Spoiler alert: The following post dives into the ending of Happy Death Day. If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want it spoiled for you, bookmark this post and come back to it later. You have been warned!
Happy Death Day had a jubilant opening weekend at the box office, but things weren’t always happy with the teen-friendly horror/comedy. As it turns out, the film’s original cliffhanger ending was a lot darker, so much so that test audiences were reportedly “furious” when it was over. Let’s explore how Happy Death Day originally ended and how the filmmakers adapted to the situation.
In an interview with CinemaBlend, Happy Death Day director Christopher Landon (above) explained the version that played at test screenings: "In the old version, Tree (played by Jessica Rothe) gets murdered again at the very end of the movie. So you kind of suggest she's going into a time loop again, but there was nothing definitive about it. And we actually shot a version of that, and the audiences were furious. They were so pissed off because they felt betrayed."
"They were like, 'Wait, she did all this hard work, and made all these changes and she's a better person now. And then you kill her again?!' And so because I still wanted the satisfaction of making people think, 'Oh god, it's never going to end,' and so that's how I came up with the ending that's in the movie now.”
Faced with these undesired reactions, the filmmakers decided to give audiences the happy ending they felt Tree deserved. But not without one more twist! In the theatrical cut Tree believes she has broken the cycle by stopping the killer only to wake up on her birthday yet again.
That’s when Tree deduces that her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) is the murderous mastermind behind it all and the poisonous cupcake was "Plan A" all along! Landon also revealed that In the script Tree’s professor/lover Gregory (played by Charles Aitken) was teaming up with Lori, but that too was excised from the final cut.
Happy Death Day is certainly not alone when it comes to changing the plot’s resolution. The horror genre is (in)famous for alternate endings. Earlier this year we saw the original (and depressing) final scene for Get Out in the form of a Blu-ray extra. Another one that comes immediately to mind is The Descent, which had its original ending cut for the American theatrical release. (For the record, the original “Unrated” version is my go-to choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way.) Maybe we’ll get to see Happy Death Day’s original outcome as part of its home video release.