FEBRUARY 7, 2008
I remember it like it was a year ago today... I decided to start watching a horror movie every day. And I’ve only missed one day ever! (I know, it looks like I missed more than that since I still don’t have all the reviews for LAST February up – I swear I’ll get to it).
Anyway, to celebrate the occasion I figured I’d watch Happy Birthday To Me, which I saw (once) sometime in early 1997 I think. I know it was after Scream came out at any rate, because the only thing I could recall about the movie was that Scream had more or less stolen the killer’s backstory, but Kevin Williamson never mentioned it as one of his influences.
It also stole Scream’s running time. There should be a rule that a slasher film should never run more than 95 minutes unless it has more killings to make up for it. But that is certainly not the case here, the killer’s official body count is only 6, for a 110 minute film! Granted, the movie’s tagline sort of tells you right up front that it’s “6 of the most bizarre deaths you’ll ever see”, but that could also mean 6 weird deaths and maybe a dozen straight up throat slashings or what have you! In fact, only 3 of the deaths are in any way unique, the other 3 are in fact just stabbings.
Luckily, the characters are pretty likeable (Matt Craven’s always a welcome addition to a film) and unlike some of the other big studio slasher movies of the era, the MPAA allowed a few gory bits (Glenn Ford’s death is particularly splattery). And the story far more developed than the other ‘holiday’ slashers of the time. Plus it was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who made the original Cape Fear; and the producers also made My Bloody Valentine (the best of all the slashers of the era, in my opinion). It’s obvious that great lengths were taken to make this one a step above the others, combining standard slasher fare with a genuine character driven psychological thriller, but it’s a shame they couldn’t have tightened the pace a bit while they were at it, as it does get a bit long at times (a dirt bike race is fine since it sets up the bike death, but no one is killed with a soccer ball, so we can do without the 5 minutes of soccer game).
Lots of folks have issues with the ending, particular the total lack of buildup to it. Apparently the original ending had Ginny indeed being the killer, but this was changed at the last minute. As a result, there’s no indication or foreshadowing of any of this, and, like yesterday’s Tale Of Two Sisters remake, this also results in some of the earlier actions of both the actual killer and the main suspect making absolutely no sense in retrospect. But this doesn’t bug me as much as the batshittedness of it all. Why is that one spooky looking blond friend standing out in the rain holding a box? Where are the other 2 friends? Why didn’t anyone ever notice that the fake Ginny has a totally different rack than the real one?
Columbia’s choice of trailers for the disc’s sole extra feature is intriguing. We have I Know What You Did Last Summer (which also concerned the effects of trying to bury a secret), Identity (another movie in which they try very hard to convince you that the hero is in fact the killer), and Resident Evil Apocalypse (which... was also filmed in Canada, I guess). I would have liked to have a commentary or maybe a few of the bits that were cut (despite the blood on display, the shish ka bob and dumbbell deaths are cut, and quite noticeably), or an explanation as to why the opening theme is replaced with a song that sounds like “Looking for Trade” from Shock Treatment.
So anyway, here’s to a full year of daily horror movie watching! May 2008 to early 2009 bring us many a good film and 100% less Lionsgate scarecrows. And since all my favorite movies save one have already been remade, we can be assured that unless a Shocker remake is fast tracked, I will be much... calmer this year.
What say you?