Movie Review: Happy Birthday to Me

Posted: June 27, 2015 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Happy Birthday to Me Banner Revised

Happy Birthday to Me Director Banner

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Happy Birthday to Me Kill Graph

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Bare Hands, Straight Razor, Tire, Barbell Weight, Garden Shears, Skewer, Fire Poker, Fillet Knife

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Reviewed by: Jenicide

Starting in the 1970s, with horror classics like Black Christmas and John Carpenter’s Halloween, holiday-themed slasher films became a big hit. While one’s birthday does not really qualify as a holiday, Happy Birthday to Me is definitely of this pedigree. Though this sub-genre is guilty of flooding the horror scene with a number of bad movies, this one stands out in terms of production values and in keeping the audience mystified, making it pretty decent overall, despite some shortcomings.

Virginia Wainwright is a content girl on the outside, among her friends, yet is troubled on the inside with a past she struggles to remember, due to a tragic car accident. As her birthday draws near, Virginia’s friends start disappearing, and she begins to regain memories of her accident, while suffering from increasingly frequent blackouts.

Cast Pic Head on a Tray

While Happy Birthday to Me comes off looking derivative of Friday the 13th, the film was in the works at the same time, but was released a year later. And while, like Friday the 13th, it follows the now-classic formula of “mystery killer stalks a group of teenagers”, it features a much higher gore factor and better production values than some of its cheaper peers. The special effects are creative with such memorable moments as the character Steve’s death by shish kabob (as depicted on the original film poster). Another standout is the bloody birthday party scene, where the killer is revealed; the typical “discovering of the dead bodies” that we see toward the end of many slasher movies is here done with exceptional style.

Weird Glasses Guy Bloody Poker

The whodunit appeal is the most noteworthy quality of the movie. It tosses red herring after red herring at the audience, as just about every character becomes a suspect. When this is done right, it’s great; when it’s done wrong, it really stretches believability. The impact of this type of movie hinges heavily on the effectiveness of the ending, when the killer is revealed. It eventually seems obvious who is responsible for the murders, but then the film offers up a surprising revelation, that though startling, hurts the plausibility of the entire story with a killer whose methods and motives are ridiculous. The twist of the movie just seems out of the blue, with no logical connection to the progression of events we’ve just seen.

Corpse in Chair Birthday Macabre

Despite the weak ending, the effective mystery and gore of the movie makes for an overall enjoyable experience.  Still, the twist was memorable enough that it seems to have inspired a host of other surprise endings in slasher movies like The Initiation and Sleepaway Camp. Happy Birthday to Me is by no means a masterpiece, but it is one of the more polished specimens among the glut of slasher films to come out of the early 1980s.

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