What an auspicious start to the New Year! (This is something my husband, who is Buddhist, says a lot. I am not sure what it means but I think it means good.) My first horror film of 2011 is Happy Birthday to Me from 1981. (My first actual film of 2011 is Tron: Legacy which I like very much, especially when Daft Punk showed up.) How have I lived 36 years without seeing this? (I once forgot how old I was. I may be 35 or 37-- I am not very good at math.) Anyway, I have lots to say about Happy Birthday to Me, unlike Black Swan, which was too psychologically scarring and deep for me to deal with on this blog. Let's just say Black Swan fucked me up (in a good way) and Happy Birthday to Me just made me happy to be alive and in love with horror films.
Happy Birthday to Me was directed by J.Lee Thompson, who directed Cape Fear. It stars blue eyed beauty Melissa Sue Anderson as Ginny. MSA always kind of creeped me out on Little House with her bright blue eyes. She may be the reason I have such a strong aversion to people with blue eyes. I still can't explain my aversion to men in turtlenecks, but perhaps some other 80's horror film can explain that. Ginny is a Senior at the prestigious "Crawford Academy." Crawford Academy is kind of like Hogwarts in that all the students wear really cool striped scarves. Ginny belongs to the "Top Ten," a group of popular and rich students that can buy beer at the local pub. The Top Ten like to play pranks and play chicken on the local bridge. Among their group is a sexy French guy named Etienne and a total dork who likes taxidermy and carries around a pet rat. Why this dork is part of this group is never explained. He must be rich, as all the members are, but I don't see how that automatically makes you part of the group, especially when you are so obviously a serial killer. At least, that is what we are lead to believe...
Members of the Top Ten are getting killed off in highly original ways. One guy gets a shish kabob through the mouth (hence the iconic poster) and one guy gets killed by dumbbell. My favorite death is poor Etienne, who bites it ala Isadora Duncan. Is the dork with the mouse the killer? Or is it Ginny, who, as it turns out, was in a really bad car accident a few years ago and had experimental surgery to fix her brain. Ginny blacks out a lot, and she begins to think that she is responsible for the murders. It doesn't help that her shrink is played by Glenn Ford, yes, that Glenn Ford, and he wears cardigans and gold chains. At first I thought Glenn Ford was drunk the whole time, but my research did not support that hypothesis. It is just a really strange and somewhat pervy performance.
I had read a lot about this film over the years but I could not remember what the twist was at the end. In short, the film kept me totally involved throughout, and I was sure I knew who the killer was. Then we arrive at the fucked up ending. Ginny is at her 18th birthday party, surrounded by all of her friends, dead and alive. The twist literally makes no sense, and it almost made me hate the movie. But then I decided that it did not matter that the ending made no sense. This is a beautiful, bloody, totally stupid 80's slasher and I loved it!! It was also filmed in Canada, so I have to give it extra points for that. I love Happy Birthday to Me. The only thing it could have used is a totally radical disco scene.