31 Days of Slashers: The Funhouse (1981)

The twenty-sixth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981), also known as Carnival of Terror. Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) is a rather rebellious young woman. She defies her parents by sneaking out of the house to meet up with friends at the traveling carnival that is in town. The teens have a fun night at the carnival, but when Richie (Miles Chapin) dares the teens to spend the night in the creepy funhouse, terror inevitably takes over. As her friends start disappearing and dying in mysterious and violent ways, Amy must battle whatever monster is hidden in the funhouse. Will she be able to survive?

The main draw for The Funhouse is its direction by iconic horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper. Regardless of whatever film of his that you’re watching, it is guaranteed to be well-executed and full of his creepy signature touches. The Funhouse is no different. While the narrative may be rather simple, that only allows for the aesthetic and production design of the film to add even more to the viewing experience. Hooper is most well-known for his films The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist (1982), but he has dabbled in many sub-genres within the horror genre, ranging from possession to creature feature to vampire films. The late director was genuinely a master of the genre and he is greatly missed.

Another element of the film that I really love is the carnival setting. Hooper clearly relishes the small details in the set design for the film. The carnival is brought to life through colorful sets and lively carnival workers. The titular funhouse itself features one creepy room after another and allows for very engaging camera setups that show us the dark corners where evil might be lurking. Hooper also utilizes a really distinct design for the murderous creature that lives in the funhouse. The practical makeup effects in the film are very impressive.

The performances in the film are also pretty solid, as Elizabeth Berridge’s Amy proves to be a very effective Final Girl figure. The remainder of the cast delivers decent performances as her friends. Wayne Doba does a nice job at portraying manic bloodlust as the monster. The many actors that portray the carnival workers also give very entertaining performances that bring life to the carnival setting.

Through its great use of setting, its fantastic practical makeup effects, and its excellent direction from Tobe Hooper, The Funhouse proves a worthy addition to your Halloween watchlist this spooky season.

The Funhouse is currently streaming with membership on the Peacock app. It can also be rented from Amazon, DirecTV, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube. The Shout! Factory blu-ray can be purchased HERE.

I will be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

The twenty-fifth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Fred Walton’s When a Stranger Calls Back (1993), a direct sequel to Walton’s When a Stranger Calls (1979). The film starts with Julia (Jill Schoelen) babysitting, much like Carol Kane’s Jill in the original film. Instead of a creepy phone call, however, Julia is greeted by a mysterious man knocking on the door. He claims to have been in a car accident and asks her to use the phone. She says she’ll call the auto club for him if he waits outside. The phone is not working when she picks it up, but she tells him that she called. Hoping he’ll go away, she continues lying to him saying that she called the auto club. She then starts to notice that things around the house have been moved. Julia goes upstairs to check on the children to find that they’ve been abducted and is lucky to escape when she realizes the killer is still in the house. Shockingly, the children are never seen or heard from again. Five years later, she’s in college. Jill from the original film is now a counselor at Julia’s school and becomes very invested in her story, as it is so similar to her own. Julia tells her that she thinks she has a stalker and that it’s the same mysterious man. They team up with private detective John (Charles Durning), who had stopped the intruder in the original film. Will Julia and Jill be able to stop the murderous stalker or will they fall prey to his violence?

When a Stranger Calls Back is an odd little phenomenon. Walton’s made-for-TV thriller was originally produced for Showtime. While it is easy to think that the quality of an early 1990s TV film would be far below a classic horror film, that is most certainly not the case here. This film is a rare exception where the sequel is far superior to the original. This film finds Jill, nearly twenty years later, still dealing with the trauma from the original film and using that as a tool to assist young women in similar situations. There is just a level of power to Jill in the film that really elevates it beyond the other slasher films of the early 1990s. Carol Kane delivers a fantastic performance here and is a continuous joy to watch.

Once again, Jill Schoelen turns in another fantastic lead performance. This was her last film in the horror genre and she does not disappoint. I’ve always really loved her performances in her brief stay in the genre, and When a Stranger Calls Back is no exception. It’s fun to see two generations of women team up to fight the creepy killer in this film, and it’s always a treat to see Charles Durning as a bitter and moody cop-figure. While clearly channeling Danny Glover’s “I’m getting too old for this shit!” energy from Lethal Weapon, Durning is still a very engaging presence in the film and it is interesting to see how his character has developed since the original film.

When a Stranger Calls Back also greatly advances the creepy factor with this entry in the film duo. The killer is a ventriloquist who is very skilled at camouflage make-up that makes him disappear into his surroundings (as the pictures above and below demonstrate). While the phone caller in the original film does have the eerie voice that is somewhat chilling, the killer in this film is truly quite terrifying. Watson has also greatly raised the stakes by putting an older John (Charles Durning) in contention with this young and agile killer.

With it’s incredibly creepy killer, its empowering narrative, and its excellent performances from Kane, Schoelen, and Durning, When a Stranger Calls Back proves to be a perfect candidate for your horror viewing this month. While it is necessary to watch the first film to fully appreciate the sequel, knowing that this film is far more engaging and well-acted leaves you something to look forward to.

When a Stranger Calls Back is currently free to stream on the Tubi app. The Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features a great restoration and special features, might be available at your local library and can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Freaky (2020)

The twenty-fourth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Christopher Landon’s Freaky (2020). Millie (Kathryn Newton) is a somewhat awkward high school student. She and her friends don’t really get into anything too adventurous or dangerous. Her only after school activity seems to be her role as the school mascot. Following the death of her father, her mother has become an alcoholic and her sister has retreated into her career as a police officer, leaving Millie to fend for herself. After a football game, her mom has fallen asleep and doesn’t arrive to pick Millie up. Sitting alone outside of the stadium in the dark, she encounters the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). He stabs her in the shoulder with a mystical knife that forces them to switch bodies, ala Freaky Friday. They wake up the next morning in the other’s body. Will Millie (in the Butcher’s body) be able to save her friends and family? Or will the Butcher (in Millie’s body) continue his murderous rampage through Blissfield?

Coming from Christopher Landon, the director of the Happy Death Day films (2017, 2019) and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), you can expect the same excellent combination of horror and comedy. Landon and Michael Kennedy have constructed a film that pays tribute to decades of slasher films while paving new ground. The queer sensibility provided by Landon and Kennedy makes the film stand apart from its peers in a very progressive and fun way. There is an incredibly sweet moment shared between Millie (in the Butcher’s body) and Booker (Uriah Shelton), the boy that she has been crushing on, that transcends the gendered limitations of Vaughn’s physicality and proves that Booker genuinely cares for Millie regardless of her gendered body.

The performances of Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton as the film’s leads are the most captivating reason to watch the film. Vaughn truly impressed me with his performance as Millie (in the Butcher’s body). What could have easily just been overly used gendered stereotypes was a completely nuanced and clearly well-researched performance of a high school-aged young woman. His physical performance when he is portraying Millie is comical, but it is also so strongly mirroring of Newton’s original performance of Millie (in her own body). Newton, in turn, delivers a phenomenal performance as the Butcher (in Millie’s body), which showcases the character’s limitations with her smaller stature and lesser strength. Millie’s friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) also turn in very engaging performances. But Vaughn and Newton are just on another level in this film, and their performances alone make Freaky a must watch.

Landon has really honed his craft over the several horror films that he has made, and Freaky proves to be very visually engaging with its use of fun settings and visual gags that are highlighted by the performances of Vaughn and Newton. As a huge fan of the Happy Death Day films (which I hope will still get its closing film in the trilogy!), I found even more to love in Freaky. Landon and Kennedy have really proven that they are truly passionate about the slasher sub-genre and that they clearly know their stuff when it comes to constructing death sequences that are somehow both comical and violently shocking. This film just felt tailor made for me, and I will definitely be sharing it with as many friends as I possibly can in the future. My parents both really enjoyed it, as well.

With its truly excellent performances, its fun take on the slasher sub-genre, and its great combination of horror and comedy, Freaky proves to be an incredibly well-constructed slasher that is absolutely a must-watch this Halloween season. There are too few films out there that are simply this fun to watch. So, when one does pop up, it needs to be appreciated for all that it has to offer. Definitely check this one out!

Freaky is currently streaming with membership on HBO Max and DirecTV. It can also be rented on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube. It is also available to check out at your local library!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: House of Wax (2005)

The twenty-third entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Jaume Collet-Serra’s House of Wax (2005). A remake of the great Vincent Price House of Wax (1953), Collet-Serra’s film ventures into much nastier territory than the classic horror film, which worked more as a creepy early-1900’s mystery. Carly (Elisha Cuthbert), her twin brother Nick (Chad Michael Murray), and their friends are on their way to a big football game. They stop to camp for the night and are spied on by a creepy stranger in a rundown pickup truck. They yell at him to leave and after Nick throws a beer bottle at his truck, the stranger finally drives off. They wake up the next morning to find that the fan belt on Nick’s (Jared Padalecki) car is broken. Lester, a resident of Ambrose, a nearby town, drives by and offers to drive Wade and Carly into town to get a new belt. The others stay behind to get ready to leave for the football game. They arrive in Ambrose to discover an eerie ghost town. Soon, Carly’s friends start disappearing. And there is something incredibly creepy about the wax figures that she discovers in the town. Will Carly be able to escape from Ambrose alive? Will anything be left of her friends?

Collet-Serra’s film is incredibly dark and visually disgusting. There are few modern mainstream horror films that I can think of that really feature a production design that harkens back to the truly visceral and horrifying aesthetic of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), but House of Wax definitely tries to leave the viewer feeling gross for watching the events unfold. There is a really menacing and nasty vibe that hangs over the entire film. It works so perfectly with the creepy design of the Ambrose location, which features many haunting storefronts and buildings, including a movie theatre that repeatedly plays Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962). For those expecting just another fun teen slasher film, this one really delivers the gory moments that you’ll definitely remember long after the film is over.

At the time of its release, many were quick to speak negatively of the film simply because socialite Paris Hilton was in the cast. Without even seeing the film, it was condemned as simply an extension of her media persona that pre-dated the Kardashian empire that rules social media today. As any loyal horror fan can attest, Paris Hilton delivered respectable performances in two horror films of the 2000s, in House of Wax and in horror-musical Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008). The entire cast of House of Wax turn in solid performances here. Elisha Cuthbert as Carly and Chad Michael Murray as Nick are perhaps the strongest, but the remainder of their group are entertaining and enjoyable.

House of Wax is one of the films released by Dark Castle in the late 1990s and early 2000s that attempted to revive classic horror films with remakes that would appeal to younger modern audiences but also get them interested in the older films, as well. House on Haunted Hill (1999), Thir13en Ghosts (2001), and Ghost Ship (2002) are among the other films produced by Dark Castle during this time. While remakes are always a hot topic, as so many look down on them, I have always felt that the Dark Castle films were really engaging and always took new directions with their films instead of simply rehashing the exact same narrative as the original productions. House of Wax is certainly no exception. The film is very loosely based on the Vincent Price narrative, and the titular house of wax attraction is really one of the few similarities.

With its gritty and nasty aesthetic, its fun performances, and its amazing production and set design, House of Wax proves to be an absolutely essential watch this Halloween season. If you haven’t seen this film based on the negative word of mouth when the film was released, it is time to look past that thoughtless negativity and enjoy the dark film beneath the surface.

House of Wax is streaming with membership on HBO Max and AMC+. It can be rented on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube. The Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features a new restoration and excellent special features, can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Knife + Heart (2018)

The twenty-second film in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart (2018), or Un couteau dans le cœur. This recent French film is an absolutely stunning visual terror. In 1979 Paris, adult gay filmmaker Anne (Vanessa Paradis) has recently been dumped by her girlfriend and editor Loïs (Kate Moran). When one of her adult actors is murdered, Anne decides to make her next film about his death. As more adult actors that have starred in Anne’s films are murdered, she is thrown into a violent mystery. Will she be able to stop the murderer and figure out why they are targeting her cast members?

As you can probably guess, this film is a bit on the sleazy side. It is unrated and does contain a great deal of sexual imagery. That being said, it is also visually stunning. Gonzalez’s film is one of the most beautifully shot horror films of the past twenty years. Without a doubt, its images will stay with you long after the film is over. The murder sequences are incredibly visceral and, when combined with the sexual imagery in the film, are definitely more effective than the majority of the mainstream slasher films in recent memory.

The performances in the film are also particularly great. Vanessa Paradis delivers an incredibly deep performance that adds layers of grief and determination to Anne’s character. Anne is in a very messy place in her life, following her break-up with Loïs where she makes incredibly impulsive decisions that sometimes have disastrous outcomes. While she is certainly a very flawed character, that only serves to make her all the more realistic and engaging. Paradis provides Anne with a very unrestrained and kinetic performance that is thoroughly captivating for the entire film. I am really excited to see her future work.

It’s also quite refreshing to have a horror film that features so many queer characters. Anne and Loïs have a very complex relationship and each of their characters are given strong story arcs that shape the narrative nicely. Anne’s best friend and actor Archibald (Nicolas Maury) is also a very well-developed and fascinating character. Unlike the majority of the Hollywood horror films that include queer characters, they are not simply relegated to the best friend role or left on the sidelines. Instead, they are front and center in Gonzalez’s narrative.

With its incredible cinematography, stellar performances, and overall style, Knife + Heart proves to be an incredibly rewarding watch if you’re comfortable delving into the sleazier side of the slasher sub-genre. If you’re looking to add a bit of international flair to your Halloween watchlist this month, definitely check this one out.

Knife + Heart is currently streaming with membership on the Shudder and AMC+ apps.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Popcorn (1991)

The twenty-first film in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Mark Herrier’s Popcorn (1991). Maggie (Jill Schoelen) is a film student at a university whose film department is struggling financially. Maggie and her classmates decide to host a horror film festival to raise money for the department. The closed theatre that they select to host the event was once the site of a fire that resulted in the death of an entire family. When preparing for the event, the students discover a short film called Possessor made by Lanyard Gates, who it turns out killed his family in the theatre after finishing the film. Will their event be successful? Or could Lanyard Gates still be alive and looking for more people to murder?

As a film student myself, Popcorn is naturally a slasher film that I love greatly. It features so many fun references to classic horror films of the 1950s through the films the students decide to screen at their event. There are nods to many of the legendary producer William Castle’s theatrical gimmicks that the students use to bring in bigger audiences, such as retro 3D, smell-o-vision, and a large prop mosquito that flies over the festival attendees. It’s interesting to see a film that really navigates the horror genre within its narrative prior to Wes Craven’s Scream. Popcorn never got much attention for its meta narrative, and that is something that definitely should be acknowledged now. While Popcorn was obviously not as financially successful as the Scream franchise, it had a lot to say about horror five years prior to Craven’s iconic slasher.

The performances of Popcorn are also quite good, as the film features Jill Schoelen as protagonist Maggie, Dee Wallace (of E.T. and The Howling fame) as her mother, and an enjoyably over-the-top performance from Tom Villard as Toby. Herrier features some rather disgusting practical make-up effects that are quite effective. The death sequences featured in Popcorn are also particularly entertaining as they often connect with what is occurring onscreen in the films shown at the festival. Herrier does an excellent job of creating a nostalgic aesthetic and vibe that really gives Popcorn an appealing edge against the other slasher films of the early 1990s. This was the point in time where the slasher sub-genre was considered to be on its last legs, with the later entries in the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises delivering less and less box office revenue with each new release.

The theatre location in the film is such a perfect set, as well. It provides so many dark corners and creepy hidden hallways for the killer to maneuver through, while also maintaining such a strong sense of nostalgia for local cinemas that are just too few and far between these days. The Dream Land theatre in the film is such a charming location that Herrier utilizes so perfectly for a great chunk of the narrative.

Through its incredibly enjoyable references to classic horror, its fun film department plot, the great use of the theatre as the main setting, and solid performances, Popcorn proves to be a very entertaining little slasher film that is definitely worthy of a watch this Halloween season!

Unfortunately, Popcorn isn’t currently on any streaming platforms. But the Synapse Films blu-ray, which features a fantastic restoration and special features, can be checked out from your local library and purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Urban Legend (1998)

The twentieth film in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Jamie Blanks’ Urban Legend (1998). Pendleton University is shocked by the murder of one of its students. Natalie (Alicia Witt) and her friends talk about the murder and tell some stories that they’ve heard about other violent occurrences on campus. Paul (Jared Leto), head of the university’s newspaper, discredits the tales as simple urban legends. As the film progresses, Paul discovers that one incident was actually true and that their American folklore professor (Robert England) was a survivor of the massacre. Soon, Natalie’s friends and fellow students are murdered one by one. Can Natalie discover the identity of the killer before she’s the next victim? Could Professor Wexler be murdering the students in the ways he discusses in his lectures on urban legends?

Urban Legend is an absolute blast from start to finish. The young cast is a great draw for this one, in particular, as the film features performances from Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, a blonde Joshua Jackson (who can really pull off the bright hair color), and Danielle Harris (the young Jamie Lloyd in the fourth and fifth Halloween films). My absolute favorite performance of the film, however, is Loretta Devine as campus security officer Reese Wilson. Devine steals every single scene she is featured in, and her character’s love of Pam Grier is just another glorious touch to this fun film.

We’re returning to another fantastic slasher film directed by Jamie Blanks, whose Valentine (2001) I discussed earlier in the month. Blanks delivers excitingly staged death sequences and brings a very engaging visual style to the film. One of the absolutely brilliant moments that always stays with me is the opening sequence of the film, where Michelle (Natasha Gregson Wagner) stops for gas and as she drives away, the gas station attendant (Brad Dourif) tries to tell her that someone is hidden in the back of her SUV. Blanks highlights the moment by playing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler on the radio in the car. As she sings “Turn around…” the killer moves into view, starting the film off with a thrilling death sequence but also a lovely burst of comedic irony. The film features many fun moments like this and references to other films in the genre.

Written by the late Silvio Horta, who was greatly talented and is greatly missed, the film breathes fresh life into the slasher boom of the late 1990s. By integrating the creepy legends that are always passed around by friends at school, around campfires, and at sleepovers, Horta created a narrative that reaches out to everyone. Regardless of what you are afraid of, at least one of the legends represented in the film will take you back to discussing them with friends. When I read a book about urban legends in middle school, the one that always spooked me the most was the tale of the killer that waited underneath cars to slash the ankles of his victims as they finish their shopping. Silvio Horta was also the creator of two television shows that I really loved: Ugly Betty (2006-2010) and Jake 2.0 (2003-2004).

Through its fantastic performances, its excellently staged death sequences, and its fun references to countless urban legends, this film is an essential watch this Halloween season. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor and check out this classic slasher from the late 1990s.

Urban Legend is streaming for free on the Tubi and Pluto TV apps and can be rented on Amazon, DirecTV, Google Play, Redbox, and YouTube. The Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features a treasure trove of special features and an excellent transfer, can be bought HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: The House on Sorority Row (1982)

The nineteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Mark Rosman’s The House on Sorority Row (1982), also known as House of Evil. Katey (Kathryn McNeil) and her friends in the Pi Theta sorority are finally graduating. Their plans to host a party to celebrate are rejected by their stern house mother Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt). After Mrs. Slater slashes Vicki’s (Eileen Davidson) waterbed after catching her with a boy in the sorority house, Vicki develops a plan to get back at her. Katey and the other girls join in. Vicki takes Mrs. Slater’s cane and throws it into the abandoned pool in the backyard of the sorority and the girls force Mrs. Slater, at gunpoint, to go in and recover it. Naturally, something goes wrong, and Mrs. Slater ends up dead. Soon, the girls start dying left and right. Will Katey be able to discover who is killing them? Could it be Mrs. Slater? Or someone else?

Rosman’s film features a pretty drastic prank that obviously goes horribly awry, as is often a trope in the slasher genre. One thing that makes the film stand out from its peers is the antagonistic and violent personalities of the sorority girls. This goes against the typical portrayal of sorority girls as simply sex-crazed and flirtatious. While that does still apply to some of the girls, their role in the prank against Mrs. Slater drives them all over the edge. Narratively, this gives the characters a bit more depth, allowing them to explore themes of remorse and regret.

It is also interesting that this is Mark Rosman’s first film as a director and screenwriter. He would go on to direct two popular romantic comedies starring Hillary Duff: A Cinderella Story (2004) and The Perfect Man (2005). Rosman does a nice job of expanding the characters beyond their typical stereotypes and also providing a solid mystery for Katey to solve. The film also utilizes the campus locations quite well. He even throws in a nice party with a live band which, as I’ve said before and will probably say again, is something that I absolutely love about slasher films from the 1980s.

Kathryn McNeil turns in a solid performance as Final Girl Katey, providing the character a complex identity as she struggles with her guilt and remorse following the death of Mrs. Slater at the hands of the Pi Theta girls. Eileen Davidson gives a very fun and enjoyable turn as the rather evil Vicki. Lois Kelso Hunt as Mrs. Slater is perhaps my favorite performance of the film. She just captures the over-the-top meanness of the character perfectly. The chemistry between the girls and Mrs. Slater is also very enjoyable, as well.

Through its engaging narrative, solid performances, and decent direction, The House on Sorority Row proves that it is definitely worth a watch this Spooky Season!

The House on Sorority Row can be streamed for free on the Tubi, Hoopla, and Roku apps. It can also be rented on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, and YouTube. The MVD Rewind Collection blu-ray can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

The eighteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is J. Lee Thompson’s Happy Birthday to Me. Ginny Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson of Little House on the Prairie fame) is one of the popular girls at school. She and her friends are members of the “Top Ten,” the coolest and most privileged kids at Crawford Academy. One of her friends is killed when the friends are meeting at the local tavern. Soon, more of the “Top Ten” members begin dying. Ginny visits her therapist because she thinks that she might be killing them in blackouts connected to the death of her mother when she was younger. Is Ginny really killing her friends? Or is someone else killing them off in a countdown to Ginny’s birthday?

While not perfect by any means, Happy Birthday to Me gives the viewer everything that they’d want in a slasher film from 1981. There are very fun death sequences, great lead performances, and a decent mystery to unravel. The film was also seized and confiscated during the UK’s video nasty crusade, despite not officially being categorized as a video nasty. Naturally, the buzz surrounding the censorship of the film only added to its box office revenue and video rental success.

The sequences involving the drawbridge are particularly effective and make the film stand out a bit in a year filled to the gills with slashers. The director of the original Cape Fear (1962), J. Lee Thompson provides excellent direction for the film, making it much more visually engaging than many of its peers. Many slashers of the time were directed by filmmakers that were trying to break into the industry. Having such an accomplished director for this film, and one that was not ashamed of the material, is an exciting change of pace. Many professional filmmakers of the time greatly looked down on the genre and wanted nothing to do with it.

The cast of the film is also worthy of note. Anderson delivers a great performance as Ginny, the very complicated and conflicted protagonist. Glenn Ford gives a solid performance as her therapist Dr. Faraday, as well. The rest of the young cast turn in passable performances that convey what they need to for each individual character. Many have accused the film of being a rip off of the Friday the 13th and Prom Night films, but the script for Happy Birthday to Me was actually written before them. That being said, it certainly did benefit from the rise of the slasher craze of the time.

Through its solid direction, decent gore effects, and impressive set pieces, Happy Birthday to Me proves to be a fun little slasher film that is worthy of a watch this Halloween season.

Happy Birthday to Me is available to rent on Vudu, Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

The seventeenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is actually a trilogy of films, Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street: 1994, 1978 and 1666. The town of Shadyside is cursed. Mysterious deaths and murders have been occurring there for years and the legend of evil witch Sarah Feir being at the heart of the curse has been passed down through generations. Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) doesn’t believe in any of that and is trying to get over her breakup with her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch). When Deena and her friends actually get involved with one of the murders, they discover that the curse may just be real. The trilogy jumps between the 1994 narrative to 1978, to see how another generation is dealing with the curse, and finally to 1666 to see where it all began. Will Deena and her friends be able to end the murderous curse in Shadyside? Or will they too fall victim to the curse of Sarah Fier?

Personally, these films just hit all of the right buttons for me. The story is well-fleshed out and, with three films, is able to delve deeper into areas than most slashers can in just one film. Filming them all at once obviously helps give them a very smooth flow and transition as you jump to the next section. I absolutely loved the world that Janiak has created here. It has the nostalgia of a show like Stranger Things but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Some have been quick to point out a few historical inaccuracies, such as a particular song being released after 1994, etc. And to that, I simply say, I don’t care. I’m not watching these for a history lesson on the music that was playing on the radio on one particular evening in 1994. These films are incredibly enjoyable and entertaining, and that is more than enough for me.

Naturally, the 1978 film was my favorite, as slasher films from the 1970s and 1980s are my usual go-to for horror, but each film is excellent in its own way. 1994 clearly shows the influence of films like Scream and the other teen slashers of the decade, while 1978 is focusing on the campground slasher model of the Friday the 13th series. There are so many fun references throughout that highlight important horror classics, that you will find yourself greatly anticipating what comes next.

The teen cast is another element of this trilogy that works phenomenally well. Unlike most slasher films, where a decent chunk of the teens are irritating and grating, I absolutely loved all of the teens in this, particularly the main cast of the 1994 film. It is also fun to see the same actors play different characters in the other films as you see them in different time periods. While the accents in the 1666 section may not be the best, some are even a bit comical, they still do a decent job exploring the themes of the trilogy. Madeira as Deena is a particular standout as the entire trilogy rides on her shoulders. She proves that she is capable of taking the reins and holding everything together.

One of the things that stands out the most for me in this trilogy is the tremendous amount of queer representation. The entire trilogy is focused on the queer relationship between Deena and Sam. As the trilogy’s lead, Deena goes against the traditional white heterosexual girl that is most common in slasher narratives. Instead, we have a complex and proud lesbian character that is simply existing. This is not a story of her queer trauma or an exhausting coming-out narrative. This is simply the story of Deena and her friends and how they deal with the violence in their town. While that may not seem incredibly exciting, you need only to think of literally every mainstream slasher film that has been released. How many have featured an out queer lead? Exactly. That this simple characterization is so progressive is astonishing and hopefully it will lead to more horror films being released by the big studios featuring queer protagonists.

If you have not seen these films already, they are an absolute must-watch this Halloween season. As they’re simply streaming on Netflix, they’re very easily accessible and are perfect for a fun binge session with friends. By the films receiving decent ratings, I sincerely hope that Leigh Janiak is given the chance to expand the trilogy into something larger. Personally, I would love a new trilogy of these every summer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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