Posted: 07/15/2011

 

Bloody Birthday

(1981)

by Jef Burnham



Now available on DVD from Severin Films and MPI Media.


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Three children are born at the height of a total solar eclipse. And with both the sun and the moon standing between Earth and Saturn, the children are necessarily born without consciences. Ten years later, in the build-up to their joint birthday party, the three go on a massive killing spree unhindered by adult interference. After all, who would ever suspect these adorable tykes of such a grisly string of murders?

Although a direct descendant of Village of the Damned, Bloody Birthday was released in the wake of Friday the 13th amid the hundreds of other slashers that came and went during the early 1980’s, taking wheelbarrows full of teenagers’ spending money with it. As slashers so thoroughly saturated the film market at the time, many such movies as Bloody Birthday have fallen into obscurity in the thirty intervening years since the peak of the slasher craze. And while Friday the 13th and its litany of sequels have seen re-release after re-release on home video, Bloody Birthday has not received a proper DVD release until now.

Severin Films, along with MPI, have dragged Bloody Birthday’s original film elements from the vault in order to give us an exceptional HD transfer of this highly underrated film. And although the sound may be wonky at times, undoubtedly through no fault of Severin Films, and the picture isn’t perfect, the quality is certainly a damn sight better than that of the VHS copy I had as a teenager!

Being a low-budget, quickly cobbled together slasher, you can imagine the plot is little more complicated than indicated above— just insert a shitload of murder and a couple characters to suspect the children in the build-up to a final showdown, and you’ve got Bloody Birthday. So I suppose all that’s left to comment upon is the talent. The film’s director, Ed Hunt, would later direct 1988’s The Brain, which was written by Bloody Birthday co-writer, Barry Pearson. And among the film’s younger cast is K.C. Martel, who went on to do E.T. and (one of my personal favorites) White Water Summer, as well as Billy Jayne, who would co-star in Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and Just One of the Guys. The film also features a pre-Earth Girls Are Easy Miss Julie Brown in a nude dance scene.

The special features for Bloody Birthday are surprisingly numerous and worthwhile. The highlight of these is the “Brief History of Slasher Films” featurette with Adam Rockoff, author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. Accompanied by clips from slasher movie trailers, Rockoff does an excellent job of condensing the history of the slasher film into 15 minutes without feeling too much like a rushed experience. Adding to the appeal of this featurette, Severin Films has given the piece an overall worn-out VHS aesthetic, which works well for a special feature but would be incredibly tacky in a film. Other features include “Don’t Eat That Cake,” an interview with Lori Lethin; a 50-minute audio-only interview with Ed Hunt; and 4 vintage horror trailers for films that have, or presumably will, come to DVD from Severin Films.

Now if only someone would give the same loving treatment to the Dennis Dimster-Denk’s 1992 killer kid flick, Mikey, we’d have ourselves a double feature!

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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