Happy Birthday to Me
(1981, Dir. by J. Lee Thompson.)
Why It's Here:
There are a lot of "Oh, it's not really that good but I just can't get enough of it!" horror movies that came out of the '80s, and Happy Birthday to Me is no exception. With a plot that's one part Friday the 13th and one part Scooby Doo, the film offers self-proclaimed "bizarre" murders and a whodunit? plot that features a couple of odd twists and a dose of mental health concerns. Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson stars as a unique high school girl, with (one of the great actors of all-time) Glenn Ford and (one of the most underrated actors of all-time) Lawrence Dane helping her along her journey. The game of cat-and-mouse between killer and teens is always entertaining - if not pretty silly - and puts a smile on my face every time.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
A pair of garden shears and a blatant reveal stick out to me, even over the brutal shish kebab murder shown on the poster and other advertisements. It's one of the few truly surprising moments I can remember seeing in a slasher movie (I saw the movie at a younger age, which helped), and it sets the stage for a pretty wild final act.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
Most any '80s horror flick with plenty of kills and teen characters fits here, but I especially like the combo of Happy Birthday to Me and the 1986 slasher/comedy April Fool's Day. Put both of these mysterious slashers together and you'll have a killer evening.
What It Means to Me:
Happy Birthday to Me has always been a special film to me. I learned of its existence because it was on one of those "The Day You Were Born" things my family had on the wall when I was growing up (the oddness of a movie called Happy Birthday to Me being popular when I was born has never been lost on me), and it was one of my first experiences with slasher films that didn't feature Michael or Jason or Freddy. It's certainly not a great film by any measure, but it's always made me remember why I love even the silliest of horror films.