Move Over, Paranormal Activity — Grimace Is Our New Found Footage Horror God


If the recent trailer for "Five Nights at Freddy's" taught us anything, it's that fast food restaurant mascots designed to entertain children can very easily double as horror movie monsters. That's especially true of the McDonald's mascots. Led by perpetually grinning clown Ronald McDonald, the denizens of McDonaldland also include a sinister purple shape called Grimace. Though Grimace has long been publicly presented as a buddy of Ronald McDonald and a friend to children everywhere, he was first introduced as the "Evil Grimace" in 1971: a four-armed monster who maliciously stole milkshakes from children.

Grimace hasn't been seen in McDonald's marketing for a long time, and that was probably for the best. But that changed earlier this month when McDonald's invited customers to order "Grimace's Birthday Meal" in celebration of Grimace's birthday, June 12. The Big Mac meal includes a limited edition berry-flavored purple milkshake — which may or may not contain excretions from Grimace's own body — along with other ingredients like corn syrup and sodium benzoate. A commercial for the Grimace Shake shows footage of chicken nuggets wishing young Grimace a happy birthday before he consumes them.

What follows is a flurry of photos that would look more at home in a Netflix true crime documentary, showcasing how the serial killer seemed like a normal, happy child before the dismemberments began. Perhaps that's why "Happy Birthday Grimace" almost immediately became the internet's latest horror trend.

The birth of a new creepypasta

"Happy Birthday Grimace!" is still in its creepypasta infancy, but already some basic lore has been established. Videos begin with someone announcing that they're about to try the new Grimace Shake and wishing Grimace a happy birthday before taking a sip of the purple substance. From there, the footage typically cuts away and picks up an indeterminate amount of time later, with a sole survivor discovering the purple goo-spattered bodies of their friends. 

Accounts vary on the matter of how exactly Grimace claims his victims. Some videos indicate that the spirit of Grimace takes hold of those who drink his milkshake, while others imply that the drinking of the milkshake summons Grimace himself in the flesh (or whatever he's made of). TikToker Hayley Kalil takes only a small sip before she begins bleeding a purple substance from her nose and then crawling across the ceiling. A video by the Anderson family suggests a "Sinister"-like scenario in which Grimace takes a child as his new thrall after slaughtering their parents and siblings. The Anime Men created a mockumentary in the vein of "Lake Mungo," featuring an interview with the sole survivor reflecting on the horrors he has witnessed. Gianni Sirgy, the only member of the quartet not seen drinking the Grimace Shake, cryptically tells his interviewer, "They couldn't stop ... They couldn't stop the Grimace."

It's a found footage horror trend that feels like it came out of the early pandemic era, when people were stuck at home and there was no social interaction to curb humanity's natural tendency towards weirdness. In the first year alone we got "Ratatouille: The Musical," sea shanties made a surprise comeback, and someone invented carrot bacon. Even celebrities went a bit odd, for better or worse. Grimace's Birthday Shake is a sign that the madness is here to stay.

Grimace sees all, he knows all

Of course, this isn't the first time that a horror icon has been born on the internet. Probably the most famous and certainly the most influential example is Slender Man, a monster originally created in Photoshop manipulations by Eric Knudsen, which quickly set imaginations on fire. Mere days later, the found footage horror web series "Marble Hornets" premiered on YouTube, presenting itself as an investigation into a series of video tapes containing glimpses of Slender Man. Like the "Happy Birthday Grimace!" trend, "Marble Hornets" is a cautionary tale about the perils of inviting unknown malevolence into your life.

Hollywood eventually tried to cash in on Slender Man, and the resulting movie proved that some internet trends are best left on the internet. Fortunately, while McDonald's has accepted the Grimace Shake trend in good humor (probably because of all the revenue generated by TikTokers buying props for their videos), the company is unlikely to go so far as licensing a full-blown horror movie.

For the record, we at /Film would like to state that we have always respected and feared Grimace, our purple sovereign; he who consumes and is consumed. May the seas rise and turn purple and cover the land. May every day be June 12, and with each new sunrise Grimace the Great and Terrible born anew. Happy birthday, Grimace. Happy birthday forever.

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