HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)
Article 4991 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Featuring Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane
What it is: Slasher film
Somebody is knocking off an elite group of ten students at Crawford school. Who is the killer… and what does this have to do with the repressed memories of a girl’s mother’s death?
Glenn Ford in a slasher film? To me, that’s a sign that this is a fairly classy affair for a slasher film, and it looks to me like more money and effort went into this one than usually is reserved for that genre. And actually, it seems to pay off in some ways. The overall level of acting is much stronger than is usually found in slasher films, some of the murders are quite creative, and amazingly enough, it actually manages to hold the interest throughout a 110 minute running time. Which is not to say that it doesn’t succumb to a few problems. Characters act quite stupid at times (worst example: if you’ve just managed to escape the clutches of a homicidal killer, don’t just run twenty feet away and think you’re safe), too many of the fake scares require that characters act far more sinister than there is any reason for them to be, and, though I’m glad the movie eschews the cliche of the “unexpectedly unkillable supernatural killer”, its final twist really strains credibility. Still, I’m not going to grouse too much; whatever its flaws, this one tries to be a step above the usual slasher fare, and for the most part, it succeeds.