Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Movie Review: Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

Yet another movie that I saw years and years ago and have completely forgotten about since then! I remembered some key scenes from the movie but honestly, the bulk of it was pretty much all gone. Oh, my brain, do I try to put too much information in you at one time and you just decide to throw the old stuff out? Well anyway, Happy Birthday To Me is back in my brain now.

Virginia Wainwright is the newest member of Crawford Academy's "Top Ten," an elite clique of the richest and most popular students at the school. A few days before her birthday, Virginia's friends start disappearing one by one, murdered by an unseen foe. And Virginia suffers confusing blackouts at the same time, causing her to believe that she may indeed be the culprit. Is she murdering her friends and not remembering it, or is it someone else?

The entire movie can be quite confusing at points. Our main character Virginia is already suffering from memory loss as a result of a tragic experience involving the death of her mother. We only learn truth as she does. She is undergoing therapy and we later find out that she's had some kind of brain surgery. Okay, so she can't really be trusted. Then when her friends start disappearing and dying, Virginia loses chunks of time which is confusing to her and the audience.

Overall, no one in this movie really knows what the hell is going on. Virginia doesn't know what the hell is going on. Her doctor doesn't know what the hell is going on. Her dad, the cops, and especially her friends don't have the slightest clue (and at times, they don't even seem to really care) why these kids are dying, who's doing it and why.

Now, boasting the tagline "Six of the most bizarre murders you'll ever see" is pretty ballsy and a large plate to fill. I'd say this movie gets a thumbs down in that respect. Getting stabbed in the stomach with hedge clippers? No. Not "bizarre." Rather boring, in fact. Bizarre is the kind of weird shit that happens to people in the Final Destination movies. Catching your scarf in the wheel of a motorcycle is a little better but not much.

One of my favorites definitely has to be the famous shish kabob death simply because that kind of rules and because it inspired that awesome poster. Better than that though, in my opinion, is the guy who gets the barbell dropped on his neck. I was expecting it to just crush him and him gagging and stuff, but no. It drops down all quick like and we get a nice spattering of blood. Good scene. The next best one is the murder of the doctor with a fire poker. This one is interesting from the sheer amount of blood that comes out of the man from only a few whacks with the poker. Blood just covers one wall of Virginia's room; it's really a little excessive but cool at the same time.

Pre-Saw III, this film also gives us a great brain surgery scene, where a piece of Virginia's skull is cut out, showing a nice, bloody and bulging brain underneath. Yuck. My only question: How did her hair grow back so fast?

The famous ending to the film, where it is revealed that Ann is the killer and has been wearing a Virginia-mask to do the deeds, feels like it was tacked on at the last minute. And some stories on the internet will tell you that it indeed was tacked on, replacing an ending that made sense with story - probably that Virginia was the killer and had just gone psychotic. For what the rest of the movie sets up, Virginia being the killer does make the most sense, but then I think a good chunk of the movie's fame comes from the twisted ending.

Two things are really wrong with the ending, though. One is the obvious: that mask bullshit is about as believable as leprechauns. Ann just puts on a mask and she suddenly looks seamlessly like Virginia? Really? Especially when Ann's got those weird, perfectly straight and big teeth? Me thinks no. You really have to suspend some disbelief to deal with these shenanigans. The other thing is Ann's incredibly lame motivation. If I haven't said it yet, I'll say it here: I cannot stand killers with lame motivations! The whole half-sisters with Virginia being the better one that everyone cared about or whatever... no. Just... no. I don't believe it and I don't like it. Get a life.

Though it's a jumble of confusion all the way around (that scene with Virginia and the other dude in the bell tower? How weird was that?), Happy Birthday To Me has entered the hearts of the cult-lovers of the world, and for the most part, it's pretty good. It's different enough from the typical slasher mold to get noticed and give audiences something fresh.


  1. I loved this movie. I thought it was ahead of its time and very different from the typical slasher, just like you stated!

    Great choice in movie & great review. :)

  2. Yippee for 80's movies!! You should check out Black Christmas, the best Canadian horror movie ever.
    I post horror fiction on my blog. It's serious stuff and it's good. For some reason most of my followers are women and that boggles me. If you like to read some of it, the address is http://iwritehorror.blogspot.com
    I think I will follow you, as your review picks are some of my faves.

  3. i never like that movie and i agree with you about the crappy ending

  4. Good review! You're totally right it was the 80's too many slasher films with incomplete ideas and I think too much coke.