First thing, aren't movies that have been transferred to DVD supposed to have been cleaned up - the audio, the picture quality? I know that not every movie warrants the Criterion treatment, but if the movie is going to go onto DVD, shouldn't it be a little cleaned up? Granted, my knowledge of this process is extremely limited, aka nonexistent, but still. This version of Bloody Birthday had not been cleaned up in the slightest, which, I came to discover, added to its gritty charm. I really did feel like I was watching the VHS tape from 1981.
Bloody Birthday is the tale of three kids who all happen to be born during a eclipse in 1970. This is evidenced by some very apparent stock footage of a lunar eclipse overdubbed with the sounds of three women's screams of labor pains. We don't see any kind of birth, we do get to see the outside of the hospital, though. We are supposed to assume the kids are going to be really fucked up somehow because of the eclipse thing. Okay, leap ahead ten years. Insert typical scene of young man and woman making out in a cemetery. (Sidenote: I spent most of my teen years as 'goth' and some might even go as far as to still qualify me as such, but I never ever in my life made out/had sex with someone in a cemetery. You would think....well, anyway. I don't get why a non-goth couple would want to make out in a cemetery. You would think that they would be grossed out by it. Who knows.) So the couple is in the cemetery and they are playing Ambulance (don't ask! - kind of like a version of doctor, I think) by the light of the full moon. They begin by a mausoleum and progress into an open grave (!) only to get their asses killed by a few (?) off-screen killers.
Next day: The sheriff is interviewing a grade school class about the murders in the cemetery, why we don't know. Does anyone know what a murder is, he questions the nine year olds. Three students obviously slump down in their seats. A little blond girl jumps up and says a murder is when someone kills someone. Seriously, truer words were never spoken. This same little girl happens to be the sheriff's daughter. So at this point, I might have closed my eyes, I do that a lot when I watch movies, especially late at night and often during the afternoon too, gone to start the dryer, or to feed a meowing Moochie, but this movie started to get fucking interesting.
So obviously the sheriff's daughter is one of the killers, as are the two other little boys who slumped down when Sheriff was asking about murder. They wind up racking up quite the body count, the couple in the cemetery, the Sherriff himself (!), another fornicating couple, this time in a van, and a slutty sister who dances in her underwear (Julie Brown of MTV fame, but not Downtown Julie Brown, the OTHER Julie Brown - I think she was in Shakes the Clown too). The murders also become increasingly elaborate, especially for a group of nine year olds. The most memorable scene is in a junkyard, it's most entertaining, if not utterly ridiculous. Seriously, I'm surprised no one has culled from it, it's so great. The styling of the whole thing is just dead on. How three children could get away with something this elaborate is absurd, if not wonderful. One is steering, one is pushing the gas and the break, all in pursuit of nubile teen girl, running around a junkyard screaming! It's the highlight of the film, seriously.
And the performances! The little girl, Debbie, is strait-up channelling Rhoda from the Bad Seed, and the brunette little boy, Curtis, pulls off his murderous act with such glee and charm, it's a wonder he didn't go on to be typecast for the rest of his days ala Anthony Perkins. The third child, Stephen, however, is a weak link, with a leaden performance. He also wears the same outfit throughout the whole thing. I IMDB'ed the cast, mostly the kids, because Debbie and Stephen were just so good and somewhat familiar looking. With the exception of some obscure 80's television, they both hadn't worked in over a decade. A shame, truly.
Bloody Birthday, though, it's one of those I might have watched back in the day and dismissed it, but now that I have a taste for such crap as an adult, I'm going to call this one upper-echelon. I enjoyed it a helluva lot more than the overlong Happy Birthday to Me and then it got me started thinking about other Birthday themed horrors out there and I couldn't think of any, but I'm sure I will sometime or will at least look it up. It has some great inventive kills too, crossbow through a peephole right into Julie Brown's eye, anyone? And where the hell does a kid get a crossbow anyway?