Ginny Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) has got it all; she’s a looker, popular as balls, and is a member of the “Top Ten”; an elite group of the most popular and privileged students (a.k.a. obnoxious douche nozzles…mostly anyway). Because this film is older than dirt (from 1981 to be precise, when the legal drinking age was 18…though from the looks of this cast 18 was far in the rear view mirror), these “high school kids” gather at a local bar every night for drinks. As fate, and slasher movie tropes would have it, one night their pal Bernadette (Lesleh Donaldson) fails to show…mainly because a black gloved murderer slashed her throat. As our gang goes about the normal pursuits one does when worried sick about a missing friend; namely jumping drawbridges, racing dirt bikes, having experimental procedures to fix your traumatized brain after a car accident (on that damn bridge again), and stealing underwear (I know that at least one of those things would calm my jangled nerves…it’s the procedure you perverts!), the body count begins to rise among the Top Ten. Will our heroes continue living long enough to reach graduation day…and what connection does Ginny’s birthday have to the bloodshed?
Hailing from the golden heyday of slasher flicks (the 1980’s to the one of you that might not be aware); Happy Birthday to Me is a big ol’ slice of stalk n’ slay comfort food. It’s packed fat with a solid mystery to solve, creative kills (we definitely learn that a scarf and a motorcycle wheel don’t mix same with heavy weights and getting your nuts pulped), cheesy dialog, and a violin-heavy score that would make Harry Manfredini say “Damn, son!”…or sue for copyright infringement…either/or. It’s also incredibly dated, but not in a negative way, more in that “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” way that just leads to insta-failure when modern filmmakers try to emulate that distinctive aesthetic ’80’s slashers have in spades.
On the negative side; this flick has one hell of a runtime for a slasher flick. At nearly two hours in length, and with some crazy-ass subplots (like that aforementioned experimental science bit, and some eleventh hour “what the fuckery” I won’t spoil here) this thing probably could have benefited with one last script pass before it hit the ol’ sinister silver screen.
If you are looking for an underappreciated stalk n’ slay affair from the days when such material ruled the rental shelves; Happy Birthday to Me will be right up your arcane alley! It’s packed with murder, mayhem, and some truly wild plot twists that will satisfy any horror hound’s slasher tooth!