Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

REVIEW: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Happy Birthday To Me (1981) ***

One of the original (as in release, not plot!) early 80’s slashers; remembered mainly for the shish kebab kill that was used on the movie poster. This Canadian entry into the slasher genre tells the tale of Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) who is part of an obnoxious clique of rich kids known as the ‘Top 10’ at the Crawford Academy private school. After leaving a bar they engage in a game of chicken, racing their cars over a rising bridge. Virginia freaks out and runs home through a graveyard where she stops at her Mothers gravestone. She begins suffer blackouts and have flashbacks to an incident when she was younger in which her mother (Sharon Acker) drowned after their car fell from the same bridge…  

Through the flashbacks we discover that when Ginny was younger her Mother had arranged a birthday party for her, to which no-one turned up. When she discovers that another, more popular girl at school has a party on the same day and has invited the same students, Ginny’s mother flies into a drunken rage. She drags Ginny in their car to confront the other party; however they never make it home after driving over the bridge.   

As Ginny’s 18th birthday approaches, a leather-gloved killer stalks the top 10, killing them one at a time. Will anyone survive long enough to attend Ginny’s party?

Happy Birthday to Me is not one of the more well known early 80’s slashers; generally overlooked in favour of the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. It offers much of the same stalk and slash kills as those movies although is decidedly less gory in their depiction. Apart from the shish kebab kill they are relatively tame.

This features a fairly good cast, Melissa Sue Anderson is a fine lead and she is ably supported by an excellent over-the-top performance from Sharon Acker and a more subtle turn from veteran Glenn Ford. Solidly directed by J. Lee Thompson of the original Cape Fear in what would be his last decent outing.

The filmmakers have tried to make something better than the average slasher, however in doing so appear to have tried to be a little too clever. The convoluted plot and inevitable twist(s) make little sense and although the attempts are admirable, in the end they are a distraction from what slasher fans really want: some suspense, nudity and some good, gory kills. Dated but worth a look.

Quality: 3 out of 5 stars

Any good: 3 out of 5 stars