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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

     1981 was a phenomenal year for horror.  Like, astounding.  Literally tons of slashers were bombarding the local drive-in week after week, and one of the most memorable of those was without a doubt "Happy Birthday To Me".   I love, love, love this movie!  I love everything about this movie!  It's impossible to think of 80's horror and not think of "Happy Birthday To Me"- and the cult shocker is finally getting the treatment it deserves on DVD, with its original score and cover art (the infamous shot of a murder by shish kebab) intact for the first time.

     Melissa Sue Anderson plays Virginia, a senior at Crawford Academy. She belongs to the school's "Top Ten"- an elite clique made up of the richest, snobbiest kids in school.  All is fun and games until someone starts killing them off one by one in rather clever and horrible ways.  The film starts off with a bang as Scream Queen Lesleh Donaldson becomes the first victim at Crawford Academy.  Seems someone is killing off students at the academy, and it's happening just shy of Ginny's 18th birthday.  Ginny suffers from hidden memories of a tragic accident years before, and she now starts to worry she might be the one responsible for her friends deaths.  Turns out she has had brain surgery before, so her memory is not what it should be.  On top of all this, she suffers from blackouts.  Is Ginny crazy?  Or is someone trying to turn her that way?  Here's where the fun begins, kids.

     As much a mystery as a slasher film, "Happy Birthday To Me" was part of a memorable string of horror movies hailing from Canada in the early 80's, as well as "Prom Night", "Terror Train", and "My Bloody Valentine".  And there's so much to savor about this one.  Great murders, great atmosphere, and great direction.  You've got 80's icons Lesleh Donaldson and Tracey Bregman.  Veteran Glenn Ford brings some respectability to the shenanigans, and the film boasts a genuinely creepy score that should be released already!

     What's interesting about "Happy Birthday To Me" is that although gore and high body counts were essential to a slasher's success in 1981, "HBTM" dares to throw in character development and interesting plot twists on top of its creative and gory kills. There's just something oddly riveting overall about this movie- it's extremely watchable. It's quite ahead of its time, and director J. Lee Thompson pulls out all the stops to create a memorable and worthy slasher entry. Wickedly entertaining, "Happy Birthday To Me", along with "Prom Night" and so many others, obviously influenced the 90's teen slashers ("Scream", "I Know What You Did Last Summer").  Although you can't top these legendary 80's slashers.  I always find myself defending this movie.  In fact, I might go watch it right now.

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