Bloody Birthday (1981)

Bloody Birthday (1981)

Director: Ed Hunt

Tagline: “The nightmare begins with the kids next door.”

Choice IMDB keywords: Sororicide, red panties, peep hole, child uses gun

Plot: Opening on a fateful day in June 1970, Bloody Birthday begins with the birth of three children, which might be a blessed occasion except that all three are born during a total eclipse of the sun. This, as it turns out, has consequences… deadly consequences. The film then flashes forward a decade to join a cemetery make-out session in progress. Wanting more privacy, the couple moves to an open grave. Bad idea: The male of the pair gets beaten with a shovel shortly before a jump-rope becomes an improvised garrote to strangle his girlfriend.

Who could be behind these deadly crimes? Could it be a trio of evil kids born during an eclipse? Bloody Birthday doesn’t wait long before revealing, yes, that’s exactly who’s behind that graveyard slaying. And they aren’t done yet. Sweet little Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), bespectacled Curtis (Billy Jacoby), and tiny, blonde Steven (Andy Freeman), don’t look like killers, but boy, do they spend a lot of time killing. That isn’t Debbie’s only passion, however. She also loves making money by charging local boys money to watch her sister Beverly (future MTV fixture Julie Brown) undress, a process that involves performing an elaborate striptease, complete with a feather boa.

But this nudity break turns out to be just a brief respite in the kids’ kill-crazy spree. Much of the film involves them blazing a path of terror through Meadowvale, California, a town unusually rich in items that can easily be turned into improvised weaponry. Meadowvale also seems to encourage kids to hang out in junkyards filled with discarded refrigerators and other death traps. Can our hero Joyce (Lori Lethin), a nice girl with a passion for astrology, who eventually figures out that there’s something not quite right about the Eclipse-Kids Gang, stop their killing ways?

Key scenes: Not easily. Joyce’s first hint that something isn’t right comes when her little brother Timmy (K.C. Martel) tells her he’s just escaped from being locked in a refrigerator by Curtis. Easily the most enthusiastic of the Eclipse Kids, Curtis likes to tote a “replica” gun, which (spoiler) isn’t a replica at all. A teacher played by the overqualified Susan Strasberg learns this the hard way when he wraps his coat around the muzzle and executes her, Godfather Part II-style. 

But Debbie is enthusiastic, too. Using the striptease peephole to spy on Beverly and her boyfriend, Debbie points an arrow at the couple as they make out under posters of Blondie and Erik Estrada. This, it turns out, is foreshadowing. Later, she uses a bow and arrow to terrorize Beverly—and later, Joyce and Timmy—from the same spot. None of them has the good sense to move away from the peephole to avoid becoming a target.

So why don’t people listen to Joyce before the bodies pile up? The fault again belongs to Curtis, who turns the town against her by tricking her into accusing him of poisoning a birthday cake with ant poison. And really, what’s more likely: That an innocent, gun-toting kid would try to poison a birthday party, or that one of those no-good teenagers would go around making crazy accusations, what with their oversized headphones and their new-wave music?

Can easily be distinguished by: Sure, lots of horror films have ripped off the scores to Psycho and Jaws. But how many ripped off both in the same movie? Kudos to you, composer Arlon Ober.

Sign that it was made in 1981: Beverly on her father, the sheriff: “One murder in 20 years, and he thinks he’s Kojak.” Later, Debbie discovers that posters advertising Roger Daltrey’s Ride A Rock Horse and Van Halen’s Women And Children First cannot protect her from bullets.

Timeless message: Kids: They’re the worst.

Memorable quotes: Debbie to an attractive young teacher: “Do you know the United States has a horoscope just like people? Every 20 years, there’s a conjunction of planets that’s really bad. And every president that’s been elected during that conjunction has died in office.” His reply: “I would definitely include that in your article.”

Available on DVD from Severin.


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