Horror loves events. Not just holiday-themed movies, either. After Halloween defied box office expectations in 1978, the horror genre was looking to adapt just about any holiday or calendar event. Hence, we have Christmas and Valentine’s Day-themed movies alongside April Fool’s Day and Friday the 13th. We’ve got Prom Night and Graduation Day and even Mother’s Day has its own horror movie. So why not horror movies about birthdays? It’s hard to imagine a better setup for terror than our most special day of the year. After all, each birthday brings us one year closer to death. Clowns, unwanted attention, surprises, obnoxious kids – birthdays offer lots of potential for scares. Below are six birthday horror movies for your consideration if you’d rather stay in by yourself on your birthday.
Clowns are scary, but Stitches clearly plays its concept for laughs. Several years after a birthday party prank goes horribly wrong, Stitches the Clown returns from the grave to take revenge on the children responsible for his death. Ultra-low budget and intentionally cheesy, Stitches clearly aims for the goofball horror and gore of later 80s slasher sequels like Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers or Slumber Party Massacre 2. While it’s certainly not dull, Stitches doesn’t come as close to cult-status as it probably intended. Bad movie lovers may enjoy it. But most horror fans would be better off sending regrets to this birthday horror bash.
Demons 2 (1986)
From Italian horror director Lamberto Bava, Demons 2 is vintage 80s Italian horror. Of course, this means Bava’s sequel is a gory but nearly incomprehensible effort with B-level acting and C-level dialogue. Not that it matters. Like its predecessor, Demons 2 is a triumph of wall-to-wall practical gore effects. When demons from the first movie escape from a television during a high-rise birthday party, Bava unleashes surreal ‘new wave’ horror. Is it a proper sequel to Demons? Or is it a movie-within-a-movie? Like most Italian horror from the era, it’s not very clear. Nonetheless, Demons 2 works best as gory nightmare fuel. If you’re an 80s horror fan, you’ll want to RSVP to this birthday party.
Happy Death Day (2017)
If you hate celebrating your birthday, imagine having to re-live it over and over again. Happy Death Day exploits this very conceit in its ‘slasher meets Groundhog Day‘ premise. From horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions, Happy Death Day nailed its high concept becoming one of the best horror movies of the 2010s. Its story of a college student forced to live her birthday over and over until she discovers who killed her effectively mixed jolts, humour, and an emotionally satisfying character arc. An equally satisfying sequel fell short of box office hopes, but a trilogy capper still isn’t out of the question.
House on Haunted Hill (1959, 1989)
Legendary director and producer William Castle was the master of gimmicks. Most of his work was cheesy, low budget B-movies. But Castle filmed and marketed his productions with a childlike enthusiasm. One of Castle’s best movies was The House on Haunted Hill, the second of two successful collaborations with Vincent Price. Here, Price played an eccentric millionaire offering five strangers $10, 000 to spend an evening locked in a haunted house for his estranged wife’s birthday. It proved to be a winning premise and The House on Haunted Hill was a box office hit. But for younger horror fans unimpressed with plastic floating skeletons, Dark Castle Entertainment gave it the remake treatment 40 years later. Unlike the original, critics weren’t very impressed, but 90s horror fans have a spot for it.
Bloody Birthday (1981)
Somehow this decent little early slasher movie has slipped into obscurity. Though it’s not a classic, Bloody Birthday rises above its ‘killer kids’ narrative. Three ten-year-old children born at the same time during a solar eclipse are secretly murderous psychopaths. So you could say they were ‘born under a bad sign’. Don’t expect much in the way of blood and gore. Nonetheless, Bloody Birthday’s junior slashers are creepy and infuriating in equal measures. Even without blood there’s also something jarring about watching children commit murders. There’s also a surprising amount of nudity here. It’s not quite a Grindhouse movie, but Bloody Birthday still feels exploitative at times. For 80s horror fans, Bloody Birthday makes for a nice little birthday goodie bag.
Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Now here’s a classic slasher movie. At the height of the subgenre’s emergence, Happy Birthday to Me brought together all the classic tropes. It’s Ginny Wright’s birthday and someone is killing her friends – The ‘Top Ten’ – before her party. When you think of slasher movies, it’s the creatively over-the-top death scenes that likely comes to mind. And this Canadian slasher promised “the most bizarre murders you will ever see”. While it falls short of its promise, the infamous ‘shish kebab’ murder remains a subgenre touchstone. In spite of its silly story and convoluted twist, Happy Birthday to Me scored some familiar faces in the cast. Melissa Sue Anderson (Little House on the Prairie) and Tracey E Bregman (The Young & the Restless) make sense – young, fresh-faced, and maybe looking to do something different. But Golden Age Hollywood star Glenn Ford must have walked onto the wrong set.