When it comes to slasher films one of the more popular hooks is to attach your carnage around a particular day on the calendar, Halloween, Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine to name but a few, yet there are only so many specific dates to choose from – I’m still waiting for a horror movie based on International Talk Like a Pirate Day – so with Bloody Birthday we don’t so much as get a slasher film based on a particular calendar date but one that is of more generic quality.
If horror films get one thing right it’s that kids can be downright creepy, if they’re not the actual Anti-Christ there’s still a good chance that they’ll either be spraying you with pea soup or murdering you in your sleep, but with Bloody Birthday we get a cross between the Bad Seed and Village of the Damned, which to be fair is an interesting combo. The plot of this film, if one can consider what follows to be a plot, deals with three children who are born during a solar eclipse, two boys and a girl, Curtis Taylor (Billy Jayne), Steven Seton (Andy Freeman) and Debbie Brody (Elizabeth Hoy), and as they approach their tenth birthday they decide to go on a killing spree, for reasons unknown and never truly revealed. It should be noted that this story takes place before the outcry that video game violence destroying the minds of kids “Won’t someone think of the children!” and so with this outing, we get some phony-baloney astrology explanation for why these kids are sociopathic monsters.
This film has two protagonists in the form of teenage Joyce Russell (Lori Lethin) and her ten-year-old brother Timmy (K.C. Martel), who find themselves targeted by the terrible tri in question, that they survive multiple attempts on their lives speaks more towards the ineptness of the three little monsters than does on how good Joyce and her brother are at staying alive. Despite these two escaping death numerous times Bloody Birthday does have a good-sized body count; starting with two young lovers killed while having sex in an open grave, the brutal bludgeoning of town Sheriff James Brody (Bert Kramer), who also happens to be Debbi’s dad, the shooting of schoolteacher Viola Davis (Susan Strasberg) and a pair of teens interrupted while making out in the back of their van. What is surprising, if anything in this film can be considered surprising, is that with the death toll mounting Joyce and Timmy’s parents are completely M.I.A. as they are having some kind of “no kids allowed” vacation, yet they don’t seem all concerned that their two children are living alone in what has become the murder capital of Middle America.
• People making out in cemeteries is something I’ll never understand, I guess the thrill of possibly getting caught adds to the moment, but in this film they have sex in an open grave and that’s just wrong.
• I doubt it’s police procedure to visit a public school and bluntly ask “Does anyone know what murder is?” and then proceed to interrogate a classroom full of ten-year-olds about a recent double homicide.
• Debbie has a peephole in her closet so that she can charge admission to her friends so that they can watch her older sister dance around naked, it’s nice to see young entrepreneurs in action.
• The killer kids are pretty adaptive, when the Sheriff avoids stepping on a skateboard planted on the back steps they immediately move into plan “B” and beat him to death with a baseball bat.
• Does this town not have a coroner? The kids claim that the Sheriff fell on those steps but the injuries sustained from a fall are very different than that of multiple contusions received from a beating via a baseball bat.
• Curtis wraps his jacket around the gun when he shoots Miss Davis to muffle the sound of the gunshot, now I’m no firearms expert but I don’t think a thin piece of material is going to hide the sound of a .35 revolver going off.
• Apparently, the cops of Meadowvale don’t believe in investigating because this trio of killers leaves behind mounds of physical evidence that wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to discover.
Aside from a throwaway scene of Joyce giving her brother an astrology lesson, mentioning such tidbits as Saturn being eclipsed during the birth of a child could result in them being born without empathy, we get no real motivations for what turned these kids into serial killers, nor why they waited for their tenth birth before beginning their bloody rampage. We get legendary actor José Ferrer as the doctor, the one who performed the three deliveries during the solar eclipse, but there’s no moment in the script where he reveals some dark mystery concerning their births that would explain this kiddie killing spree.
The murders themselves have been depicted in a fairly tame way and the only reason this film got an “R” rating was for the glorious amounts of gratuitous nudity liberally sprinkled throughout, the aforementioned peephole providing a fair amount of that, but aside from the standard “teens having sex” trope, this could be aired on late-night cable with very little editing required. Basically, as 80s slasher films go this one doesn’t really have much to make it stand out from its contemporaries, other than the killers being children, and with a pair of clueless protagonists and a town that should not only dread sundown but every other time of the day, this is a pretty forgettable example of the genre.
Note: The film does have your standard “open ending” to allow for a possible sequel but Bloody Birthday was a box office disappointment and this threat never came to pass.
Bloody Birthday (1981)
Movie Rank - 5.5/10
If snotty little shits running around offing a bunch of random characters seems attractive to you then by all means check out Bloody Birthday, otherwise, steer clear of this tepid entry in the slasher genre.