Vintage Poster

Title: Happy Birthday To Me

Release Date: May 15th, 1981

Tagline: "Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see."

Budget: $ 3.5 Million

Happy Birthday To Me (1981) is a classic whodunit canadian slasher film directed by J. Lee Thompson. It features one of the most iconic posters (Shish kabob in the mouth) from the era. As well as one of the greatest twist endings in slasher movie history.


Virginia "Ginny" Wainwright is a pretty and popular high school senior at Crawford Academy. She is one of her school's "Top Ten": an elite clique which comprises the richest, most popular and most snobbish teens at the Academy. The Top Ten meet every night at the Silent Woman Tavern, a pub near Crawford's campus.

One night en route to the tavern, Top Ten member Bernadette O'Hara is attacked in her car by a killer whose face cannot be seen. Unable to flee, she struggles and then plays dead to catch the killer off-guard, before running to get help. She finds somebody whom she is familiar with, only to have her throat slit by this person with a razor (whom the audience still cannot see) who is actually the killer.

The Top Ten is briefly concerned when Bernadette fails to show up at the Silent Woman. They soon get over it when their argument with another customer results in one of them putting a pet mouse into his beer; mayhem ensues, and the Top Ten flee the scene.

On the way home, the Top Ten see a drawbridge going up and decide to play a game of chicken: all cars in the game must make it across before the bridge is completely raised (to allow the passing of ferrys). A protesting Ginny is shoved into a car by fellow Top Ten member Ann Thomerson. Every car jumps the drawbridge save one. As the car goes over the drawbridge Ginny yells "Mother!" and makes it safely across. After the car stops Ginny runs from the vehicle into the darkness home.

On the way home she stops by her mother's grave to tell her she's popular and hangs out with the Top Ten all the time. Ginny is confronted by her father about coming home after her curfew. Unbeknownst to either of them, Top Ten member Etienne Vercoures, a French foreign exchange student has followed her home. He enters Ginny's room, steals a pair of her underwear and escapes without being seen.

Ginny shares a handful of lost, repressed memories with her on-call psychiatrist, Dr. David Faraday. She underwent an experimental medical procedure, involving surgery to restore brain tissue, after surviving a harrowing accident at a drawbridge.

As Ginny attempts to resume her normal life, her fellow Top Ten members are murdered in very vicious and violent ways: Etienne is strangled when his scarf gets caught in the spokes of his motorcycle (à la Isadora Duncan); Greg has his neck crushed while lifting weights, and yet, the killer, who always sports a pair of black gloves, is never seen. Until one night, Top-Ten member Alfred, who's had a strong crush on Ginny, follows Ginny to her mother's grave and is then gutted with a pair of garden shears by Ginny.

On the weekend of her 18th birthday, Mr. Wainwright leaves on a business trip. After a school dance, Ginny invites Steve, another member of the Top Ten, to her place for a midnight snack. She prepares shish kebabs, and feeds him, while they drink and smoke marijuana. Then, Steve unsuspectingly leaves his mouth open and Ginny shoves the kebab skewer violently down his throat; leaving little doubt that Ginny may be the killer at this point.

The following morning, Ginny is taking a shower fighting to remember everything up to that point. In flashbacks, the following is revealed. Ginny's mother, a newly inducted socialite, invited the Top Ten to Ginny's birthday celebration four years earlier. Instead, the Top Ten went to Ann's party. Drunk and unstable, Mrs. Wainwright confronted the grounds-keeper. Ginny's mother learned that she had a reputation as the town whore; ergo, neither she nor her daughter were welcome at the Thomersons'. This led to Mrs. Wainwright attempting to drive across a bridge that was in the process of opening. With Ginny screaming, her mother finally stopped in the middle of the bridge as each side was still raising. The car fell in between the bridge halves and Mrs. Wainwright drowned in her car, although Ginny swam to safety.

Ginny realises that she may have killed her friends after all, including Ann, who had just paid her a visit. With Ginny's 18th birthday steadily approaching, she struggles to get answers from Dr. Faraday; when he fails to provide any, she kills him with a fire poker.

Mr. Wainwright returns from his business trip, ready to celebrate his daughter's 18th birthday. Entering their house, he sees blood and frantically attempts to locate Ginny. Instead, Mr. Wainwright finds Greg's girlfriend Amelia in shock in the courtyard clutching a gift, his late wife's grave (which recently has been robbed) and Dr. Faraday's corpse. Entering a cottage which serves as the Wainwrights' guest quarters, he makes a ghastly discovery.

The corpses of all the murdered Top Ten members are seated around the table, which has been set to look exactly as it did four years ago. The corpse of Mrs. Wainwright is seated there as well. Then Ginny enters, carrying a large cake and singing "Happy Birthday" to herself. Already distraught, Mr. Wainwright bursts into tears when his daughter casually admits to committing the murders. Ginny then slits her father's throat with the same large knife she used to cut the cake. He never sees the real Ginny, who is sedated, seated at this table as the killer's only living guest.

Ginny's doppelganger rants about having done all of this for Ginny, who then awakens to discover that the second Ginny is really Ann in disguise. Ann has been embittered by the revelation of her father's affair with Ginny's mother. It turns out that both girls are half-sisters. Ann slaughtered the six main members of the clique, that never showed up for her birthday party, expressly for the purpose of framing Ginny – who suddenly breaks free, takes Ann's knife and kills her with it.

As she stands over her half-sister's corpse, a detective walks in on Ginny and the horrifying carnage that surrounds her. He stares at Ginny and demands, "What have you done?" The audience[citation needed] is then left to wonder if Ginny will be cleared of the killings or arrested for them.

We hear Ginny singing "Happy Birthday to Me" as the film ends.



Happy Birthday To Me (1981) Review - ('80s Slasher)

Happy Birthday To Me (1981) Review - ('80s Slasher)

review by JBM


Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Produced by John Dunning

Stewart Harding
Andre Link

Written by Timothy Bond
Peter Jobin
John Saxton

John Beaird

Music by Bo Harwood

Lance Rubin

Cinematography Miklos Lente
Editing by Debra Karen
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates 15 May 1981
Running time 110 min.
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $3,500,000 (estimated)