Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

Fun slasher

Unrealistic ending

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Happy Birthday to Me

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  May 15, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R


These kids are really good at make-up…

Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) has a shattered memory that she is trying to work through with her psychologist Dr. David Faraday (Glenn Ford).  When Virginia’s friends start disappearing as Virginia begins to regain her memory, Virginia questions if she is going insane.  Someone is murdering Virginia’s friends…how and why is unknown and Virginia is about to celebrate one of the worst birthdays of her life.

Directed by J. Lee Thompson, Happy Birthday to Me is a Canadian horror slasher horror mystery.  The movie was cut to avoid an X-Rating and over the years has garnered a cult following.


You are possibly the most hands on psychiatrist ever…

I saw Happy Birthday to Me pretty early on (probably for or five years after its release) and knew it more as “the film that starred Mary from Little House on the Prairie”.  The movie is a fun little ‘80s slasher with a ridiculous twist ending.  *****Spoiler Alert***** Due to the twist ending, I will have spoilers throughout the review.

The movie wasn’t supposed to have a twist ending.  Originally the film was supposed to end with Virginia being the killer (and possibly possessed by her mother).  Instead, the movie is made into a mystery and Ann is revealed to be the killer “to get revenge for sleeping with her mother”.  It is so out of the blue that it doesn’t make any sense and feels completely unconnected to the film (I like that she randomly is knocked out by Ann and doesn’t realize it).  It is fun in a goofy sense and a cheesy horror film style…but not very good.


Your mother said dirt bikes were dangerous…especially when mixed with a psycho killer

Melissa Sue Anderson was trying to break from her perfect nice girl persona from her Little House on the Prairie role as Mary.  The star power of the film is provided by classic actor Glenn Ford who was reported to be very difficult on set.  He was drinking a lot and wasn’t happy to be in a slasher film (he also got is reported to have gotten in a fight with the assistant director Charles Braive which almost led to the police being called).  As a Canadian production, a lot of the other actors in the film were prominent in Canada.


First I go blind on the prairie then all my friends are murdered…My life sucks

The movie features a lot of great horror deaths.  The twist ending that Victoria is not the killer makes the first few deaths where she is revealed to be the killer kind of shocking since she seems like the red herring throughout the film…leading to the completely unrealistic twist of have a person with a perfect mask of her.

Happy Birthday to Me is by no means a good movie, but I do find it enjoyable.  I don’t know if I’d like it if I hadn’t seen it as a kid, but it is a nice little slasher movie.  The movie has enough gore and jumps that horror fans will enjoy it.  The ‘80s style of the movie also does provide a nice retro feel.  Fans of popcorn horror movies will want to celebrate this birthday!

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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