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Bloody Birthday (1981)

Directed by Ed Hunt
VCI DVD

THE FILM
A perfect Saturday afternoon film. Grab a nice drink. Sit with a snack of some kind and enjoy the always-fun, rather perverse charms of Bloody Birthday.

The film features three killer kids. They were born at the exact same time during an eclipse. The conjunction of the stars means that they have no conscience. (But, having Jose Ferrer be the first person they saw when they left the womb may have contributed.) And so, as their 10th birthday approaches, they join forces and begin killing everyone in their town. They start with couples fooling around and then move up to folks who may discover what they’ve been doing. We’ve got a lot of killing, a decent, if strange, pace, some goodtime nudity, violence and Lori Lethin. It’s nothing to start a new religion over but it’s fun.

If Caitlin O’Heaney is my favorite Slasher Gal, Lesleh Donaldson and Lori Lethin would be right behind. Ms. Lethin does a great job in this film. She’s charming in what is a variation on the Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween role but without any of the “innocent gal” oddness. She’s just a regular young woman. Going to college, student teaching and taking care of her brother while their parents are away. She’s smart, reliable and quick on her feet. All of these things come in handy when three crazy kids are trying to kill you.

I think the way this film is laid out always grabbed me. It doesn’t drive towards the ending. It stops and starts. It seems like it’s going to peak during the birthday scene and some misadventures with Ant Poison…but it doesn’t. It goes on for another 20-or-so minutes. The killings happen sort of randomly. Whenever it seems time for the kids to kill someone, they do. The ending happens because Lori & her brother happen to stop the kids, not because it’s a big dramatic moment. It’s all very lackadaisical but always interesting. Something is always happening. It feels like several After School Episodes with different themes (Bullying Children, Awakening Sexuality, Missing Parents, Dealing with the Death of a Loved One) got in a pile up on the 101 and came away in one big Frankenstein-style mess.

Julie Brown is in this movie. She recently wrote the song “Camp Rock”. I’ve always liked her. She’s nude in this movie. I refuse to argue with that. She plays the sister of the crazy killer girl. The girl charges the two evil boys (and the one nice boy) 25 cents to watch through a hole in the closet as JB strips. Hey! When I was 10, I would have paid a quarter. I wouldn’t have quite known what to do with the feeling I was having but I would have had a good time. Apparently, the one kid who watches JB strip and then goes out and kills the two canoodling couples knows what to do with his feelings: murder.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
I’m watching the VCI DVD. Letterboxed, the film looks like a Theatrical After School Special. Audio…I’ve no idea. Sounds fine. The loud, made-for-TV-esque score sounded great.

EXTRAS
A few VCI trailers. A scrolling biography of Ed Hunt. A 15-20 minute interview with producer Max Rosenberg. He co-produced the mid-60s Dr. Who & The Daleks films with Peter Cushing. Cool fun. Max is a good talker. He says some nasty stuff about Ed Hunt. It’s worth a watch.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I think it’s the straightforwardness of this film that I like. It sets up the premise very quickly. It does its thing for 85 minutes and then it’s gone. If you can’t have weirdness and insanity, pure craftsmanship (of a sort) can be a joy. I’ve watched this film half-a-dozen times. I’ll watch it half-a-dozen more.