My mom used to say that when you’re born, you’re a clean slate; you don’t know up from down, hot from cold, or right from wrong. That last one is especially important, because you can teach a kid anything you want when they’re young enough and they’ll probably take it as gospel. According to Jean Piaget, a famous developmental psychologist, children follow the morality of their family, teachers and friends before the age of ten. Once they’re a decade old, they develop their conscience and begin forming their own opinions and making their own decisions. It’s also at this age when a couple of kids – who were all born during an eclipse – go on a killing spree in Ed Hunt’s ridiculously fun Bloody Birthday.
The solar anomaly causes those who are born during it to be emotionless and without a conscience and Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jacoby) and Steven (Andy Freeman) decide that their birthday week celebration is a good enough reason as any to start murdering… well, pretty much anyone. Two teens making out in an open grave? Iced with a shovel and jump rope. Sheriff Brody (Jaws reference!)? Head beaten in with a baseball bat. Debbie’s older sister, played by Julie Brown (no, not the MTV VJ, the other one), who likes to prance around naked in her bedroom at least once every act? Shot with an arrow through a peephole.
The most amazing deaths in the film come at the hands of Curtis, who – despite being ten – handles a gun better than most adults I know and is an electronics genius. Not only that but, with help from Steven, he successfully maneuvers a car through a junk yard like a world-class stunt driver while trying to run Joyce (Lori Lethin) down – never mind how they even managed to get a broken down car to work. See, her and her brother Timmy are the only people in the whole town who see through the birthday buddies’ façade. Everyone else in the town is either completely stupid and oblivious or the kids have extremely impressive (and unmentioned) mind control powers because I don’t know how else to explain the fact that Curtis brings a real gun to school and the teachers think it’s a toy. Different times, I suppose.
Bloody Birthday could have only been made in the 80s. It has an incredible amount of violence, tons of gratuitous nudity and it just flat-out makes no sense for most of its runtime – so much so that the guys who wrote JJ Abrams’ Star Trek would self-combust from confusion. Interestingly enough, these two films work on the same level: they’re full of plot holes and “huh?” moments, but are extremely fun. The kids are convincing deviants and pretty damn crafty, the kills are fun and the dialogue has more than a few gems (“All her brains are in her bra” comes to mind), which makes it an enjoyable, head-scratching time in my book.
Don’t Eat That Cake! (9:51) – Bloody Birthday star Lori Lethin reminisces about her work on the film and several other low-budget quickies, like The Prey. She remembers Ed Hunt’s killer kid tale fondly and shares a few stories from the set and such.
A Brief History of Slasher Films (15:12) – This featurette is a condensed version of Adam Rockoff’s Going To Pieces, which delves into exactly what its title suggests. It’s not anything you haven’t heard before, but Rockoff is well spoken and keeps things entertaining.
Audio Interview with Director Ed Hunt (51:13) – An extremely long audio-only interview with Ed Hunt that is a good listen for aspiring low-budget directors. He goes over most – if not all – of his filmography, discussing his tricks and techniques, but spends very little time on Bloody Birthday. It’s kind of a snoozefest for everyone else and it certainly doesn’t help that there’s a single still used for the entire interview rather than a slideshow.
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