Tag Archives: Happy Birthday to Me

Fright Club: Workout Horror

An ode to cautionary tales, this episode points out all the great reasons to just skip the gym. Those muscles aren’t going to do you any good if you are dead—seriously, hideously broken, bloody and dead. We enlist the aid of Rewatch Podcast’s Cory Metcalfe to help us work through the best in workout horror.

5. Final Destination 3 (2006)

Director James Wong returned after missing Episode 2 and picked up right where he left off: fun and horrifying Rube Goldbergs of Death.

A young Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars ad Wendy Christensen, she of the premonition about shoddy workmanship on that roller coaster. Naturally, those she saves are on Death’s list now. These films are not rocket science. A group of people cheats death. One by one, Death comes a callin’.

The fun is seeing how each demise works itself out. And Lewis (played by Texas Battle – that is a name!) gets it good.

4. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Director J. Lee Thompson had seen better days (Cape Fear, Guns of Navarone), but this switcheroo slasher boasts a weird vibe that makes it compelling.

It also contains a very early workout death scene. We all knew Greg had to go, and how fitting that this vane elitist got his on a workout bench. If he’d thought for one second just to drop the weights on the ground over his head…but Greg wasn’t exactly known for smarts.

3. Tragedy Girls (2017)

DirectorTyler MacIntyre’s whole approach in this film is pitch-perfect. Stars Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp bring these bestie characters to vibrant life and the story around them is whip-smart and funny.

Speaking of funny, Craig Robinson has little more than a cameo, but he brings that Craig Robinson vibe, making this particular workout scene an uncomfortable comedic gem.

2. The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Melvin Junko’s whole life was a workout horror. Put upon and picked on, this little janitor only wanted to get his work done.

The Troma classic—awaiting an unbelievably well cast reboot from director Macon Blair—clearly had to be part of this list. Seeing Toxie finally get revenge on those Tromaville health club bullies.

1. Final Destination 5

Director Steven Quale’s prequel may be the best of the Final Destination bunch. The 3D horror takes full advantage of the intricate death sequences—especially the opening bridge set piece. Nice!

It helps that writer Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Birdbox, Lights Out, The Thing remake) knows how to write. The 5th installment feels less like a return to the well and more like an interesting riff on destiny. It also has some great support work from Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance and David Koechner.

But we’re here to watch Candace die.

Fright Club: Psychotic Planners

We want to thank Cory Metcalf of the Rewatch Podcast for joining us today to look into those meticulous planners who cause so much trouble! They’ve thought of everything! Here are our 5 favorites, but listen in because Cory brought his own list.

5. Muffy, April Fool’s Day (1986)

Evil twins, Eighties icons, chicanery—this movie has it all. The pseudo-slasher was panned when it came out. Horror fans felt mocked (plus there’s no gore—not really), and the general public didn’t seem to get the joke.

But Danilo Bach’s screenplay is a clever dose of slasher desconstruction. Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, Waxwork, My Chauffeur, Grizzly II) is Muffy and/or Buffy, a little weirdo who’s having some coed guests out to the island for spring break. Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2) will be there, along with a lot of feathered hair and Biff from Back to the Future, to see what the hostess has planned.

She has definitely done some planning.

4. Ann, Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

OK, no one’s saying it’s a good movie. But Ann has a real knack for planning.

This is one of those Eighties horror gems that involves a traumatic head injury, black outs, and serial murder. And a latex face!

Director J. Lee Thompson had made classics like Cape Fear and Guns of Navarone (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), but the Eighties were hard on everyone. Here he is ushering Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Sue Anderson into scream queen stardom with a ridiculous slasher.

And yet, when the big reveal comes, audiences couldn’t have guessed it. They really couldn’t have because the team of screenwriters hadn’t finished the script until it was time to shoot the end. So they were not good planners.

That Ann, though…

3. Howard, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

First of all, John Goodman. He’s always good, absolutely always, but in this film he is stone cold terrifying.

Not right off the bat, though. Howard (Goodman) had things all figured out, but then Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) threw a monkey in the wrench and now there are three people down in Howard’s bunker waiting out the alien invasion.

Emmett was not part of the plan.

The plan has Howard living out the end of days alone with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whether she wanted to or not. And so unfolds a fascinating series of well-constructed events that fray your nerves.

2. Ji-Tae Yoo, Oldboy (2003)

Yes, we’ve included this movie on another list. And why not? How many horror movie characters have the patience to plot out this 15-year-long revenge? Who else has figured out how exactly to manipulate his foe, to wear him down, to put him into a situation that makes him realize just how wrong he might have been?

Only Yoo Ji-Tae (Woo-jin Lee). We’ve given credit many times over the years to Choi Min-sik (the man can take a beating). But the elegant and controlled counterpart to Oldboy’s disheveled eruption of humanity is just as important. He is an eerie calm. His character represents every opposite thing.

And he’s been planning every detail of this revenge for 15 years.

1. John Doe, Seven (1995)

Who else? He had everything and everyone figured out. He knew his calling, understood his victims, knew his own weakness, and knew how to become immortal.

And David Fincher knew how to surprise an audience. We should have seen it coming. We should have known. But we did not. Sure, that means we enjoyed the film, its creativity and cleverness startled us and stayed with  us. (Just like those different crime scenes did. Don’t tell me Sloth didn’t make you jump!)

But it also means that John Doe isn’t the only meticulous planner. Andrew Kevin Walker knew how to create a character who’s meticulous nature allowed him to outthink the police, but David Fincher’s eye for detail and instinct for mood is the reason Se7en still compels attention and horror 25 years later.