Today is a special day for this site. Four years ago today, this blog was born. It was hosted on Typepad then, and it was called “In It For The Kills,” but despite the relocation and name change, it has remained a place where I self-indulgently discuss the weirdest horror movies I can find. This blog is a source of great joy and personal accomplishment for me, so you could say that every day I spend here is a holiday of sorts.
In celebration, I’ve decided to do a list of my five favorite birthday party scenes in horror. Birthdays in horror happen more than you might think. Most often the story revolves around someone gaining great and terrible powers on their 18th birthday, or being taken away by the forces of evil as a result of a family curse or a deal their parents made with the dark side. There are so many of these that you could say that they are all ripping each other off. But of course we horror fanatics would prefer to say that there is a “subgenre” in play.
However, for this post I’m going to focus on horrific birthday parties themselves. They were supposed to be fun, and they might have been fun for someone, but these are horror movies, so what we’re really talking about here are five celebrations that belong in Etiquette Hell. Which is the way we want it! Well, we get it.
5. And When She Was Bad/There Was a Little Girl/Madhouse
Whatever title you have seen this one under, and it was most likely Madhouse if you are an American like me, this movie is fairly unique in the realm of the Italian horror movie in that it is an actual slasher and not a giallo. Julia is a nice young lady who teaches deaf children. She has a wonderful boyfriend, a great apartment, and a birthday coming up. She also has a batshit crazy twin sister who is locked up where she can’t hurt Julia anymore. Psych! Julia’s sister escapes the asylum and has a horrible party for Julia in Julia’s basement. Most of the guests are dead, and someone gets chopped up with an axe. Also, there is a surprise accomplice. If you’re thinking this sounds a bit like Happy Birthday to Me, they both came out in 1981, so who can say where the idea originated?
Frankenhooker begins with a birthday party where the title character, in her former life as a living woman with her own body parts, is chopped into a million pieces by the remote control lawnmower her mad scientist boyfriend made for her father. Yep, the highlight of dad’s birthday party is his daughter’s horrible demise, and it’s hilarious. If you think I’m being a party pooper by laughing, then you obviously haven’t seen Frankenhooker. The over-the-top birthday party scene sets the mood for this horror comedy, and it gets even more gloriously ridiculous from that point on.
3. The Sentinel
The birthday party in The Sentinel is a party for a cat. As if that wasn’t strange enough, everyone but our protagonist, Alison, is a ghost! Actually, I’m not sure if the cat is a ghost. All the “human” ghosts are for the plot’s sake specifically ghosts of murderers, and we do see the cat eating a bird, but I don’t know if you’d call it murder. Anyway, the always impressive character actor Burgess Meredith is in attendance in all his quirky glory, as well as a couple of neighbors who made Alison uncomfortable in a far-out way, and this is even before she realizes all her neighbors are spirits. The party makes everything worse the next day when she insists to her gaslighting landlady that she attended a cat’s birthday party the night before in the now-empty apartment. There are a lot of creepy moments in The Sentinel, but the birthday party is more of a fun scene. Until you find out it was just damn weird. Bonus: there is cake-eating earlier in the movie too, when Alison walks in on her ugly naked dad and two ugly naked hookers eating cake in bed. These are three people you would kick out of bed for leaving crumbs on the sheets!
2. The Omen
Damien’s birthday party is the point in the movie where things really get going. Until the party, we the viewers of course know the birthday boy is actually the son of Satan, because we’ve read the synopsis. But to the Thorns, they themselves are just absurdly rich people having a carnival on their stately lawn for a child who is too young to know what is going on. Dramatic irony! And then, the nanny shouts from an upstairs window, “Look at me Damien; it’s all for you!” and hangs herself in front of all. Luckily, David Warner, as a member of the British paparazzi, captures the moment on film, leading to his brilliant discovery of the shadow of the rope above the nanny’s head in earlier photos. Which then unfortunately (for him) leads to the discovery of a line across his neck in photos, foreshadowing death by flying glass.
1. Demons 2
Sally’s birthday party looked like a lot of fun. Of course, Sally wasn’t having any fun, because she’s a teensy bit of a drama queen, and is in her room pouting about her dress and the guy that she doesn’t like who is on his way over (the guy is basically the same character as the thug in the car with the Coca-Cola can full of cocaine from the first movie). I think she gets the drama llama gene from her father, who is waaaaay too upset about eating dinner at a restaurant that night with his wife so his teenage daughter can have the house to herself. But Sally’s friends are dancing and having a great time while she’s in her room getting possessed by the demon that crawls out of her TV. Then she emerges just in time to turn into a drooling, snarling demon over the cake as they all sing “Happy Birthday.” The party gives us a great Smiths song, “Panic,” and then the ever-assertive Sally in full demon mode leads the other demons rampaging through the building. Even the simple fact that Sally is having a party,with the suggestion of cake, is what causes the pregnant neighbor to send her husband out for dessert, leading to the biggest drama of the movie: will he get back to save his wife before she pops?