Movie Reviews 380 – Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

I thought that viewing it on my very own birthday was a good choice for watching the 1980’s slasher Happy Birthday to Me despite not knowing which way the pendulum swung (victim or aggressor) for the celebrant. As it so happens, the answer isn’t as clear as you would think. And I sure did not know what to make of a horror movie which stars Melissa Sue Anderson, whose only notable role was that of squeaky clean kid on the virtuous Little House on the Prairie TV series, a far cry from this gorefest.

Virginia “Ginny” Wainwright (Anderson) is part of the ‘in’ college group known as the “Top Ten”, a band of rich, spoiled, vain kids who drive fancy cars and raise hell in pubs. Her father, a single parent, is overly concerned with her partying ways and the company she keeps not only for the usual reasons but also because of the hours she spends at her mom’s gravesite. Virginia’s obsession over her lost mom go hand in hand with a history of mental episodes, one that she continues to be treated for by psychiatrist (Glenn Ford).

When kids start disappearing and the rumors and finger-pointing begin the “Top Ten” are at the “Top” of the suspicion list. The audience gets to see all the gruesome manners in which victims are killed by an often veiled assailant even as the “Top Ten”’s own numbers dwindle. Meanwhile Ginny experiences episodes of memory flooding back and clearly appears to be the perpetrator killing off some of her friends.

But the name of the game here is to spot the evident red herrings – there are plenty – while Ginny questions herself and tries to sort things out. There are subtle clues at first that Ginny’s past treatment was anything but the usual until the details of the medical procedure are revealed and even then the audience has to figure out if she is really the one.

Without spoiling anything I can say that the multiple reveals at the end are not the ones expected, although closer examination does make some of them somewhat incredulous. Still this is another fine somewhat forgotten Canuxploitation film. And the “death by skewer” featured on the poster is not the only imaginative one.

Happy Birthday to Me.

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