Slasher alumni: what became of the Crawford Top Ten?
As I have already mentioned, Lesleh Donaldson scared up some impressive genre credits around this time, but she wasn't the only cast member to do so.
A legacy of candles
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME perhaps signalled the moment that the subgenre began to parody itself – or at least revel in its own ridiculousness. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Future slashers, such as THE INITIATION (1983), seemed to have been given the green light to go that one step beyond. During the mid-1990's slasher revival, Jamie Blanks' love letter to slasher movies, URBAN LEGEND (1998) took many of its cues from this movie (the scene where someone wears a Parka coat at a swimming pool may have seemed ludicrous, but would have seemed right at home here). The SCREAM movies also borrowed heavily from – or most likely affectionately pastiche – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
The film’s iconic birthday party is similar to three other slasher films released the same year: MADHOUSE and HELL NIGHT (the former has a birthday party where corpses are guests and the latter has a similar scene sans the birthday setting). Some mild controversy has erupted as to who was first – although the likelihood is that that this is mere coincidence. The uber-cheesy MORTUARY (1983) (with Mary McDonough from TV's THE WALTONS) also has a similar climactic scene. It was actually also made in 1981 – and was filming at the time that HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME was released. Whether that was just another co-incidence or the ending was altered to copy it is open to conjecture.
In more modern times, the slasher DRIVE-THRU (2007) appears to paytribute to HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME with its own version of the corpses round the table routine.
Dunning was still trying to tout a remake of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME as recently as a couple of year's ago – with it reputedly aiming to be in 3D (of course, MY BLOODY VALENTINE actually happened in 2009, but failed to generate a franchise despite a healthy worldwide box office just shy of $100 million on a $14 million budget). The reason that it hasn't happened – and may never happen – is that Columbia have first refusal on a remake; which Dunning says deters anyone else putting up the money for it.