Happy Birthday To Me

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. 1981

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Melissa Sue Anderson (of Little House on the Prairie) is cast against type to play a recovering headcase who may or may not be the highschool psycho killer. Because the script wants to keep us guessing who's doing it for most of the film, it doesn't work very well as a psycho killer movie, & the distancing of any central villain isn't repaired by making a very lame "mystery" out of the pressing query "who's the psycho?"

The difference between a mystery & a psycho thriller is the former relies on plot & the latter relies on the dark charisma of the killer. This one deprives us of visuals of a charismatic villain so is tepid as a psycho thriller, & its attempt to be simultaneously a whodunnit is vastly too thin. The eventual resolution of the "mystery" component comes out of left field but is only surprising because it's so random & ultimately meaningless.

However, bad as the movie is for its first two-thirds or longer, as it approaches the climax & reveals the "birthday party" of corpses, it gets kinda cool in a cheezy horror film sort of way. We've seen this "family of corpses" climax in lots of films of the past, but it's not the most overused of cliches, & I got a kick out of it this time too.

The TriStar DVD might be some version cut for television, as old promotional stills show more graphic slaughter than is in the film. But it's also possible the promotional stills from 1981 were of scenes never fully filmed.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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