There is a reason I am reviewing two films in one article. The Campus and Happy Death Day are eerily similar films that were both released around roughly the same time.
The Campus: the daughter of a deceased archaeologist finds herself in a never-ending cycle of terror as she is brutally murdered then resurrected over and over again, each time losing a piece of her soul.
Happy Death Day: A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity.
Both films use the Groundhog Day repeat cycle for their plots. Both films have a mystery to discover why they keep repeating the same day or why they keep dying. Both films take place on a campus. Finally, both female leading actresses, Rachel Amanda Bryant in The Campus and Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day, have a striking resemblance to each other.
When speaking with The Campus director, Jason Horton, he states that he was unaware of the film Happy Death Day until it was brought to his attention at the premiere of The Campus. Even still, the uncanny similarities of the films bring out an eerie coincidence if The Campus truly had no influence from Happy Death Day.
The films themselves do take on their own style, The Campus focused on B-Movie gore, and Happy Death Day focused mostly on the mystery of the story. The villains are vastly different in origin, but hold a similar screen presence. In The Camus, it is the Devil himself chasing after our hero in order to obtain her soul. The makeup effects by Robert Bravo lack in parts of the film, but hold strong with the Devil’s makeup. This antagonist lurks through the film, bringing a horrifying substance to an already graphic, Grindhouse esque, motion picture.
In Happy Death Day the antagonist is a classic masked killer formed from a symbol of something positive. In this case, it’s the schools mascot. A baby mask with wide eyes and one tooth, representing Bayfield University’s Babies.
Director Christopher Landon has explained that the concept for the mask was created special for the film by Tony Gardner. Gardner is known for his mask work as the creator of the infamous “Ghostface” mask from the Scream films. Christopher explains that, “During pre-production, I was expecting my first son. I don’t know if I just had babies on the brain, or if I was subconsciously scared to become a father, but that baby image was floating around in my head. Tony made us a pig mask too, but when I wore the baby mask in the office, I scared a co-worker, and we thought…yeah, this is it. This is the one.” In the creation of such a character, it is hard to imagine a baby as a school’s mascot, but it somehow works well in this film and raises very few objections from viewers.
When it comes down to it, both films are character driven and have fantastic performances from both Rachel Amanda Bryant and Jessica Rothe. They carry the stories well and express a likeness and personal journey both physically and emotionally that the audience sympathies with.
On November 27th, 2018, the distribution company handling The Campus, ITN Distribution, decided to change the name of the film to Deathday to embrace the films parallels with Happy Death Day instead of fighting the critics that claim the idea was copied. The director Jason Horton made a post on Facebook stating:
If you made a movie and then a bigger movie, you were previously unaware of, with a very similar premise came out, would you fight the connection or cash in?.. The distributor for The Campus has changed the name to Deathday. My plan is to roll with it. At this point I feel my responsibility to the investors outweighs any quibbles I may have about the title switch… address it out front, meet the backlash head on.”
– Jason Horton
Having the confidence to ride the success of another film to help with profits shows me that Horton has nothing to hide as The Campus creator. This kind of confidence only further proves that the similarities of both of these films is purely coincidental. It is also an incredibly smart tactical move on ITN Distribution’s part, considering the recent release of the new trailer announcing the sequel to Happy Death Day this last week. Happy Death Day 2U is set to be in theaters February 14th, 2019.
You can check out the new trailer for “Deathday” on ITN Distribution’s Youtube page here: