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Happy Birthday to Me
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Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

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Plot Summary:
"Virginia is proud that she belongs to a clique. The best students at a private school. But before her 18th birthday, a grueling set of murders take place and her friends are the ones who are falling prey. Could it be her? She suffers from blackouts due to a freak accident one year earlier. We soon learn the truth behind her accident and what is going on."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 17 October 2011 My Rating: out of 5


Melissa Sue Anderson goes to the posh Crawford Academy and has found her way into the ‘Top 10’, the clique of all cliques at school (even if it does feature Matt Craven amongst its number). All of a sudden, the ‘Top 10’ are being bumped off one by one by a mystery assailant. Meanwhile, Anderson (nearing her 18th birthday) is being treated by psychiatrist Glenn Ford over a tragic incident some time ago that has resulted in her getting the occasional blackout and very little memory of that past trauma.

Don’t get too discouraged by the mediocre rating I’m giving this Canadian horror flick from the early 80s. It’s a slasher film, and unless you’re talking about “Halloween”, there aren’t too many slasher films out there that I’d give a rating of above 2 ½ stars. In fact, most are absolutely pitiful. This one from journeyman director J. Lee Thompson is definitely not one of the turkeys, it’s just a film with good ideas and poor-to-middling execution for the most part. The film opens promisingly with a nice, brutal throat slashing in an interestingly long sequence full of false hope. It’s livelier than a lot of slasher movies I could name, but it does start a little too “Animal House” for my liking with all the beer drinking and...erm...Canadians. I was also alarmed to see a young Matt Craven in the cast because, if you changed his hair colour to light brown, and stuck him in a wheelchair, the dude would look alarmingly like yours truly, and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my own death on screen. However, there is no doubt that most slasher movies suck when people aren’t getting killed, and so whilst this film definitely needed more horror, it was at least watchable. Nice car stunt, for starters.

The characters aren’t especially well-developed but the actors have a bit more personality than most, in fact, it’s mostly well-acted. Even old pro Glenn Ford shows absolutely no signs of feeling the material was beneath him. Soap veteran Bregman is the standout, for purely sexist reasons. She’s hot, and appears to have found the fountain of youth (or an awesome plastic surgeon) after this because she looks largely the same today except whiter teeth and less prominent chipmunk cheeks.

It’s actually a really good-looking film, thanks to cinematographer Miklos Lente, who does a nice, crisp job. A cemetery scene also shows cool use of fog and shadow/light. I rather liked the lead character’s back-story, as it was certainly a different quirk for a main character in a horror flick (Kudos for naming the ‘final girl’ VIRGINia, by the way. Very classy). But after a while, the lack of emphasis on the horror side of things started to wear on me. I became a bit bored in the middle, to be honest, and the plot stopped being interesting.

Still, the film picks up a bit in the final 15-20 minutes. The deaths, when they come, are certainly inventive, including the infamous ‘death by kebab’ and a terrific ‘death by weightlifting equipment’ which was painful-looking and frankly a bit mean if you ask me. The only drawback to the final moments are how confusing it all plays out, and even when you feel like most of it is cleared up, the final twist just dumbfounded me, it’s stupid.

Overall, this isn’t anywhere near the bottom of the slasher barrel, but it’s a middling film with fine acting and good ideas but poor execution.

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 08 September 2003 My Rating: out of 5

What a big disappointment this was!! Thank God I didn't receive it as a Birthday present or I may have offended the person who got me it!!

'Little House on the Prairie' star Melissa Sue Anderson stars as Ginny Wainwright (boring) one of the Top at her exclusive school (obnoxious). When the students begin to disappear the staff think it a silly practical joke, until the kids turn up at Ginny's Birthday party.......DEAD (Thank God)!!

This really was the pits!! Ok so the marketing was different 'Six of the most bizzare murders you will ever see' and they were, but for the love of God they were just slapped bang in the middle of some crappy psycho drama.

Fair enough the movie started well, the highlight being the appearance of 's Scream Queen Lesleh Donaldson, but she was required to do some laughable stuff.

We then met the characters and I instantly disliked them. They are so bland I can only remember of their names and that's only because they are mentioned in the marketing campaign.

What follows is the usual mix of camaraderie and carnage amongst some over done, over acted set pieces, the kills lacking music and the dramatic scenes over doing the music.

Director J. Lee Thompson should have opted for the Alan Smithee credit as he obviously trained at the institute of point, shoot and tilt as that's all we get over and over again.

Whilst the murders did make me wince they are hampered by the paint by numbers approach, buckets full of fake blood and lack of oomph. I'm pretty sure if you whack someone in the head once with a fire poker there wouldn't be enough blood to totally redecorate a bedroom and I doubt their skull would come away with the poker when you pulled it out!!

By far the most over the top aspect however is the climax which is lifted right out of an episode of 'Scooby Doo' (i kid you not!!)

Utter garbage, I couldn't find anything positive to like about this film and that very rarely happens to me especially where 's slasher flicks are concerned!! Still I must give this star for the marketing campaign and Lesleh Donaldson.

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