Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bloody Birthday (1981)

Some movies could never be made today.  Song of the South is a solid example and so is Bloody Birthday, the pitch for which would be "Okay, these three autistic kids run around and murder everybody in this tow—" And you'd never get to finish because the movie executives would have security toss you out.

Astrology, the science of the stars, tells us that children who are born during an eclipse will be born without compassion or empathy, looking at other humans as mere pieces of furniture or like silverware.  Hence, these are the three lunatic killers in our horror movie.

I know, I was pretty skeptical, too.  But 2/3 of the trio are very effective.  Grownup scream queens could learn a lot from Elizabeth Hoy as blonde girl maniac Debbie Brody.  She shifts from angelically sweet to a convincing monster-face on a dime.  Andrew Freeman as killer nerd Steven Seton is also quite effective, like an young and evil alternate-universe Egon Spengler.  Who loves peepholes.

I'm assuming the blonde boy actor was actually born during an eclipse because he lacks the charisma of the other two.  Anyway, even though this is called Bloody Birthday, the kills are not really that bloody.  Having kids kill with guns and arrows and such is more realistic, but not as spectacular as some of your more prominent 1980s horror deaths.

The most disturbing thing in the movie is this clown with an I CAN'T SAY NO shirt.  Why would God let this happen?

A lot of Birthday plays out as you'd expect, with adults dying in assorted ways and surviving adults never suspecting the kids.  Some of it lets you know the creators were trying, though.  You can see the ambition in the framing of the shots and in the way a character is named "Sheriff Brody".

I really dug a lot of the kill scenes, since the movie takes great pains to rarely show the kids directly killing.  All the shots are stitched together, like A) kid picks up knife, B) victim recoils in fear, C) kid raises knife and looks mighty pleased, and D) victim dies.  No actual interaction, probably to spare our baby killers, but the deliberate workarounds become interesting in themselves after a while.  And allow editing to take its well-deserved spotlight.

This isn't a classic and I'd be loathe to rate it above April Fool's Day or something, but it's generally a fun outing. Maybe because it's such an early entry, it seems to really pump the transgressive potential out of the killer-kid thing.  And two of the juvenile cutthroats are just endlessly entertaining.  Unless you're just dead-set against killer kids or proto-slashers, you should find something to enjoy in this!  PS I would like a T-shirt with the shot below, thx.


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