A few years back I was really into collecting cheesy 80’s horror movies on VHS. There’s just so many of them, and with names like Hide and Go Shriek or Chopping Mall, how could I possibly resist? Eventually the well dried up and I realized that while occasionally you luck out and get a good one, for the most part you’re sifting through a bunch of cookie cutter slasher movies that are more boring than they are flat out bad. So I stopped collecting years ago.
Happy Birthday to Me was one I was vaguely familiar with but never actually picked up. Needless to say it would not have helped motivate me to keep on with my collection.
Happy Birthday to Me follows 10 unlikable douchebags who are known as the “Top Ten” at their...I think it was a university? God I already forget. Anyway this group is made up solely of the popular rich kids and from the first scene you know you’re not going to like a single one of these assholes. I can’t for a second accept that this movie thought we could get behind these characters and not want them brutally murdered. “Oh man I liked that part where all of them were huge dicks to everyone at all times for no reason!” Unless the whole purpose was to make a group of people you wanted to get killed off but then the movie just isn’t fun to watch. You need the one gigantic asshole who you can’t wait to see get killed. Everyone else you should be at least slightly bummed out if they don’t make it. Here everybody is disposable and it makes the movie kind of a chore to get through.
I guess the one tweak to the formula, that may have been original back in 1981 when this came out but by now has been done many times, is that the lead girl keeps having these flashbacks to a car accident and we know she had some sort of weird surgery afterwards that may or may not mean she is blacking out and killing these people herself. I won’t say whether she is or not, but I will say that the reveal of the killer, while original, is pretty god damn silly and bizarrely unrealistic. Any surprise you get is quickly overtaken by a sense of how in the fuck is what I’m seeing possible?!
The DVD case claims that this movie has six of the most bizarre murders you’ll ever see. There are more than six kills in this movie but I guess they figured a few aren’t worthy of any praise. With the exception of a couple, the kills are actually real standard. I can think of three kills that deserve at least minor props but the rest are very by the numbers. There is only one real chase scene too, every other kill just happens after a lot of “Oh hey it’s you!”, with the victim never wondering why their friend is wearing black gloves, moving slowly, and not saying a word.
There are a handful of weird moments that keep the movie from being completely disposable. There’s a scene early on where the main girl dances around in her underwater to porno music and you keep waiting and waiting for nudity but it just never happens. The scene goes on for at least two minutes and has literally no payoff. I also always appreciate when characters act insane for no logical reason, only to make you think that they might be the killer. And of course the ending deserves some credit.
The issue is that between these interesting moments, there’s not much going on. The characters are assholes, they don’t do or say anything interesting, the kills are underwhelming and at just under 2 hours the movie is way too god damn long. I don’t want to blow your mind - but you probably don’t need to bother watching Happy Birthday to Me. Ever.