It went without saying, then, that someone would eventually make a slasher based on birthdays. After all, everyone celebrates their birthday, so everyone can relate.
Cue Columbia Pictures with Happy Birthday To Me, a Canadian horror film that’s actually a little more left-field than you may expect.
It tells the story of Virginia (played by Little House On The Prairie star Melissa Sue Anderson), a troubled teen with more than her fair share of bad luck.
Her mum’s pegged it. Her dad’s a jet-setting businessman and isn’t great at being there for her. And though she’s made it into the exclusive ‘Top Ten’ clique at school, her friends are all snobby wanks.
Oh, and someone’s started murdering them one at a time too. I knew there was a bit I’d forgotten.
Initially you’re led to believe that Virginia might be the one behind the killings. She’s always around when it happens, she’s got a concerned psychiatrist and as you start to see more flashbacks of her past you start to realise she’s a few candles short of a birthday cake.
There’s just one issue, though. Virginia doesn’t have any memory of killing her chums. She keeps blacking out and when she comes to they’re either dead or missing.
Is she really the killer, or is something else going on? I’m not telling because that would be a proper wanky move.
I enjoyed Happy Birthday To Me more than I thought I would. It’s even more of a surprise when you consider the relative production hell it went through.
It’s said that all the deaths were originally far gorier, with director J Lee Thompson (who’d previously directed the original Cape Fear and The Guns Of Navarone) literally chucking buckets of fake blood around the set to the extent that the cameramen were complaining about it covering their lenses.
If this is the case, they were substantially toned down for the final movie, which is relatively light on the red stuff.
That’s not to say the deaths aren’t entertaining though. The promotional material for the film got a little carried away when it promised “six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see”, given it opens with someone getting their throat slit which – in horror movie terms – is about as bizarre as a dog licking its own balls.
However, there are some other interesting offings on offer, including a nasty incident involving a loose scarf and a motorbike, and another particularly gruesome scene which will ensure you never really trust shish kebabs again.
Performances are by and large passable. Melissa Sue Anderson does her best to appear unhinged throughout, which often consists of her hysterically screaming at her psychiatrist (and in fairness, she’s got a hell of a scream on her).
Meanwhile, screen icon Glenn Ford (better known by some as Clark Kent’s dad in Superman) does an okay job as her psychiatrist, which in itself is an accomplishment considering he was reportedly smashed out of his fucking mind most of the time on set.
The whole thing culminates in a truly bizarre twist ending, one that practically comes out of nowhere and opens up plot holes big enough to hold entire birthday parties inside.
It’s said there was no ending in place when the film started shooting, which goes some way to explaining why it feels like it was just pulled out of someone’s arse on the fly.
That said, there’s something I like about just how daft it is, and it ends the movie on a brilliantly strange note that leaves you wondering what the fuck just happened as the credits roll.
As far as seasonal slashers from the early ‘80s go, Happy Birthday To Me is a fun little contribution. At 110 minutes it certainly goes on a bit too long, but you’ll still have a fun time with it if you watch it in a group.
HOW CAN I SEE IT? Happy Birthday To Me was recently given the fancy remaster treatment in the UK by new publisher Powerhouse Films. You can buy the dual-format Blu-ray and DVD (which this review was based on) via Amazon UK.
Given my love of all things horror I’m often asked at this time of year by numerous people – sometimes upwards of three – which scary movies are worth watching.
Rather than go through the minor inconvenience of advising this tiny handful of friends, I’ve instead decided to put myself through a significantly larger inconvenience in the hope it helps out many others with a similar quandary.
Naturally, the issue here is that there’s no catch-all “good horror movie” – everyone likes different things, and one man’s Scream is another man’s Scream 3.
Starring: Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristine Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner
JEFF – “If you don’t believe in the Blair Witch then why the hell did you come along?”
KIM – “I thought the movie was cool.”
After The Blair Witch Project sold out cinemas and soiled boxer shorts around the world, a sequel was quickly greenlit to capitalise on its massive success.
There was one hefty problem, though. Part of what made the first film so successful was the fact it came out of nowhere.
Here was this film about young filmmakers who had gone into the woods and disappeared, and crucially it had this found-footage style that made many cinemagoers question whether what they were seeing was actually fiction.
Realising (perhaps wisely) that lightning probably couldn’t strike twice in the same place, director Joe Berlinger and the rest of the Blair Witch 2 crew instead decided to ditch everything that made the first film a success and go in a completely different direction. Continue reading “Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) review”→
Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding
“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” (Peter Vincent, Fright Night)
The classic Dracula films aside, my favourite vampire movies are the ones set in the present day, taking an ancient monster thats often hundreds of years old and putting them in a modern setting.
Then you may get the occasional Return Of The Living Dead, or – if the person you’re asking knows their video nasty history – Zombie Flesh Eaters.
This is all perfectly understandable, mind – all five of the above are fantastic films – but there are plenty of excellent old zombie movies that, for some reason, never quite reached that same level of universal notoriety and acclaim.
Starring: Jon Mikl Thor, Teresa Simpson, Jim Cirile, Jillian Peri, David Lane, Denise Dicandia, Frank Dietz, Liane Abel, Adam Fried
Also known as: The Edge Of Hell
“You killed no one, Bub. Or is it less familiar to call you Beelzebub? Or do you prefer Abaddon? Or, as the Hindus called you, Shaitan? Or, as you are known to answer to, Ahriman? Belial? Apollyon? Asmodeus? Because, you see… I do know you.” (John Triton, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare)
Well, now. Where to begin.
If you aren’t aware of Jon Mikl Thor, his Wikipedia page describes him as “a bodybuilding champion, actor, songwriter, screenwriter, historian, vocalist and musician”.