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Film / Happy Birthday to Me

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John is a lucky man, as he doesn't appear in the movie at all.note 

Happy Birthday to Me is a Slasher Movie from 1981.

Set in the prestigious Crawford Academy, the film centers around Virginia, who suffered a traumatic accident on her birthday during her childhood. As another birthday is coming near, her buried memories of that fateful day have started returning little by little. But she also tends to have blackouts during these events. And some people tend to coincidentally disappear too, especially those close to her...

The film starred Glenn Ford as Dr. Faraday, and Melissa Sue Anderson (from Little House on the Prairie) as Virginia. The film also featured an early appearance from Lenore Zann (future voice of Rogue in X-Men: The Animated Series and Aisha in Outlaw Star).

These are jolly good examples:

  • All in the Eyes: After escaping from the killer's clutches, Bernadette leans against a concrete pillar, which conveniently has a light that frames her eyes shining on it.
  • Big Bad: The killer, who could be anyone.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: In the shower, Virginia has a flashback of her mother's death: Her mother, a newly-inducted socialite, invited the Top Ten to Ginny's birthday celebration four years earlier. Instead, the group opted to attend Ann's party. Drunk, her mother drove to the Thomasons' house with Ginny, where she was kept out by Ann's family butler. Enraged, she attempted to drive across a raising drawbridge in a drunken fury, resulting in a violent crash that ended in her drowning. Ginny, however, managed to swim to safety.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Virginia manages to slay Ann, the real killer...just a few seconds before a policeman enters the house and sees her holding a bloodied knife among several mutilated corpses. D'oh!
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: The killer attacks Bernadette inside her car, grabbing and strangling her from the backseat. She manages to get free and escape by pretending to die.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ann learns that her father had an affair with Virginia's mother and that they are half-sisters, which led to her parents getting divorced. To get back at Virginia, Ann murders all the guests that were supposed to be at her party while disguised as her, kills Virginia's father and therapist, and digs up her mother's corpse. All so Virginia gets the blame. And it works.
  • Downer Ending: In the end, Virginia survives, only for a cop to enter the house and mistake her for the murderer.
  • Dutch Angle: Done whenever Virginia has flashbacks.
  • Enter Stage Window: Etienne enters Virginia's room through her window, spies on her as she prepares for a bath and steals her panties.
  • Final Girl: Virginia, after the truth about the killer is revealed, though a traumatized Amelia (likely having seen all the corpses) also survives.
  • Foreshadowing: Ill break your neck, Ann says to Greg at the start of the film after he nearly gets himself, Amelia, and Ginny killed by driving over an opened draw bridge. She later makes good on that promise by dropping a weight onto his crotch, causing him to drop another weight onto his neck.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Alfred is one of the Cameron Top Ten, but nobody in the Ten actually seems to like him, with Ginny and Ann showing him pity and the others playing pranks on him.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The original DVD release from Columbia featured a different musical score. This version was actually taken from an old work print that had a temporary musical score. Anchor Bay's re-release featured the proper score, as does Mill Creek's Blu-rays.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Virginia goes to visit her mother's grave often, which is disapproved by her father, as he wants her to get over her death.
  • Groin Attack: The killer kills Greg by taking away the rest for his weights and then dropping another smaller weight right on his groin, causing him to drop the very heavy weight he was lifting upon his neck and crush it. Ouch.
  • Hand of Death: In the stalking and murder scenes, the camera focuses mostly on the black gloves that the killer wears.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The song was able to be used in the film, with the lyrics slightly altered to reflect the title. It's a pretty creepy scene. An original dark birthday song is used for the end credits.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The stage for horror was set way back on Virginia's birthday, and ends on one as well.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The theme song. It sounds like it's sung by a 10-year-old girl and has plenty of slow creepy music.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While most of the Top Ten are snobby and prone to pulling pranks on strangers and each other, the more they start to 'disappear', the more they are shown to worry about each other.
  • Karma Houdini: While Ann is killed by Virginia, it's at the same moment a police officer walks in, pretty much guaranteeing that Virginia is punished for all of Ann's murders.
  • Killer Outfit: Etienne is killed when the killer throws his long scarf into the spinning wheel of the dirtbike that he was fixing, strangling him to death.
  • Latex Perfection: Ann is able to impersonate Ginny by wearing a latex mask made for her by Alfred that makes her Ginny's exact duplicate.
  • Madness Mantra: At the end, when the lieutenant finds Ginny in the cottage surrounded by all of the bodies, she starts mindlessly singing "Happy Birthday to Me" to herself, over and over.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: In the climax, the killer arranges all the victims around a birthday cake to form a twisted Trophy Room.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: The Top Ten not showing up to Ginny's birthday party is part of her tragic backstory. The true killer frames Ginny for the murders by making it look like this was her motivation.
  • Panty Thief: Etienne sneaks into Ginny's bedroom and steals the panties she takes off when she goes to take a bath. He later reveals he is carrying them under his jersey during the dirt bike race.
  • Ramp Jump: After causing a commotion in the pub, the cast hops into their vehicles and drive over a drawbridge that is opening, leading to a series of these. Virginia freaks out when Greg does it since he almost totals his car from the jump.
  • Red Herring: Several throughout the film: The creepily acting Alfred, the angry Rudi, Virginia's drunken, furious mother, and ultimately Virginia herself, who turns out to be a victim of a frameup.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The original DVD release from Sony Pictures had a completely different, disco-inspired soundtrack. It was later revealed that the film's temp soundtrack was used accidentally. Anchor Bay's DVD reissue and Mill Creek's Blu-ray have the original audio.
  • Shear Menace: Alfred is stabbed to death with the garden shears Ginny keeps by her mother's grave.
  • Slashed Throat: Escaping from the killer, Bernadette runs into someone whom she recognizes, thinking that she's now safe. This mysterious person then opens a straight razor and slashes her throat open.
  • Stunned Silence: Amelia, one of the few Top Ten who isn't murdered, is last seen standing outside of Virginia's house holding a birthday present in shock, having seen the tableau that has been set inside.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: The odd Alfred stuffs animals as a hobby.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When the killer takes away the stand for Greg's weights, Greg keeps holding the barbell over his head rather than setting it down behind him where there is enough space. See Groin Attack above.
  • Twist Ending: The film became a notable slasher film mainly for its ending; the killer is Virginia's best friend Ann, who is also her illegitimate half-sister who has been systematically drugging her and wearing a latex mask that makes her Virginia's exact double.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: During the dirt bike race, Etienne and his rival attempt to force each other off the track. Etienne eventually wins the scuffle (forcing his rival into a ditch) and the race.