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Get ready for a taut mystery-shocker that will keep you at your wit's end and at the edge of your seat. Popular high school senior Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) survives a freak accident, but suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. As she attempts to resume a normal life, something terrible is happening - her friends are ruthlessly murdered one-by-one. Will she be the next victim or is she the killer? The terrifying truth is finally uncovered at Virginia's 18th birthday party and you're invited.
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Happy Birthday to Me typifies the horror genre prior to the self-reflection and irony that saturated the genre in the late '80s and '90s. A solid cast, decent acting, a well-written script, and relatively high production values result in a solid movie that is engaging on its own in addition to offering a glimpse into the history of '80s horror. The plot follows the rules of the genre (later parodied in such films as the Scream and Scary Movie series). A number of teenagers (played by actors who appear visibly older than their characters) from an elite prep school get into mischievous sexual situations fueled by alcohol and pot smoking. As teens start to disappear, murdered in a variety of violent ways, the film suggests a number of suspects. Is the killer the troubled star played by Melissa Sue Anderson who lost her overbearing, social-climbing mother in a car accident that she survived? Or is it the stern school mistress, the wacky, cool social clown, the social misfit, or none of the above? The film keeps you guessing until the final scene. Happy Birthday is a must-see for serious fans of the horror genre and this release is a solid digital mastering of the movie. Hardcore fans should note that the DVD release was not able to secure the rights to the original soundtrack so this version features an alternate soundtrack of largely nondescript '80s electronic music. --Brian Saltzman
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