‘John will never eat shish kebab again.’
Happy Birthday to Me is a 1981 Canadian slasher horror film directed by J. Lee Thompson (10 to Midnight; Cape Fear) from a screenplay by John C. W. Saxton, Timothy Bond and Peter Jobin. It was produced by John Dunning and André Link, for their Cinépix company.
The film was released on May 15, 1981 and has since become something of a cult classic among fans of the slasher genre, with its bizarre murder methods and twisted climactic revelation. The film’s make-up effects were the work of Tom Burman (Cat People; The Beast Within; Prophecy; et al).
The initial 2004 DVD release from Columbia Pictures featured a new soundtrack and completely different cover art (not original poster art), which most slasher fans did not appreciate. In October 2009, Anchor Bay released a DVD with the original poster art as the cover and utilised the film’s original score.
UK cinema and 1986 RCA/Columbia video releases were culled from a longer print with slightly gorier footage of the weight-lift and shish kebab death scenes, plus the original music score.
“On the one hand, this is one handsome devil of a horror film, with well crafted photography and characters drawn beyond the airhead regulars associated with sharp-object wielding killers. The Yin to this Yang is that it thinks above its station to some degree, attempting to spread its wings beyond the boundaries of what the audience most probably expected back in the day.” Hudson Lee, Vegan Voorhees
“A slasher audience wants insane (but not cheesy) violence, young hot naked females, blood, gore, a fun story and a badass killer. HBTM has none of those things. There’s very little violence, the killer is weak, zero nudity or even attractive females, only a handful of blood, zero gore and the story is long-winded and overly complicated.” Happyotter
Buy DVD: Amazon.com
” …there’s nothing to be said for the acting, direction or story, which is monumentally stupid, dependant throughout on a frail girl to kill and carry the bodies away so they can’t be found, taking time out along the way to dog up a casket and haul away the contents.” James Harwood, Variety, May 13, 1981
“The performances hit the mark, with Anderson showing a darker side to the sweet daddy’s girl most know and the ‘top ten’ giving us fairly believable (if not necessarily loveable) teenagers, with taxidermy fanatic Alfred, easily the most intriguing. Whilst the running time could be trimmed slightly, the film manages to maintain its momentum to become the sort of ‘cult’ viewing you could see yourself revisiting.” Sinead Beverland, UK Horror Scene
Cast and characters:
- Melissa Sue Anderson as Virginia “Ginny” Wainwright
- Glenn Ford as Dr. David Faraday + The Visitor; Great White Death
- Lawrence Dane as Harold “Hal” Wainwright
- Sharon Acker as Estelle Wainwright
- Frances Hyland as Mrs. Patterson
- Tracey E. Bregman as Ann Thomerson
- Jack Blum as Alfred Morris
- Matt Craven as Steve Maxwell
- Lenore Zann as Maggie
- David Eisner as Rudi
- Michel-René Labelle as Etienne Vercures
- Richard Rebiere as Greg Hellman
- Lesleh Donaldson as Bernadette O’Hara
- Lisa Langlois as Amelia