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Nose Norton

Subj: Psycho Slasher Cinema 3: Happy Birthday To Me(1981)
Posted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 at 12:13:38 am EDT (Viewed 15 times)

Happy Birthday To Me is an American/Canadian slasher mystery released in 1981.  According to Wikipedia, pre-production of the film started before the original Friday The 13th was released, but the movie wasn't released until May of 1981 and hoped to take advantage of the holiday theme gimmick that was popular in the genre at the time.   Well known actors Melissa Sue Anderson(Little House On The Prairie) and Glenn Ford(Blackboard Jungle) star, a rare move for these slashers.

The plot involves a group of elite friends at a prestigious academy who start to get bumped off.  Anderson's character, Ginny, has her past revealed in flashbacks and therapy sessions, showing that she had memory loss after a tragic accident and an experimental treatment to try to bring it back.  Strange occurrences lead Ginny to believe that she is the killer, but it's unclear if this is actually all in her mind.  The story ends with a sick birthday party for Ginny attended by the corpses of her mother and her dead friends and a twist that really comes out of left field.  For the whole plot with spoilers, check out Happy Birthday To Me on Wikipdia.

This is another slasher film that I saw a few times on cable in my early teen years and which I have on an old VHS tape.  I really didn't remember much of it, except for a few of the murders and the set up of the finale.  The story was practically brand new to me.  At times, I was engrossed in the reveals, and sometimes I laughed at the ridiculousness, but overall, I enjoyed the movie.  The acting was worse than I expected from accomplished performers like Ford and Anderson.  The music was downright creepy, like a demented lullaby.  Very effective.
I'm finding that what I like most about these slasher films, maybe as much as the effects, is the mystery.  Sure, it's usually impossible to guess the ending, but the idea of a past trauma coming back to haunt the characters in twisted ways is appealing.  The motivations for the killers are usually out there, as in this film, but not totally outside of reasonability.   The effects in this film are ok for the time and the murders are original and, at times, tense.  The ending was a great 1980's low budget horror mystery ending, a perverse commentary on how something as innocent as a birthday party can be twisted by people not paying attention to and staying true to their families. 
After all these years, this was a pretty good one to watch again.

Best Kills:

The opening scene was pretty intense as a young girl is stalked and slashed in the academy parking lot.  This was more suspenseful than the other kills.

The weight lifter.  I remembered this one well.  The killer, setting up the weightlifter with too much weight and removing the support rack so he can't put the bar down, drops a weight on his crotch, causing him to drop the bar on his neck.

The shish kebab through the throat that is seen on the movie poster.  You just know this one is coming!

The therapists death.  This one shocked me with the amount of blood as the killer hit him with a fireplace poker.

This film really had me questioning what was going on a couple of times.  Scenes like the severed head that turns out to be a dummy and a body in a bathtub had good effects and lead to good scares.   Critics hated it at the time, of course, and according to Wikipedia, Glenn Ford was very happy about taking the job.  
The film was virtually uncut, which was rare for these movies at the time.  The same production team would also make 1981's My Bloody Valentine.

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