Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Seeing as how my birthday is here, I decided to take it upon myself to review something with a birthday theme. And today I’m talking about a movie that can’t be more aptly named, Happy Birthday To Me. I’ve had originally intended to do a review for this last year, but it just wasn’t in the cards. This year, however, is a different matter. Director J. Lee Thompson doesn’t have a whole lot of horror-related directing under his belt, but he did direct two Planet of the Apes sequels, so I took that as a good sign that things will go well here. Was I correct in that thinking? Well, let’s find out.
At Crawford Academy, there is a clique containing the ten richest teens around. Going by the fitting name, the “top ten”, they are your standard carefree sort who do what they want without any serious repercussions. However, their cozy, laid-back lifestyle is brought to a halt when, one by one, the top ten members start to go missing. Luckily for the audience, we get to see just what happens to the missing teens, but as for who did it, it’s not quite so simple.
Happy Birthday To Me is pretty much a Shyamalan wet dream in terms of the ending twists. Throughout the movie you are given a number of red herrings in order to confuse you and prevent you from identifying who is responsible for the murders. From suspicious looks to odd lines spoken, you can easily suspect three or four possible culprits. That was a pleasant surprise to me, as more often than not (especially in some of the more modern slashers) it’s pretty easy to figure out who is behind everything. The ending might confuse some people, as the explanation seems to come out of nowhere, but in my humble opinion, it seemed pretty on par for an early 80s slasher,
I had little issue with any of the performances throughout. Star Melissa Sue Anderson’s role in particular involved a myriad of emotions and she pulled it off rather well. It’s just too bad that I didn’t especially care for most of the characters. As previously mentioned, most of the “top ten” are pretty full of themselves, and you’re not going to care that they die. Although as weird as Alfred was, I was kind of rooting for him to survive. If for no other reason than he was very good at making fake heads and taxidermy projects.
The murders themselves are, for the most part, pretty standard and unoriginal. A knife stab here, a slit throat there, nothing too special. Add to that the fact that many of said murders are done slightly off-camera, so you don’t get the full effect when it happens. While there is a fair amount of blood used, there really isn’t a whole lot given what happens to most of the victims. And for you nudity enthusiasts, I hate to break it to you, but HBTM has absolutely nothing doing in that regard. I know, I know, it’s practically tradition for 80s horror to throw in at least one pair of breasts somewhere. But this movie didn’t need to stoop to that level to keep you interested, so good for them there.
Happy Birthday To Me moves a little slow at times, but overall it’s a pretty solid entry into the slasher sub-genre. It certainly beats out many of the more current entries, original or God-awful remake, and should be seen at least once in your lifetime. Plus, it’s Canadian!! So if you get the opportunity to see this movie, I suggest you take it. Rest in peace.
Macabre Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tombstones.