Retro VHS Covers: "Happy Birthday To Me" (1981)
I'll always remember walking down the aisles of the horror section at our local mom and pop video rental store, Gary's Take-Out Video. While my parents were busy chatting it up with Gary, I was introduced to VHS cover art of the horror variety. Wandering down the aisle, I was greeted by hundreds of VHS tapes, each one displaying promises of chainsaw wielding maniacs, scantily clad women meeting their macabre ending and monsters straight out of the depths of hell. I was in love. Rarely was I ever allowed to rent these movies, but when I was, I based my rental decision solely upon the cover art. The scarier looking the cover, the better. One of my most memorable VHS covers was the movie, "Happy Birthday To Me", showing a man about to meet his maker by having a shish-kabob skewer shoved down his throat. The cover promised to show its audience "six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see." Although it would be years after that first sighting that I would actually see the movie, the cover always stuck with me.
"Happy Birthday To Me" is a typical slasher flick, so the plot is pretty standard. A group of popular teenagers attend a birthday party for their classmate Virginia (Melissa Sue Anderson of "Little House on the Prairie" fame) and one by one, they are murdered. Are there really six bizarre murders just as the tag line claims? Not quite. Now, many horror fans are split down the middle with this one; they either love it or hate it. I fall into the latter category. Sure, death by shish-kabob is certainly a bizarre murder, as is death by barbell, however those were the only two memorable moments in the whole film. The other deaths were your run of the mill throat slashings and stabbings. Clocking in at 110 minutes, the film was way too long for its own good and the "twist ending" does nothing but insult your intelligence and test your patience.
The film has since been released twice on DVD. Initially, the 2004 DVD release from Columbia Pictures featured not only a completely different music score as the original, but also a re-vamped cover illustration of a female holding a birthday cake with a knife stuck in it, which obviously caused upset among fans of the movie. In 2009, Anchor Bay Entertainment released a new DVD with the original poster art as the DVD cover, as well as the original soundtrack.