Bloody Birthday (1981)
By: Julian on September 13, 2011  | 
DVD
Severin (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 84 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Ed Hunt
Starring: Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Susan Strasberg, Elizabeth Hoy
Screenplay: Ed Hunt, Barry Pearson
Country: USA
External Links
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Three babies are born during a solar eclipse. When they grow into pre-pubescent kids living with their parents in the 'burbs, the three children – Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jacoby) and Steven (Andy Freeman) – decide to celebrate their birthday by going on a killing spree.

This is the beautifully simple premise of Bloody Birthday, one of the better films to have come out of the pervasive '80s slasher cycle. Bloody Birthday has an extremely disturbing undercurrent running through it, which immediately sets it apart from many of its contemporaries. Firstly, the child performers are excellent – far better than any of the adult characters. They play their bad-to-the-bone characters convincingly and, unlike many slasher movie antagonists, Debbie, Curtis and Steven were genuinely born evil, the eclipse scrambling their brains and making them incapable of feeling conscience. This integral plot point goes virtually unexplained, but I think the ambiguity is rather effective: slasher films are often preoccupied with pinning context onto the rampages of the antagonists. The fact that the kids are evil simply because they are is refreshing, although more cynical filmgoers might note that it enables Bloody Birthday to waste no time on superfluous things like plot. Of course, the storyline is paper-thin (I managed to give a pretty comprehensive summary above in two sentences), but it is the diabolical trio that holds the movie together.

Bloody Birthday delivers lashings of nudity but, atypical of eighties slasher films, virtually no gore: it coasts along on the basis of its disturbing premise. In this respect, the film is particularly effective; there is something profoundly unsettling about watching a bespectacled young geek lace the icing of a birthday cake with ant poison, then hold the bottle behind his back when he is chastised by his babysitter (who is the only one who suspects the demon children, and she is derided when she speaks up). A lot of Bloody Birthday's successes can be attributed to the talent of co-writer/director Ed Hunt, who delivers a nicely shot and beautifully suspenseful piece of work. Hunt faded into obscurity after Bloody Birthday, helming two little-known sci-fi thrillers at the end of the eighties before finishing with films altogether. The fact that Hunt didn't go on to do much more horror cinema is a crying shame, because this stylish little number should have illuminated Hunt's star rather than dimmed it.

The slasher movie is probably one of the most tired subgenres in horror cinema. Happily, Bloody Birthday has a lot here to retain interest and distinguish it from the dozens of carbon-copy eighties slasher efforts: of course, the most obvious point of difference is that the antagonists are children. The fact that youngsters are the ones doing the slicing and dicing makes Bloody Birthday a particularly foreboding flick, and Hunt's discipline in the director's chair helps make this movie deeply unsettling. Recommended.
Video
The picture is fairly dull, but I wasn't particularly bothered by that: it looks much better than many of Bloody Birthday's contemporaries. The film is presented in 1.78:1 (not 1.66:1 as the slick suggests), with 16:9 enhancement. Severin have given us a new transfer of Bloody Birthday for this disc, restoring the film from its original vault materials.
Audio
One English audio track presented in Dolby 2.0 mono. It's soft and reveals its age with occasional crackling and distortion but is otherwise fine.
Extra Features
True to form, Severin have assembled a nice set. A 51-minute audio interview with director Ed Hunt; a 15-minute documentary 'A Brief History of Slasher Films', which contains about as much information as can be packed into fifteen minutes; and a 10-minute interview with star Lori Lethin.

Trailers for other Severin releases, The Baby, Bloody Moon, Nightmares and Horror Express are also included.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Bloody Birthday is a great entry into the saturated slasher subgenre, and it is distinguishable by a particularly effective sense of foreboding and some pretty damn evil villains, even if they are pint-sized. As usual, Severin have done a fine job with their release, the first good DVD release of this film anywhere. Seek it out.

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