Bloody Birthday

I got a peaceful greasy feeling
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1981
Director: 
Ed Hunt
Starring: 
Billy Jayne, Elizabeth Hoy, K.C. Martel, Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown
The Setup: 
Three killer kids kill and kill again. And again.
Discussion: 

A regular reader and pen pal wrote to tell me about this movie, saying that it's not great, but it's hard to go wrong when you're talking about killer kids. All of which turned out to be exactly true--although this movie flirts with making killer kids turn out wrong, or at least monotonous. But it does have a lot of good 70s flavor and stars Julie Brown--the "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" one, not the VJ, and also Susan Strasberg, daughter of Lee Strasberg of the Lee Strasberg acting academy, and glorious star of The Manitou. And it features an appearance by Jose Ferrer! And amazingly, I missed almost all of these people! I'll get back to you on who they were.

Okay, so it's Meadowvale, CA, June 9, 1970--and there's an eclipse! Then, ten years later, our story begins! We're still in Meadowvale, and there's these three kids, Debbie, who is a pretty young blonde girl, Steven, a blond boy [who is barely in the movie--I suspect because he can't act as well as the other two], and Curtis, a very nice-looking lad in these big round glasses. They call Debbie's dad out--then kill him! Then they set up the body to look like he just slipped. Mom [that's Susan!] shows all the skills she learned at the acting academy in her big funeral scene. I shouldn't make fun. It's got to be really hard to be an actor if your father was the head of an acclaimed acting school [and METHOD]. That's a lot of pressure. But theoretically Susan knew that when she took the job, so she deserves what she gets, if you ask me. Plus, she's in something called BLOODY BIRTHDAY.

Now previously we've introduced nice neighbor kids Timmy, a nice kid, not a killer kid, and his older sister Joyce. Is SHE Julie Brown? I don't know. Joyce occasionally babysits the evil kids, and on those occasions occasionally gets a gun pointed at her head while she sits oblivious on her headphones, but thus far her brains have remaind tucked neatly inside her skull. Anyway, she begins to suspect foul play when the evil kids lock Timmy in a fridge in the local junkyard. At least they SAY it's a fridge, it really looks like a big cabinet [i.e. not airtight], but I won't quibble. Plucky Timmy escapes.

Then Curtis goes and kills a teacher that annoyed them! Then the local police--who are not portrayed as too bright--believe there's a "psycho" loose in town. This does not seem to motivate them to do anything about it. In fact, adults of any kind seem to be very sparse around the area, although they do seem to have their share of randy teens--two of whom meet their end while having sex in a van. Boy, these killer kids really keep active!

SPOILERS > > >
These aren't really spoilers, since the overall thing is so dumb, but whatever. You know how things get. Now there's a big birthday sequence in which Curtis seems to poison the birthday cake--and they have three MASSIVE cakes--and you're seeing all these kids and adults eating the cake and you're sitting there like "Wait, are they REALLY going to poison all these people?" Because you would have to respect that. But no, Curtis was just faking Joyce out [she saw him with the poison and freaked].

So Debbie has an older sister in Beverly [THAT is Julie Brown], who has a Debbie Harry and Erik Estrada poster on her wall [two separate posters, not together], and also has interest in astrology. She says that the three kids were born during the eclipse, and thus had no influence of Saturn, and thus have no feelings or remorse. It's just scientific fact. Please don't think too hard about how three kids in the same neighborhood were born during the hour, tops, of the eclipse, yet apparently no one else, around the world, born during that time is having too many problems. Or maybe we just haven't heard about them yet? You could make sequels to this thing til doomsday. Anyway, the evil kids use a hole in the closet to spy on Beverly and her boyfriend, and Debbie sights how she could shoot an arrow through the hole. It's all in a holding pattern until Beverly finds Debbie's scrapbook of the kids' murders, including their own dad, and shows it to Mom, who then has what we'll politely term a "stressful moment" in the bathroom. While she's locked away worried about herself, her older daughter is getting an arrow right in the eye, and being discreetly dumped out on the street. After the funeral, mom continues her breakdown and is finally sent to the mental hospital.

So then Debbie goes over and asks Joyce if she can babysit them all tonight. Joyce is just as happy as a clam to do so--despite the REPEATED ATTEMPTS ON HER LIFE and her general suspicion of these kids. I never said it was Ibsen. She goes over and... supposedly Debbie's dad has installed this super-security system with bulletproof glass and doors that bolt, and supposedly the kids are smart enough to hot-wire the thing, locking Joyce and Timmy inside. Curtis then takes his dad's gun and tries to off Joyce, and it's a long shootout before she ties the two boys and gets the police.

Now comes one of the few little surprising touches, so you may want to skip out of the spoilers if you don't want to know. Debbie's mom shows up in a nick of time and spirits the poor girl away. After the climax, we see that Mom and Debbie have gone on the lam and Mom is making sure Debbie knows her assumed name. Debbie says she promises to be a good girl fom now on, and then the camera pans around and we see the guy she little Debbie has just crushed under the axle of a truck! She'll just turn out to be a spoiled brat if you indulge her like that!
< < < SPOILERS END

You know how by the time you get to the end of a bag of potato chips you're feeling sick and greasy? That's what this movie is like. It's too much of a good thing. Killer kids are always fun, but these kids do nothing BUT kill. Nor does the movie develop anything else. It's just a series of the kids doing evil thing after evil thing after evil thing, and eventually that's just boring. Especially as there's no reason given, aside from the astrology thing, and no other story whatsoever develops.

Now I have a friend who is a cop and he recently remarked that he gets turned off that a series of murders continue in a movie long after the police would have intervened, causing me to say "Dude, it's Motel Hell, Okay? Right?" But here that kind of becomes an issue--so these kids are running around willy-nilly leaving a stack of corpses piling up all over town in just the space of a few days and NO ONE has ANY clue? NO ONE cares to investigate? I know--it's Bloody Birthday, dude, but what I'm saying is it becomes so egregious [and there's so little else going on in the film to distract] that it becomes an issue.

Other than that, well, killer kids are fun, but there's so little else here it becomes a bit of a bust. This one has 70s appeal for sure, but if you want nasty killer kids I might direct you toward the undervalued Orphan, or the floridly strange and delightful Devil Times Five. This won't kill you, though.

Should you watch it: 

Eh, if you really, REALLY love killer kids movies.