Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days of Fright: BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981) Wants to Know If Anybody Knows What the Word 'Murder' Means

Welcome to (Sorta) Slasher Friday here at ER's continuing 31 Days of Fright. Admittedly, BLOODY BIRTHDAY isn't really a slasher flick but given its early 80s pedigree, attempt to tap into the genre's always-popular "holiday" theme and Arlen Ober's FRIDAY THE 13th-tastic score I couldn't help but break out Severin's new DVD for a refresher course on this slice of killer kids trash.

There are times when I re-watch something I screened during the early days of ER when I can't believe I loved or hated a particular flick. In some cases – BURIAL GROUND, for instance – my feelings about the flick have gone from love to hate right back to deep, unwavering love over the course of two-plus decades of trash film appreciation.

BLOODY BIRTHDAY, however, is not such a flick. Whether I'm sitting in the Budco Millside in 1986 watching it on the big screen or catching up with it some 25 years later thanks to Severin's new DVD, my attitude towards it is pretty much the same – it's a highly recommended and fun time-waster that coulda been so much more.

Originally released in 1981, BIRTHDAY starts off like many a slasher flick that jammed theaters and drive-ins in the wake of HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH. An ominous "ten years ago" pre-credit sequence announces the birth of triplets during a complete solar eclipse and it isn't long before a couple of horny teens are strangled, bashed and buried alive in "present day" 1980.

Is there – as the townspeople and Sheriff Brody (Bert Kramer) believe – a psycho on the loose? Could it be little Timmy (K.C. Martel), who evaded questions from big sis Joyce (Lori Lethin) about his whereabouts the night Duke and Annie literally took a dirt nap?

Nope, it's exactly who you think it is – Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jacoby) and third wheel creep Steven (Andy Freeman). Turns out the solar eclipse caused the creepy trio to be born without consciences, so they think nothing of slaughtering everyone from family members and horny teens to pesky Timmy and nosey Joyce, the only "grown up" who seems capable of figuring out that the kids are behind the bucolic suburb's inexplicable and explosive homicide rate.

Co-written and directed by Ed Hunt, BLOODY BIRTHDAY has a ton going for it. It's paced like lightning, features a liberal sprinkling of lightweight gore, and is helped along admirably by gung-ho performances from devil face Debbie and pistol-packing Curtis, who gleefully stalks the streets at night like a tiny Son of Sam.

As an added bonus there's a healthy dose of top-notch nudity featuring a pre-MTV Julie Brown (EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY) who dances around nude for several minutes while her sister runs an amateur peep show ring from her bedroom closet. (Other familiar faces who pop up during the film's 85 minute running time include Jose Ferrer as the town doctor, Joe Penny as a teacher who may or may not have designs on boinking Joyce, and a bleach blonde Michael Dudikoff as Brown's mono-syllabic boy toy.)

On the other hand, if you like 'em so bad they're enjoyable BLOODY BIRTHDAY won't let you down in that department either. There are laughable lapses in logic, every adult is a trusting boob, the killer kids do everything but wear shirts that say "Murderer", and the two one person on the police force appears to be lethally incompetent. Unfortunately, for all the good will it builds with homicidal adolescents dressed like The Phantom from THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN trying to run down their babysitter, the flick's lackluster conclusion always leaves me disappointed.

Unsatisfying ending aside, Severin's new BLOODY BIRTHDAY disc gets my highest recommendation. The flick is the perfect time-waster for an evening of trash viewing and the sight of Debbie trying to strangle a classmate with her jump rope or Curtis blasting away at a cranky teacher never grows stale. Lori Lethin pops in for a good-natured interview featurette, director Hunt contributes an audio interview and I can't imagine any previous home video release of the flick has ever looked this good. – Dan Taylor

BLOODY BIRTHDAY is available from

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