Movie Title: Happy Birthday to Me
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Writer: John C.W. Saxton, Peter Jobin, and Timothy Bond
Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracey E. Bregman, Jack Blum, Matt Craven, Lenore Zann, David Eisner, Lisa Langlois, Michel-René Labelle, Richard Rebiere, Lesleh Donaldson
Review: After surviving a freak accident, Virginia (Melissa Sue Anderson) attempts to resume a normal life. Now, at the snobby Crawford Academy she discovers something terrible - her friends are ruthlessly murdered one-by-one. Will she be the next victim or is she the killer? The terrifying truth is finally uncovered at Virginia's birthday party and you're invited!
Happy Birthday to Me is one of the many, many, many holiday related slasher flicks that were born from the gigantic success of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). Where Halloween (1978) is a simple, effective, streamlined, suspenseful, horror masterpiece, Happy Birthday to Me is messy, convoluted, and unfocused, but it's not without its moments.
The suspense and who-done-it aspect is quite effective, as well as the gory kills. However, the movie does go on for much too long and kind of loses its way. Around the halfway point the slasher plot gets put on hold for "is our young heroine actually the killer, but totally unaware of it because of her serious head trauma when she was much younger, and hey, look it's screen legend Glenn Ford slumming it" - you know, that old chestnut. And the shocking finale is very creepy, weird, and even a bit on the silly side.
Happy Birthday to Me is one of the better '80s slashers, even though it gets confusing when the protagonist's backstory is introduced and too many characters have been killed off much too early. It's not a bad party, it's at times, just too much. Too much drinking, too much cake eating, and then leave wearing someone else's coat. That got weird, didn't it?
Fun Fact: Some cast members, who were stuck in their gore make-up for hours, decided to walk around the neighborhood, scaring the unsuspecting townspeople.