directed by Ed Hunt
starring Julie Brown, Lori Lethin
Killer kids movies. Can it even be called a sub-genre? It’s more like a occurrence. The scarcity of these films probably lends a great deal to their popularity. The gimmick is razor thin to begin with and once you start thinking about it, a ten year old just isn’t that hard to choke slam so they become much less threatening.
Bloody Birthday is one of the more notorious killer kid movies which rises above a rash of similar fare in the beginning of the 1980s. Bloody Birthday, The Godsend and The Children all featured terrible tykes but are all about as different as three movies with the same hook can be. The Children is a Troma film about a group of school kids which have toxic touch. The Godsend is an arty Aussie horror that borrows freely from The Omen and The Bad Seed. Bloody Birthday is the unholy mash-up of John Carpenter’s Halloween and a Steven Spielberg suburban fantasy made more memorable, and more raisable, by having it’s trio of tiny terrors actually stalking, attacking, and murdering grown adults
A trio of children are all born during an especially rare solar eclipse where the moon blocked the sun and Saturn, as the trio near their 10th birthdays they begin to murder the citizen’s of their small California town. The most unnerving aspect of the film is the three young children committing vicious on screen murders. They use guns, baseball bats, jump rope strangulation, and most iconically a bow and arrow.
The film features standard slasher film voyeurism which is made creepier since it is three children just shy of their tenth birthdays spying on naked women, including an extended sequence where Julie Brown is watched by the killer kids through a hole in the wall stripping and dancing nude in front of her bedroom mirror. “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” Julie Brown, not Downtown Julie Brown. The copious nudity certainly checks the exploitation do list but the film features minimal gore and honestly has the look and feel of a 1970s made for TV horror film. It wouldn’t shock me at all if people remember Bloody Birthday as a TV movie.
Some nice nostalgia touches such as one of the kids carrying a Close Encounters of the Third Kind lunchbox, giant yellow headphones, blow-dry hair dos, and the traumatic children’s fashion from a time kids clothes were not just scaled down adult fashions. There is also some eye rolling homagey stuff like the sherrif being named Brody. It is obvious Ed Hunt is trying to evoke the feel of John Carpenter’s Halloween down to shooting in Pasadena, where Carpenter shot his horror touchstone. The film features early performances from Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja), Julie Brown, and Joe Penny (Jake and the Fatman) as well as bit parts from Oscar winner Jose Ferrer and Tony award winning actress Susan Strasberg both of whom should have known better.
The presentation of Bloody Birthday isn’t horrible, but it is far from the eye popping standards of some of the recent horror restorations of late. The daytime scene look clean, and again very TV like, but the night scenes are rough with a heavy fog of grain and an off putting color palette. It looks pretty obvious that some of the night shoots, which also include the film’s sex scenes, were not shot along with the rest of the picture as they look so much worst in terms of film stock and lighting.
Arrow Video has packed this release with extras including two audio commentaries. A moderated commentary from writer/director Ed Hunt and another from podcast team “The Hysteria Continues”. This commentary takes a bit to get rolling and for the uninitiated to get the hang of the podcaster’s dynamic. Once they get past the iffy start they provide a fun and informative track. Bad Seeds and Body Counts a 20 minute discussion on killer kid movies and Bloody Birthday with film critic and former Fangoria editor in chief Chris Alexander who likens the film to Our Gang shorts taken one step darker than the questionable antics of Spanky and Alfalfa. He also expresses his distaste for the riffing antics of MST3K. Bloody Babysitter is a pleasant chat with Lori Lethin who recalls fond memories of her kid co-stars and camaraderie with Julie Brown. Â Starships and Killer Brains features a discussion of 1970s Canadian film making and his collaborations with director Ed Hunt. He is refreshingly honest in his assessment of the films he worked on.