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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

     1981 was a phenomenal year for horror. 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.  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. There's much to love here, as nutty as this film is.

     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, of course. The film starts off with a bang as Scream Queen Lesleh Donaldson becomes the first victim at Crawford Academy, 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, alongside PROM NIGHT, TERROR TRAIN, and MY BLOODY VALENTINE, just to name a few. Great murders, great atmosphere, and great direction all make HBTM a crazy yet enjoyable hot mess of an 80's slasher. You've got 80's icons Lesleh Donaldson and Tracey Bregman, and 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, this film dares to throw in some character development and interesting plot twists on top of its creative and gory kills. There's just something oddly riveting about this movie- it's extremely watchable... even though it's ripe with problems. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME has earned its rightful place in the pantheon of legendary 80's slasher films, and it's a campy delight.

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