Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Directed By: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Jack Blum, Lenore Zann
Synopsis: A group of ten popular high school students that consider themselves elite and above the rest of the student body start to disappear one by one, victims of brutal murders.
Thoughts: Oh, Canada, the land of cheap 80’s slashers! It had been ages since viewing this lesser known slasher but it stood up pretty well to my memories.
The highlight of this slasher is the murders themselves. There is creative use of hedge clippers, a shishkabob, a motorcycle, and exercise weights. The story itself is somewhat of a mess at times. It seems as if they were making parts of the story up as they went. It starts of mimicking Italian Gialli, with the killer sporting black leather gloves and using a straight razor and then shifts to a more straight slasher, as the killer is revealed about halfway through. There are red herrings and false accusations throughout, and the ending comes from beyond left field.
Older fans like me will recognize Mellissa Sue Anderson breaking typecast from Little House on the Prairie to be the main character here. Overall the cast is adequate, pretty much what you come to expect from this genre and era. It was a bit odd to see Glenn Ford in a low budget 80s slasher, but maybe he needed the cash.
The Director, J. Lee Thompson piloted the original Cape Fear as well as a couple of the Planet of the Apes sequels, so the guy has some skills. There are some pretty interesting point of view shots used throughout to mask the identity of the killer, but for the most part, the direction and cinematography are not all that noticeable.
While this isn’t a top tier slasher, it is often considered a classic among fans. Slasher fans owe it to themselves to check it out.