big reveal of why Tree was reliving the same day over again take away from her life-altering lessons in the first movie?
“In terms of it kicking away from the first movie, I didn’t think so because what’s really interesting is, and you brought it up, Tree literally has that moment in the second movie where she says, here I thought I was stuck in this loop for some big cosmic reason and I was being forced to face myself and Carter says, ‘Does that make it mean any less?’ You could tell that she feels bummed out about it,” said Landon.
“She’s about to face the ultimate challenge which is having to face her mum in the flesh and decide if she’s going to live this false life or if she’s going to embrace her loss and move forward,” Landon continued. “And so it really was a cool opportunity to answer all those things and tee up new stuff.”
What were the clues in the first film that hinted at this sequel?
Back in 2017, Landon told INSIDER “Happy Death Day” contained clues to the sequel hidden in plain sight.
Landon confirmed the first clue is the constant power outage which occurs each night at 9:23 p.m. because of Ryan’s machine. This is pretty obvious if you have recently watched the first film. The other clue for the sequel is more difficult to discern.
“The second one was actually a sound in the opening credit sequence of the movie, the Universal logo. When the logo repeats itself, it makes a very big crazy sound. That’s the actual device powering off [in the sequel],” said Landon.
The sequel reveals Tree was reliving the same day over and over again because of a giant device called the Sisyphus Quantum Cooling Reactor (fondly called SISSY) that made time loop.
“So people actually hear, it’s called SISSY in the movie, Sisyphus Quantum Cooling Reactor. That’s the sound it makes when it goes off,” said Landon.
Did we almost see Tree wake up in any other parallel universes?
“I thought about all kinds of crazy stuff. There was that element,” Landon said. “I was concerned it was going to get too difficult to emotionally track it.”
“Then there was even the possibility of Tree having like another version of herself out there,” said Landon, something which would have been a bigger “Back to the Future” nod, but it would have become pretty complicated.
“Not only did it become like a really obnoxious heavy, annoying thing that I would have to deal with every time she woke up, and it didn’t add any value to the story for me, but I thought that it kind of muddied things,” said Landon. “So I ended up coming up with a scientific excuse and a reason why and there just one of her there. Because it really was a big narrative mess that I didn’t want to have to deal with.”
Are we ever going to learn the toll all of these injuries are taking on Tree?
“We always wanted to have a reminder to the audience that she doesn’t actually have infinite lives. That she’s sort of like a cat,” said Landon of Tree’s mortality. “Otherwise there’s really no real urgency to her having to solve in the first movie her own murder and in this case also having to solve how she’s going to close the loop and get back to her original dimension.”
“We had explored in the first movie in a previous draft a little bit more stuff about what was happening to her physically and that all of these deaths were collecting on the inside of her,” he added of revealing more about the effect of Tree’s injuries on her. “But we felt that the suggestion of that was ultimately more effective than sort of really digging into it in some sort of really big mythological way.”
The end of the sequel sets up another film. What can we expect from a third instalment of “Happy Death Day”?
“I have a third movie in my head and it’s very much connected to the tag at the end of this movie,” Landon said of a potential third “Happy Death Day” film. “It expands the world in a significant way. It’s just a question of are people gonna show up and see this movie and let me make a third? And that’s really the only way that one will happen.
“I’m just sort of crossing my fingers and hoping I get a chance to make one more,” he added.
Is there anything else viewers should be looking out for while watching?
“There are a lot of Easter eggs in this movie. There’s a lot of fun stuff for people to find especially in the alternate dimension where we very subtly made changes to things that people see over and over again. So I think it’s something that people should be on the lookout for,” said Landon.
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