Monday, December 5, 2011

Bloody Birthday (1981, DVD Review)

Director: Ed Hunt
Cast: Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Susan Strasberg
Severin Films / NTSC Region Free / Rated R / 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Mono / 85 minutes / BUY FROM TLACULT
Extras: Audio interview with director Ed Hunt / Interview with Lori Lethin / Featurette: A Brief History of Slasher Films
At the exact second of a total solar eclipse three children are born; Curtis, Steven and Debbie. According to astrology, during the eclipse the moon was blocking Saturn, the planet that supposedly controls emotion, from the Earth. Therefore these three kids were born completely devoid of a conscience. Now ten years later the three elementary school rugrats have suddenly turned into sadistic, bloodthirsty, homicidal killers. The trio of terrible tykes opportunistically pick off random people in the neighborhood but can’t seem to seal the deal with Timmy and his protective big sister Joyce. As the body count rises, Joyce begins noticing that the ringleader Curtis is acting strangely but when she calls him out, no one believes her. Can Timmy and Joyce stay alive long enough to convince someone or will they feel the wrath of the psychotic astrological siblings?
The horror website is quoted on the cover of Bloody Birthday as saying “There is no doubt that this movie could not be made today”. I wholeheartedly agree with that summation. It’s a movie about ultra-violent children gleefully beating, shooting and strangling people, all with a hard “R” rating. While there isn’t a lot of guts and grue, they don’t skimp on the brutal violence and nudity. You barely get 4 minutes in before you see the first boob. And it’s not just sex and nudity exclusive of the kids; Debbie makes Steven and Curtis pay her to peep at her older sister (played by a young, hot and perky Julie Brown) strip nude in her bedroom, and she also watches as big sis makes out with a boy. Perverted little Curtis climbs up on the front of a van that’s parked on the side of the road and watches a young couple have sex before blasting them with a stolen handgun. These kids make the original “Bad Seed” Rhoda Penmark look like Pollyanna.
Written and direction by Ed Hunt, Bloody Birthday is a wonderful time capsule of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The teased up, permed hair, the clothes and giant headphones take me back to the days of watching Marilyn McCoo on the TV show Solid Gold. But Hunt doesn’t play anything on screen for a laugh. The kids are cute but sinister and have nothing but bad intentions, seemingly for no reason other than that they were born that way. This “killer kid” slasher-type movie is a nearly forgotten classic for sure, but Severin Films has saved it from obscurity by giving it the high definition treatment from the “original vault elements”. The picture looks fantastic with only one flaw that an amateur like me could spot; at about the 58:30 mark the color suddenly becomes saturated in a film where they are pretty muted throughout. The sound is also a dull mono soundtrack that maybe could have used a little dressing up but the dialogue is clear enough to not be annoying.
Pick up Bloody Birthday from Severin Film this June 28!

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