Happy Birthday to Me (1981) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Virginia Wainwright is a spirited young woman who has returned to a private school having survived a deadly accident and regenerative brain surgery. She is proud that she belongs to the Top Ten - the school's inner circle with the best students - and attempts to resume a normal life. But her friends are falling prey to a grueling series of murders, and soon there will be no one left to attend her 18th birthday party. Could it be her? Striving to rekindle the memory of her nightmarish accident, Virginia suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. We soon learn the horrible truth behind her accident and what is going on before her birthday party...

  • The teenager Virginia Wainwright studies in the traditional Crawford Academy and belongs to a group of wealthy friends named The Top Ten. Virginia had a serious car accident a couple of years ago where her mother died. Now she lives with her father and is psychologically treated by the prominent Dr. David Faraday. She has also frequent blackouts but she is slowly recovering her memory. When one by one of her friends are murdered and disappears, Virginia starts to believe that she is the killer, but Dr. Faraday does not think so. Who might be the serial-killer?

  • At the snobby Crawford Academy, Virginia's group of friends start to go missing years after horrible events that happened to her as a child around her birthday.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • At the Crawford Academy campus located in Massachusetts, Bernadette (Lesleh Donaldson) is leaving night classes to meet her friends. After an encounter with the authoritarian headmistress Mrs. Patterson (Frances Hyland), Bernadette gets into her car when she is attacked by someone in the back seat wearing all black clothing and wearing black leather gloves who chokes her. Bernadette momentarily feigns death and manages to slug at her unseen attacker and manages to run out of the car. A minute later, she sees someone she apparently knows where Bernadette says: "thank God, please help me". Suddenly, the unseen person in black pulls out a straight razor and slashes Bernadette's throat.

    Sometime later that night, at the village inn, a group of students are at a table drinking when Virginia (Melissa Sue Anderson) arrives and joins the group with them wondering at why she was so late in meeting them. Soon, another person shows up whom is the creepy-looking Norman Bates-esque taxidermist, Alfred (Jack Blum). After Rudi (David Eisner) angers the local townies with a prank involving putting Alfred's pet white mouse in someone's cup of beer, the students run outside chased by the townsfolk. Seeing that the nearby drawbridge is coming up, Steve (Matt Craven) says, "Lets play the game". They all plan to drive their cars over the opening bridge. When Virginia, in a car with Greg (Richard Rebiere) and Amelia (Lisa Langlois), goes over the bridge, she screams "Mother!" Visibly upset, she demands the car be stopped, and she gets out and runs away. Virginia walks to a local cemetery where she visits her mother's grave. Another student, named Etienne (Michel-René Labelle), offers to walk her home, and Virginia declines.

    At home, Virginia goes to her room to shower and change her clothes. When she returns to the bathroom, she sees that the recently shut window is now open. She screams in fright as Etienne (who Virginia does not see) jumps down and flees into the night.

    The next day in chemistry class, the teacher is shocking a pair of frog legs with static electricity, and Virginia flashes back to an operating room, where she is laying on a table with her head wrapped up. She later tells her doctor, David Faraday (Glenn Ford), of the eerie recollection. David tells her that after being injured in an accident, Virginia had been an experiment. She was able to remember something she had previously forgotten due to a regeneration of her damaged brain. David says that she will remember more later.

    At a dirt bike race, Virginia and her friends are cheering on Etienne, who wins the race. Being the hopeless romantic that he is, he shows Virginia that he won because he had a pair of her underwear next to his heart. Virginia is obviously angry, as is Albert, watching from afar. That night, as Etienne is cleaning his motorbike in his garage, someone approaches him from behind and throws his scarf into the running wheel which pulls his face closer. Then the unseen person revs up the bike, letting the wheel do the rest as it mangles Etienne's face.

    Later at the village inn, everyone is awaiting Etienne and Alfred. Virginia and Ann (Tracy Bregman) go to find Alfred to find out what "evil deeds he has been up to". They go over to his house and climb through a window into his bedroom and they find Bernadette's severed head on a tray. Alfred is suddenly there and he shows the girls that the head is a fake, calling it his "latest masterpiece". The next day, Virginia and Ann are reprimanded by Mrs. Patterson because she does not believe their claims that they do not know the whereabouts of the missing Bernadette and Etienne.

    After the group of students view the movie 'High Noon' at the recreational hall, the uninvited Rudi arrives and starts a fight with Steve, who accompanied Maggie (Lenore Zann) (with whom Rudy had been with). Rudi threatens Greg after Greg pulls him away from Steve. That same night, Greg is in his basement lifting weights when the unseen person in black clothing (someone he eventually knows) comes into the room and, at Greg's request, adds more weights. When it is too much, the person refuses to spot Greg, and the person drops a weight onto his crotch, allowing the heavy barbell to fall and crush his throat.

    The next day, Virginia and Rudi go to the campus bell tower together. Rudi mentions that Virginia is new, but she tells him she was at the academy four years ago for a few weeks. Rudi talks about cutting the bell's rope and brings out his knife, disturbing Virginia.

    Later, Virginia is with David, flashing back to where her head was cut open in the surgical operation after her accident, and the doctors declared her dead. She tells David about Rudi and the knife, and she panicked and cannot remember anything. David hears about the discovery of a bloody knife at the bell tower and the possibility of foul play. He finds Virginia and tries to persuade her to tell him exactly what happened at the bell tower. Before long, Rudi shows up, and the skull found in the campus garden is only a joke. The students are assembled later by Mrs. Patterson over this practical joke, and Virginia is unsettled and goes to the cemetery again to sit at her mother's grave. She is followed by Alfred who continues to spy on her. But when Alfred gets close, Virginia turns around and stabs him to death with a pair of garden sheers.

    The next morning, Virginia's father, Hal (Lawrence Dane), is leaving town for a business trip, but be promises to be back on Sunday which is Virginia's 18th birthday. At a school party, Virginia invites Steve over to his place now that her father is out of town. At Virginia's house, while dining on shish kabob by the fireplace, Virginia is feeing Steve when she suddenly shoves the metal bar into his mouth and kills him.

    The next morning, Ann arrives and tells Virginia, "I wanna hear all the gory details about you and Steve last night". Virginia says that she doesn't remember anything after she came home with Steve and does not know where he is. As Virginia is showering, she flashes back to a rainy night with her irate mother Estelle (Sharon Acker). As they are driving on the drawbridge, it opens, and the car they are in falls into the river. Virginia manages to get out of the car, but her mother drowns. In trying to swim to the surface, Virginia suffers a severe head injury when she hits her head against the bottom of a barge passing over the submerged car under the bridge. Virginia awakens to a bathroom flooded with water and she sees that Ann is dead in the overflowing bathtub.

    Frantic, Virginia calls Dr. David Faraday who arrives over, but when they go into the bathroom, Ann's body is no longer there. He tells Virginia that he will stay the night and he eludes the police who show up at Virginia's house looking for the missing Ann. David tells Virginia that she must remember what happened to her the evening before her car accident. In a flashback, Virginia remembers that her mother wanted Virginia to have a birthday party at the old guest cottage that sits behind Virginia's house, but none of the other students showed up because there was a birthday party at Ann's house. Virginia's mother is angry and she drove with Virginia over to Ann's house and demanded to be let inside. When she is denied access, Virginia's mother yells from the front gate: "I can't be bought off again!"

    Virginia, distressed, runs out of the room, only to return a minute later with a fireplace poker which she uses to beat David to death. A little later that evening, Virginia's father, Hal, finally comes home and sees blood all over Virginia's bedroom and runs outside looking for his daughter. After finding David's corpse in the bushes, the father heads to the cottage in the back of the house and discovers, all around a table, the dead bodies of all the students, Bernadette, Etienne, Greg, Alfred, Steve, Ann, along with the decomposing corpse of Virginia's mother stolen from the grave. Virginia walks into the room with a birthday cake with fully lighted candles and singing "happy birthday to me". Virginia blows out the candles and puts a birthday hat on her father as he sits down at the table and sobs. Virginia takes out a large cake knife and offers to cut a slice of cake for him. When Hal does not respond, Virginia suddenly slashes his throat.

    Virginia next walks over to Ann, lying face down at the table, and lifts up her head. It is actually Virginia at the table wearing Ann's clothes. She awakens, looks up, and immediately struggles with her evil twin who says: " I did it all for you, sister!" Virginia eventually grabs the evil Virginia's face... tearing off a latex mask and reveals Ann standing there. Ann tells Virginia that she would drug her and dress up like her and kill people while disguised as Virginia. When Virginia asks Ann "why", Ann tells her that Virginia's mother was really Ann's father's mistress (which means that the two of them are really half sisters). Ann tells Virginia that Virginia's mother would not let Ann's father ever forget it. Virginia suddenly turns against Ann for killing all her friends and eventually stabs her. As Ann falls to the floor, she tells Virginia that that it doesn't matter if she didn't kill her for she had orchestrated this whole thing to frame Virginia for all the killings. Just as Ann dies, a police officer walks in as Virginia is standing there before Ann's dead body holding the bloody cake knife. "Dear God, what have you done?!" the policeman exclaims. Virginia drops the cake knife and realizes (way too late) that the insane and murderous Ann had indeed gotten her final revenge because it is strongly implied that Virginia will be arrested and get blamed for all the killings that Ann actually did... with no possibility now to prove her innocence.

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