Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
1981. Rated R, 110 minutes. 
Melissa Sue Anderson 
Glenn Ford 
Tracy E. Bregman 
Sharon Acker 
Lawrence Dane 
Frances Hyland 
Lisa Langlois

Slasher flicks are a not so private passion of mine, a guilty pleasure, if you will. I mean, what could be better than watching some psycho chop up teenagers? No, I don’t really want to murder teenagers even though I have one. Sigh. I’m just living vicariously through celluloid madmen. Hey! Hey kid! Get off my lawn! Ahem…sorry (looking for a heavy blunt object). Anyhoo, I’m going back to a hack ‘em up I first saw when I myself was a teen, the cult classic Happy Birthday to Me. Lol, I said Saw.

Like any good slasher flick, the plot is pretty simple. There’s a group of rich kids at Crawford University that all hang together and call themselves The Crawford Top Ten. Right as the movie begins someone starts killing them off…pause for dramatic effect…ONE BY ONE…muwahahahaha! Oh, ahem, moving on. Our task, and theirs, is to figure out who’s trying to get extra credit for homicide class. Homicide class, ha! That’s a good one. I slay me. Get it? I thought I told that kid to…”Think you’re tough? I used to eat punks like you for breakfast!”

“I got your breakfast right here, old man!”

That does it. Where’s …oh, almost forgot, the movie. We spend much of our time focusing on Virginia Wainwright AKA Ginny played by Melissa Sue Anderson. If you’re an old fart, like me, you’ll know she played Mary Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” Obviously, Ginny is emotionally damaged by a painful past. What we can’t figure out is if she’s the “Final Girl” or the killer. On our way to that little revelation we get humor, both intentionally and not, some now iconic death scenes, some bad acting, an homage to one of the best scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that doesn’t involve a shower and finally one of the greatest WTF twists in the history of the genre. Damn, this sledgehammer’s a little too heavy. “Do yourself a favor, sonny and don’t be on my lawn when I get there! It’s gonna get ugly!”

“Screw you!”

“Did he just say…?” He’s gonna get it, now! Just wait ‘til I find…oh, you’re still here? If you’re a fan of slasher flicks, put this at the very top of your must-see list. Even by 1981 standards it isn’t the goriest movie, but the kills are creative and like I said iconic. The whodunit element keeps you on your toes and the last 15 minutes is absolutely bonkers. Don’t forget I said there are also lots of laughable elements, too. You know what this means. It’s so bad, it’s awesome! Oh happy day, I just found my chainsaw. Catch you guys later.

MY SCORE: -10/10

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