Bloody Birthday (1981)

Bloody Birthday

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In the small town of Meadowville in 1970, three children, two boys and a girl, are born at the height of a total solar eclipse. Almost ten years later, the three cherub-faced children have grown quite close, and are getting ready to celebrate their joint birthdays with a large party. But the unusual time of the three kids’ birth seems to have had an odd influence on their development. In short, it turned the three of them into heartless little murderers who don’t hesitate to knock someone off for even the smallest perceived slight. As the body count rises, naturally no one suspects the killers to be a tiny trio of ten-year-olds. But the evil little spores from hell may have finally met their match in classmate Timmy and his older sister, Joyce. The brother-sister duo have not only realized the danger the three kids pose to everyone in town, but have also managed to thwart the trio’s murder attempts at every turn. As the only two in town who know what’s really going on, it’s now up to Timmy and Joyce to stop the kid’s murder spree before they kill them or anyone else in town.

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Despite what the title and posters of this film may suggest, there isn’t actually any kind of bloody massacre at a birthday party in Bloody Birthday. Oh, there’s a birthday party all right, but the whole thing ends up being a bit of a red-herring, as nothing even remotely grisly happens during said festivities, despite the film spending considerable time and effort to suggest otherwise. So yes, the title is a bit of a trick, or hell, even an outright lie, and not a very nice one. But if it makes you feel any better, there is quite a bit of both blood and skin in this film to help make up for the big switch-a-roo the film pulls.

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Instead, the title Bloody Birthday seems to instead be more of a reference to the kids actual birth date during the total solar eclipse, which in turn influences their future behavior. But though the film does it’s best to make the reason for their killing spree feel ominous, that’s just to make up for the fact that the explanation they do give the audience is completely lame as hell. Despite the inclusion of the ill-timed births during the solar eclipse and the shocking level of intelligence needed for the kids to be able to pull off all these murders without detection, the explanation for their behavior isn’t something cool like them being possessed by some kind of demon, or hell, even an evil spirit, that can only return during to the earthly realm during an eclipse or some such thing. Instead, the whole film boils down to something much more uninspiring. Now, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but: Astrology. Yes, that’s the film’s explanation of why the kids are evil. Turns out the eclipse causes both the sun and moon to block Saturn, and because of that, the kids are missing something in their personalities, that something apparently being a conscious. Which doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, dull yes, but not bad, at least until you start to wonder what that says about all the other countless kids in the world that had to have been born at the same damn time. Was there some kind of mass murder spree being carried out by pre-pubecent youngsters going on around the world that the movie completely failed to inform us about? Why was it just limited to these three kids? Or maybe those other kids were lucky and their personalities lacked something more helpful or benign like pride, aspiration or self-reflection. Ironically all the traits needed to think you could get away with making a movie with such eye-rolling reasoning and daunting inconsistencies.

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But the film’s biggest sin is the multiple issues with the coherence of the plot, or perhaps more specifically, the coherence of the characters and their motivations. Or, as the case often is in Bloody Birthday, their complete lack of motivation. There are just so many scenes in this film where the character’s actions don’t make a lick of sense. It’s like the filmmakers had a very specific list of scenes they wanted to include that they thought would be creepy or sound cool, and then never bothered to ask themselves if said scene would make any sense. Like, the kids are portrayed as these devious little monsters, yet one of the first people they kill is their teacher, who they shoot at the beginning of the school day, while there are clearly dozens of people outside. But I guess that’s okay, because no one seems to have heard the obvious gun shot, despite it loudly going off only feet away from them. Sure, whatever, movie.

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And they cleaned up in a matter of seconds. They must teach me their techniques.

Suspensions of disbelief aside, the really puzzling moments come from the actions many of the characters make. One of the kids has carved a hole in the wall to peek into her sister’s room, and is charging a fee to her classmates to get a cheap peepshow of her sister changing. Enterprising little shit, isn’t she? Anyway, Joyce finds out about the kid’s little side hussle, and informs the sister, only for the sister to do…. Abso-friggin’-lutely nothing. So not only did she somehow never notice this 3-inch wide monstrous hole in her sparsely adorned closet (which is yet another suspension of disbelief, considering this is closet of a rather affluent teenage girl), but she then does nothing to plug the hole, or block it off, or even close the closet door. Hell, she doesn’t even tell her mom. She just leaves it there, unimpeded, an act of monumental stupidity that ultimately gets rewarded with an arrow to the face.

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Like, the whole entire scenario could have been avoided with a single jar of Spackle.

And that’s just the actions of the victims. I expect them to be kinda dumb. But believe it or not, the supposed “Heroes” of the film are even dumber. Timmy is constantly antagonizing the kids. At one point, after he’s already nearly been killed by them twice, he inexplicably goes to one of their homes to throw rocks at the windows. I mean, I get he’s a kid himself, but come on son. Smarten up. And Joyce? Oi. Joyce almost gets run over by these demons, is tricked by one of them into thinking he’s going to poison people, and witnesses all three of them attack her brother. Yet when one of them comes over and asks her to babysit the next evening, she agrees! Without hesitation! She doesn’t even blink before saying yes. I’m honestly amazed how those two managed to survive as long as they did, based on their complete lack of self preservation. Considering most of their actions they should have conceivably been two of the easiest victims in town to knock off.

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But it’s an astrology movie, so maybe the filmmakers want us to think they were born under a lucky star or some shit.

On the bright side, stupid actions aside, at least all the acting is surprisingly decent. The adults all fill their disbelieving rolls suitably, and all the kids do a bang-up job with the material, with Elizabeth Hoy and Billy Jayne putting in some pretty impressive performances as creepy killer children (oddly enough, the third kid doesn’t get nearly as much screen time). Both of them would work together again later that same year, with smaller parts in X-ray, and Jayne would go on to be a part of a large variety of film and TV shows in the 1980s and 90s. Sadly, Hoy seems to have quit acting not too long after the film was released. A real shame, as she clearly had a lot of talent to share with the world.

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For fans of the “killer kid” genre of films, Bloody Birthday isn’t half bad. But it’s also not very good, either. It’s basically a film filled with a vague premise and ‘set pieces’, and the plot clearly suffers as a result. Sure, some of the story related issues could be hand-waved away with the reasoning that no sane adult, even today, would reasonably suspect that three 10-year-olds could be cold blood killers. But that doesn’t excuse all the film’s issues, and by the end some of the lack of logic gets so bad that I guarantee that a lot of viewers will want to reach through their screens and throttle some of the characters for acting so monumentally stupid. There’s only so much leeway you can give these types of films, after-all, before they sap all your goodwill, and for this film I think a lot of people’s reserves will end up depleted well before the final act starts. That said, the film does have it’s entertaining moments, and as far exploitation films go, the movie does succeed in being extra sleazy. So if that sounds like your jam and you can overlook the many, many dumb actions of the characters, then feel free to give this one a go.

Bloody Birthday is available on a variety of streaming services.

Bloody Birthday is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

One thought on “Bloody Birthday (1981)

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