Night #29: Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

happy-birthday-to-me-movie-poster-1981-1020230386

Directed By: J. Lee Thompson

You’d be proud of me now, mother. All the kids like me.

Today we’re taking a trip to the chilly climbs of Canada for this one, which probably deserves to be better known than what it is. As the poster promises it’s six of the most bizarre murders you’ll ever see, so does the movie live up to it?

No.

I mean, the shish kebab to the face is a unique one I’ll grant that, but even that gets spoiled by the poster image (Though whoever that guy is isn’t actually in the movie). The rest are hardly that unique and in fact I’m sure two of them are the same.

I could describe the plot for this but I don’t know how far I’d get with it. The truth is that its a pretty standard slasher movie plot* which clocks in at far far longer than it ever needed to. I think it might be the longest movie we’ve done here as it comes in at a few minutes under two hours. At least thirty minutes could’ve been lost if some people didn’t do things so very….very…..slowly.

*Amusingly, the studio tried marketing this as a ‘psychological mystery-shocker’, which is really just three words they’ve strung together to avoid calling it what it is. Just because you feature a very shamed looking Glenn Ford in your movie doesn’t make it high-minded.

Like Death Spa this turns into red herrings a go-go as it tries to convince you that everyone is the killer. Some people stare ominously into the distance. Others do outright creepy things (Like sneak into a character’s bedroom to steal their underwear) and in one credulity-stretching moment, one character has created a perfected model of their missing friend’s head. It might as well be called People Acting Shady For No Good Reason given that’s what everyone does.

Given that the killer is one of our group of kids they have to do this annoying thing where a character will say “Oh it’s you,” and even as they’re being killed they have to avoid saying the other person’s name. Not that it really matters though as the movie eventually shows us who the killer is about halfway through.

Not to be outdone though, we get twist upon twist by the end as we head right into Scooby-Doo territory and though I’m not going to spoil anything, trust me when I say that description is pretty apt.

I can see why this makes it onto the list of somewhat undervalued movies from that era. It’s well made for one thing and the performances are generally good for this sort of thing. It has some well-staged kills too even though they’ve been clearly truncated to get past the censors and they’re certainly not anything that lives up to the poster’s promise. Maybe I’m tired but I don’t think I can make sense of the ending either. It’s nothing like the madness of Death Spa, but it’s certainly one that left me scratching my head over how needlessly convoluted it all was.

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