“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Bloody Birthday

tn_bloodybirthdayslashersearch13Here’s a crazy movie. It’s pretty unique but it has many of the standard elements of a slasher movie. It takes place in the world of young people, with adults not really catching on to what’s happening. At the beginning a teen couple are making out in a cemetery and get murdered. At another point a couple we’ve never seen before are having sex in a parked van and get murdered. There is a Final Girl (and Final Little Brother) and like in HALLOWEEN she’s a buttoned up, responsible babysitter with a wilder best friend whose dad is the sheriff.

But there’s not some unseen slasher, or masked maniac, or supernatural force. There’s just three little ten year old kids who are total assholes and love to murder people. They are not quiet, creepy killers like VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, CHILDREN OF THE CORN or young Michael Myers. They’re seemingly normal kids. The only explanation given is that they were born on the same day, during an eclipse. The Final Girl Joyce (Lori Lethin from RETURN TO HORROR HIGH) studies astrology throughout the movie, so you assume it has something to do with that. They were just destined to go on a murder spree. And to rack up pretty impressive numbers.

mp_bloodybirthdayCQuality-wise this is on the lower end of slasher movie competence, but not the lowest. Better than most regional horror movies, worse than an actual good one. It has alot of unintentionally funny weirdness starting right near the beginning when Sherriff Brody (Bert Kramer – a relative of JAWS’s Chief Brody?) gives an accusatory speech to his own daughter’s grade school class to try to get them to give up information about a murder just because a jump rope handle was found at the scene.

Shortly after that his youngest daughter Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy) is charging the neighborhood boys 35 cents to watch her older sister Beverly (Julie “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” Brown) dance naked in her room through a peephole.

Debbie kind of seems like the leader of the three killers. She keeps a scrapbook of newspaper articles about all their crimes. Her specialties are strangling with a jumprope and playing innocent whenever a witness appears. But maybe the leader is Curtis (Billy Jacoby, now known as Billy Jayne). He steals his dad’s handgun, which is why they’re able to get away with this for a while without some adult just grabbing them by the pants and carrying them home to their inattentive parents. Sometimes he just goes out by himself and stalks people, at one point killing a couple in a parked van like he’s Son of Son of Sam. He also knows about electronics, so I’m surprised he never electrocutes anybody. He just disables burglar alarms I think.

still_bloodybirthdayThe leader is definitely not Steven (Andy Freeman, BEYOND WITCH MOUNTAIN). That dumb looking blond kid barely contributes anything to the murders. He uses a butcher knife to cut the phone line at one point, that’s about it. If he didn’t have the same birthday there’s no way Debbie and Curtis would let him hang out. He’s basically a grunt, I guess they just need him to help carry the bodies away. Go back to your little league friends, Steven.

The only people who might be able to stop this reign of elementary terror are Beverly and Timmy, because they survive separate junkyard attacks. First there’s a game of hide-and-seek where Curtis peer pressures Timmy into hiding in an old refrigerator

http://youtu.be/yuwp7x_IiZ4 http://youtu.be/Z0zADLtENyo

then locks him in, struts off and high fives Steven. He’s trapped in there as it gets dark and keeps cutting to his sister doing normal things, not knowing anything is wrong. It’s not particularly well done but just the idea of it is genuinely scary. What would you do? Even if somebody came to that junkyard would they hear you knocking on it and figure out you were in there?

But he escapes (weirdly just as the PSYCHO type scary music strikes up) and next they trick Beverly into coming to the junkyard thinking Timmy will be there, but actually they just want to run her over in an old car. The driver wears a TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN style pillowcase mask while another kid is on the floor pushing the pedals down by hand. There are some pretty good car stunts in this scene.

Our heroes escape, but nobody else does. Acting guru Lee Strasberg’s daughter Susan is the art teacher who gets shot, her name is Viola Davis. I guess the luckiest person in the movie is Michael Dudikoff. We see him through the peephole, smoking pot and making out with Julie Brown in front of Blondie and Erik Estrada posters, but he leaves the scene before any murder attempts.

still_bloodybirthday2

Things get bad. This is only my opinion, but after Joyce’s best friend was murdered, and she’d already found the dead body of Timmy’s teacher that she worked with, plus her friend’s dad had died, and two kids at her school had just been murdered, plus two other kids were shot dead nearby in a parked van, plus Timmy had been locked in a refrigerator and somebody had lured Joyce to the junkyard to try to run her over with a car, maybe it’s fair to say that her parents are dicks for not cutting their vacation short. It just seems like it would be the right thing to do at that point.

stills_bloodybirthdayIt’s not a very gory or good movie, but there’s something very enjoyable about the wrongness of these little bastards going around fucking shit up. They’re so easy to hate. Stupid killer kids. Unfortunately they don’t exactly get what’s coming to them at the end (or even a spanking), but there are a couple great comeuppance moments that happen during the climax when the terrible trio are chasing Joyce and Timmy around a house. Our poor hero siblings have bullets coming at ’em through walls, arrows shot through the peephole, Steven is trying to stab them, but you know what? That kid’s a little weiner so they just dump fish bowl water on his head, grab him and lock him in a trunk. They shoulda put him in the attic like a box of old coats.

Then Curtis corners them with a gun, and he has this smug look of superiority on his little asshole face until the ol’ click click I’m out of bullets happens. Even though he’s way taller than little Timmy he’s a nerd, so Timmy easily tackles him, punches him in the gut a bunch of times, rolls him over and hog ties him. Check out the sequence of stills to the right to get an idea. It’s some funny shit.

By the way, it wasn’t important enough to get a screengrab, but in at least one scene Timmy is wearing that shirt you see him wearing to the right, except he’s wearing it with white pants. I couldn’t help but think he looked like Speed Racer.

One weird casting note: the kids who play Debbie and Curtis are the same kids in the weird cake related flashback scene in HOSPITAL MASSACRE (recently released on a Scream Factory double feature blu-ray under the title X-RAY).

If you could somehow make this movie but with a masked killer doing the murders instead of the kids it would seem generic and shoddy, but just having such unconventional bad guys makes the whole movie novel and fun. The zodiac thing is a slim excuse for such sadistic little kids, and that makes it even better.

Because it’s such an odd subject matter I guess they had a hard time figuring out how to sell it. Yes, there is a birthday party in the movie but it’s actually one of the few times when nobody is killed (they just use it to trick Joyce into getting upset over nothing so the other people in the town will think she’s crazy). Of course, that didn’t stop them from putting “birthday” in the title or from having the above birthday cake themed poster.

Let’s discuss the accuracy of the various posters. Of course a cake with severed fingers on it never literally happens in the movie. But I think it’s easy to guess that that one’s not meant as a literal depiction of what happens in the movie. It’s more like that poster for CHOPPING MALL with the severed robot (or monster?) hand holding the shopping bag with the rip in it and a guy’s eyes peering out.

The cover for the DVD is a great one, a painted poster that kinda reminds me of the classic NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET ones by Matthew Peak. But look at this, what is the most prominent image of this poster? What does your eye automatically go to?

mp_bloodybirthday

For me it’s that woman with the light beams coming out of her eyes. What does that mean? Is she a psychic? Is she hypnotic? What are her powers? I don’t know, she’s not somebody that’s in the movie.

Here’s another one that’s pretty cool, very ’80s:

mp_bloodybirthdayB

Again, this is not something that happens in the movie. Nobody gets birthday candles put into them. The other thing is that that woman is not in the movie. And the other other thing is that none of those four kids are in the movie either. Not pictured: the entire cast.

This is kinda cool, this is the only one with people who are actually in the movie:

mp_bloodybirthdayD

This is a dumb movie that I enjoyed very much. Special thanks to AlfonseG for recommending it to me.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 2:21 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “Bloody Birthday”

  1. Here in France they added a lunar eclipse to the birthday cake on the VHS cover, and called it LES TUEURS DE L’ECLIPSE (The Eclipse Killers): http://www.amazon.fr/Les-Tueurs-de-LEclipse/dp/B008WG7XR2/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1381930133&sr=1-1&keywords=les+tueurs+de+l%27eclipse

  2. This sounds like an inferior version of PEOPLETOYS (aka DEVIL TIMES FIVE). Have you seen that movie, Vern? You get the bonus of five psychotic asshole kids instead of three. Plus one male kid says “What have you done to my beautiful face!” when he’s chucked off a ladder.

  3. A movie like this couldn’T be done these days. The studios would be like: “Why are those kids evil? Make them abused by their parents or shoot a scene where they play these Great Automobile Thievery video games.”

  4. Thanks for the review.

    That last poster is Danish and the title translates as “Little Shrewd Killers”.

    The Danish title makes it sound like something an old man would shout at someone while waving his fist.

    Why you little shrewd killers! I oughta …

  5. I saw this one fairly recently. I liked the dynamic of the evil kids, the way they were more awful little shits than eerie forces of evil. I wish I could say that was what I remembered most clearly about the movie, but I’d be lying. I really remember Julie Brown’s nude scene. I don’t want to infringe on Griff’s territory here, but that girl was truly blessed.

  6. The Original... Paul

    October 16th, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I also saw this one fairly recently, and I pretty much agree with Majestyk and Vern here. That said, I couldn’t really recommend it. I said in another thread that I generally prefer movies with good concepts executed badly to those where the concept is generic but the execution is good, but honestly the execution here was bad enough that it seriously put me off. I liked the evil kids concept too.

    What really stuck in my mind about this movie was how bad the pacing and cinematography was. Regarding the latter, they were obviously going for a more “natural” feel to the movie. But it doesn’t really work. The whole town in which the movie takes place never felt alive for me. It was almost as though we were watching a movie set instead of the movie itself. And as for the pacing, there are way too many really long scenes where not much happens and you end up thinking: “Wait, what was the point of that?” Neither character nor story is added to, and as a result the tension is lost.

  7. Paul: You’re referring to a little something called “filler,” and unless you develop a taste for it, most cheap movies from prior to at least the mid-eighties will be unwatchable to you. B-movies used to be full of it. All you really needed to make money was a poster, a title, and enough promise of tits and blood to fill a trailer, so the rest of the footage in your movie could just kind of be tossed off. You’d get weird semi-improvised dialogue scenes between secondary characters (who were usually played by the more experienced actors in the cast) that added nothing to the story, odd lyrical interludes of the characters walking around in nature while flute music played, strange B-roll montages of rodeos or parades or whatever other cheap “production value” they could steal, unrelated strip club scenes, and, of course, the dreaded Driving Scene That Goes On Way Too Long. I’ve seen movies (usually from the early 70s, when technical standards were low and tolerance for hippy dippy bullshit was high) that are at least 85% filler.

    Nowadays we have the opposite problem, where filmmakers try to stuff twice as much plot into their movies as their meager stories will allow. It’s enough to make me kind of miss filler, which at least could be weird and random and not just the result of somebody going to a screenwriting workshop and deciding that what their killer alligator movie really needed was an adultery subplot.

  8. Bizarre. I had never heard of this movie before, and in quick succession I run across reviews from Red Letter and Vern. I suppose I should take that as a sign…

  9. The nerdy one looks like one of the kids from “Charles in Charge” went on a murder spree. “Fuck you, Charles. Now I’m in charge!”

    And now some of you have the “Charles in Charge” theme in your head. You’re welcome.

  10. Majestyk, I would watch that alligator movie only if it was the alligator involved in adultery. It would be motivation for the female to go full killer.

  11. Damn… whoever wrote the screenplay for this partially screwed the pooch. The basic premise is kinda cool, but I would’ve had the sociopathic lil’ shaver trio begin by killing other kids, then once the confidence level spills over into hubris (so typical of many criminals), they move on to adult victims. Maybe off 2-3 adults, until there’s a failed murder attempt, and THIS particular adult is revealed to be…..

    (ahhhhh, wait for it)

    A pedophile (male or female; either one is OK). And that’s when the third act kicks in, as the trio goes from being hunters to hunted. I call bullshit on (as it played out) these evil kids being subdued by other kids. You don’t kill a snake with another snake; you kill a snake with a mongoose.

    Then maybe for shits & giggles, end the movie with the pedo burying the bodies of the evil kidley trio in some remote location, but then shortly after he/she gets arrested and blamed for all the trio’s wetwork. Ch-ching!

  12. My joke was an homage to the subplot from the original JAWS novel (which Spielberg thankfully cut out) in which Hooper boned Brody’s wife. But now that you mention it, it might give Bruce the Shark a little backstory if the reason he was far from his usual home and feasting on humans was because if wife had kicked him out after catching him cheating and he didn’t know how to feed himself properly.

  13. Oh man Larry, that is priceless. Now I’m imagining John Turturro from Big Lebowski caving in those kids’ heads with a bowling ball.

  14. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 16th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I have to admit Larry, that’s a genius idea. Pedophile vs evil kids… Who is less evil in that scenario? Someone should do something with that idea.

  15. “I really remember Julie Brown’s nude scene. I don’t want to infringe on Griff’s territory here, but that girl was truly blessed.”

    yup, Julie Brown is pretty damn hot in this, just sayin’

    anyway this movie has been popping up a lot lately on the internet, Red Letter Media recently reviewed it for example, I’m guessing this means The Cinema Snob is sure to follow with his own review

    as for me, the movie is is pretty sloppy, but there’s something about the sight of these normal looking kids murdering people that legitimately creeps me out

  16. The Original... Paul

    October 16th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Majestyk –

    “My joke was an homage to the subplot from the original JAWS novel (which Spielberg thankfully cut out) in which Hooper boned Brody’s wife.”

    I just remembered that. I think the alligator was a step too far though.

    I do agree with you though. “The Call” in particular benefited from NOT having the obligatory “adultery subplot” that every single horror movie that comes out seems to feature nowadays. (And if it’s not another woman, it’s the guy’s work. Same deal.) Hell, this was so jarring to me that I actually felt the need to comment on it in “The Call”‘s thread here. How many movies nowadays seem to take the easy route of having the protagonist be surrounded by a load of assholes, and how phony does that often seem? It takes actual skill to write a movie where a character can have a strong support system and still end up in a situation of horror. (Well, that, or you could have her drop her phone down a trapdoor into the killer’s secret lair. Hell, I didn’t say “The Call” was PERFECT.)

  17. Robo, Gaul— Thanks, guys. I don’t choose my moments to think outside the box; they just sorta happen on their own. Robo, I agree about John Turturro extending his role from The Big Lebowski; he’d be all over it like a cheap suit. Problem is… even though he still takes on serious roles, I associate him over the past 10 years as being either Adam Sandler’s monkeyboy or Michael Bay’s. Hopefully he’s put that behind him.

  18. Vern’s next book should just be random story pitches from the comments. Some of these ideas are really good, some are funny, and some are just plain crazy enough to work!

  19. It’s shocking how much the shot of the nerd looking at the worthless gun looks like a miniature version of Matt Damon in THE INFORMANT!.

  20. This movie gives a whole meaning to the expression “but think of the children”.

  21. This recently aired on Turner Classic Movies. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    True story.

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