25 September 2014

September 25th

Happy Birthday to Me (1980) directed by J. Lee Thompson
My ongoing quest to catch up with all of the films spawned out of the early '80s slasher boom has lead me to the pleasant surprise that was Happy Birthday to Me. I didn't know anything about it going in and, boy, am I glad that was the case. The film is an expertly constructed whodunit with slasher-style killings.

Starring Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson as Virginia, the film follows a group of 10 friends at a private school. Virginia's the newbie, having returned to school after experimental brain surgery following an accident. Soon, one by one, a black glove-wearing psycho begins picking off her friends, while Virginia begins to remember more and more about the circumstances of her accident.

I was impressed at how well constructed to the story was. Nearly every character is made to look like a suspect at one point. I was delighted as my guesses on who the killer was kept changing every 10 minutes as I tried to puzzle out the new information the movie slowly feeds the audience. The climax probably has more twists per minute than any other movie I've seen. Yeah, it gets to be a little silly -- apparently, this was the fault of the producers wanting to spice things up -- but I bought it. And, the twists give the film an even darker ending that it was original intended to have.

While not a great slasher movie -- unlike its cousin film My Bloody Valentine, there's no iconic masked killer -- it is one of the better mystery-horror films I've seen.

Tales from the Darkside 1.18: "If the Shoes Fit..." (1985) directed by Armand Mastroianni
A mischievous hotel or its mischievous bellboy decide to drive a politician crazy for no good reason. We get a fun performance out of character actor Dick Shawn, but it feels mostly like a tantrum over the 1984 election than anything else.

Tales from the Darkside 1.19: "Levitation" (1985) directed by John Harrison
This is a little more like what I want from Darkside. Based on a short story by horror master Joseph Payne Brennan, it's a simple tale of two men who go to a carnival in order to see a magician perform his most famous trick. It's got a good build up and a satisfying twist ending.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience with this one and agree that it's a sorta top of the middle tier slasher. I had read about it in The Slasher Movie Book, which regarded it as one of the best, so I knew something going in, but I still wasn't expecting it to be as fun as it was. At that point, I'd burned through most of the best (and honestly, worst) examples of the genre, so it was a real delight to find one that was this decent...