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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me Review

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Happy Birthday To Me was released in 1981 and has become a cult classic among slasher fans. The film boasted that it had six of the most bizzare murders you will ever see.
I have to agree with this statement, the movie does have some pretty creative kills. Nothing on par with the Saw franchise, but for it's time, Happy Birthday To Me was a new animal. Virginia "Ginny" Wainwright is a pretty and popular high school senior at Crawford Academy. She is one of her school's "Top Ten": an elite clique which comprises the richest, most popular and most snobbish teens at the Academy. The Top Ten meet every night at the Silent Woman Tavern, a pub near Crawford's campus. One night, en route to the Silent Woman, Top Ten member Bernadette O'Hara is confronted by a killer whose face cannot be seen. Unable to flee, she struggles and then plays dead to catch the Killer off-guard. She fights the killer off, then runs off to get help. Instead, Bernadette finds a student whom she obviously knows well. She pleads her ordeal, only to have her throat slit when this student (whom the audience still cannot see) turns out to be the Killer. The Top Ten are briefly concerned when Bernadette fails to show up at the Silent Woman. They promptly get over it, however; the Top Ten have a long history of playing elaborate pranks, both on each other and on the locals. Their grievance with another tavern patron inspires them to pull such a prank: they "borrow" the member's pet mouse, which they dunk into the lodger's beer, all the while pretending to apologize for their rudeness. The lodger discovers the mouse; mayhem ensues, and the Top Ten flee the scene. En route back home, the Top Ten see a drawbridge going up and decide to play a game of chicken: all cars in the game must make it across before the bridge is completely raised (to allow the passing of ferrys). A protesting Ginny is shoved into a car by fellow Top Ten member Ann Thomerson. Every car jumps the drawbridge save one. After the car in which Ginny is riding makes it over the bridge, Ginny has a meltdown and yells "Mother!". Ginny jumps out and bolts off toward her home nearby. Ginny is confronted by her father about coming home after her curfew. Unbeknownst to either of them, somebody (whom the audience cannot see) has followed her home. He enters Ginny's room, steals a pair of her underwear and escapes without being seen. Ginny shares a handful of lost, repressed memories with her on-call psychiatrist, Dr. David Faraday. She underwent an experimental medical procedure, involving surgery to restore brain tissue, after surviving a harrowing accident at a drawbridge. As Ginny attempts to resume her normal life, her fellow Top Ten members are murdered in vicious and violent ways: Etienne is strangled when his scarf gets caught in the spokes of his motorcycle (à la Isadora Duncan); Greg has his neck crushed while lifting weights; Alfred is gutted with a pair of garden shears...by none other than Ginny. Mr. Wainwright leaves on a business trip. Ginny invites Steve, another member of the Top Ten, to her place for a midnight snack. She prepares shish kebabs, and feeds him, while they drink and smoke marijuana. Then Steve unsuspectingly leaves his mouth agape, and Ginny shoves the shish kebab violently down his throat.
The following morning, Ginny is taking a shower while fighting to remember everything up to that point. In flashbacks, the following is revealed. Ginny's mother, a newly-inducted socialite, invited the Top Ten to Ginny's birthday celebration four years earlier. Instead, the Top Ten went to Ann's party. Drunk and unstable, Mrs. Wainwright confronted the grounds-keeper. Ginny's mother learned that she had a reputation as the town whore; ergo, neither she nor her daughter were welcome at the Thomersons'. This led to Mrs. Wainwright attempting to drive across a bridge that was in the process of opening. With Ginny screaming, her mother finally stopped in the middle of the bridge as each side was still raising. The car fell in between the bridge halves and Mrs. Wainwright drowned in her car, although Ginny swam to safety. Ginny realizes that she may have killed her friends after all, including Ann. With Ginny's 18th birthday steadily approaching, she struggles to get answers from Dr. Faraday; when he fails to provide any, she kills him with a fire poker. Mr. Wainwright returns from his business trip, ready to celebrate his daughter's 18th birthday. Entering their house, he sees blood and frantically attempts to locate Ginny. Instead, Mr. Wainwright finds his late wife's grave - which recently has been robbed - and also Dr. Faraday's corpse. Entering a cottage which serves as the Wainwrights' guest quarters, he makes a ghastly discovery. The ending has one of the biggest twists in horror history as you truly never see it coming. Even though there was no build up to it, the writers actually made it sensible. For a long time, there was a rumor that several endings were shot to keep it secret but that was just a myth. Truthfully, only one ending was written but the producers tinkered with it to make it more interesting. The initial dvd release had a generic photo cover and was missing the films original soundtrack. Of course this angered fans, who demanded that we get a dvd true to the original film. Luckily, Anchor Bay came to the rescue and gave us a dvd with the poster art and soundtrack restored. The only downside is that aside from the trailer, no extras are included. Maybe one day we will see a special edition, but for now we have to be happy with this. I really enjoy Happy Birthday To Me, it may seem kind of cheesey now but I thought it was one of the better slasher films of the time. The acting was better than most with Melissa Sue Anderson and Glenn Ford giving memorable performances. There have been recent talks of doing a remake in 3D, but I don't see it holding a candle to the original. The twist at the end still holds up to this day and inspired many copy cats. If you havn't given Happy Birthday To Me a viewing yet, I urge you to do so. You might just be pleasantly surprised.