director J. Lee Thompson
Most slashers are colored blood red, but you might say that J. Lee Thompson’s 1981 Happy Birthday to Me is tinted Italian yellow (Giallo, if you will). I’m far from the first person to note its character as being more shrouded in mystery, narrative twists, and featuring a black-leather gloved murderer.
The film stars television’s Little House on the Prairie actress Melissa Sue Anderson and a late career Glenn Ford. Anderson’s character Ginny is recovering from some trauma that unfolds in deeper flashbacks and realizations as the body count rises. Ford plays her kind and committed psychiatrist.
I remember the film from back in its release and recall the suggestion that Happy Birthday to Me featured some inventive and shocking deaths, and if you went by the poster, shish kebab in hand, aimed at the mouth of a terrified dude, you might be fooled that this was really what the film’s real strength. But it’s not really. Happy Birthday takes a twist and convolutes it even further, yet crafts a final scene worthy of its giallo forebears.