Joseph’s Fantastic Fest Review: Bloody Birthday

★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★

Deadly brats create rope-choking, gun-toting carnage after their 10th birthdays in this amusing slice of 1980s horror.

Directed by Ed Hunt

If you haven’t yet seen the 1981 killer kids flick Bloody Birthday, you should jump on it tout de suite because a film like this could never be made today, and if it could, the chances of wide distribution would likely be nearly nonexistent. Sure, we have recent films about psychotic children running amok and claiming victims, but not brandishing pistols like one of the three villains in this corker.

Director and cowriter (with Barry Pearson) Ed Hunt (of Plague [1979] and Halloween Hell [2014) helms this tale of two boys and a girl born during an eclipse in 1970 who, starting on their shared 10th birthday, begin randomly garroting, shooting, and disposing of victims in other nasty ways. Relative, playmate, random horny teens trying to get it on in an open grave or closed vehicle — it doesn’t matter who you are, you are not safe from these terrible tots. What’s their motive for these heinous actions? Our horoscope-loving heroine Joyce (Lori Lethin of The Prey [1982] and Return to Horror High [1987]) has a theory that is just as good as any other, and yes, it has to do with the sun, the moon, and planets at the time of their birth. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!

The kills are plentiful right from the first act, and some are pretty gruesome, at that. Hunt loads up the suspense throughout, as well, because all you need is one of the three killer kids to stand behind or look at someone, and you know it is just a matter of time before something else wicked happens. 

The kids are creepy as all get out. Elizabeth Hoy stands out as devilish Debbie, a seemingly sweet little girl who masterminds many of the acts of violence. Her expressions when she goes soulless psycho and when she gives an evil grin are terrific. Billy Jacoby (of Cujo [1983] and X-Ray [1981]) is perfect as the bespectacled jerk and electronics whiz Billy. Andy Freeman rounds out the group as Steven. Battling against them are Joyce and her younger brother Timmy (K.C. Martel of The Amityville Horror [1979] and Eddie Munster in The Munsters’ Revenge [1981]). 

Bloody Birthday is the kind of film that leaves many questions unanswered, not the least of which is why the kids waited a decade to start doing away with the locals. None of those questions matter, however, when the movie serves up such eighties horror fan service as plenty of skin — including future Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) star Julie Brown baring practically all in an extended dance sequence that Debbie, her character’s younger sister, charges the boys to watch through a peephole — and the various methods that the wicked whippersnappers use to off the populace. 

Bloody Birthday is a blast. If I haven’t sold you yet, here’s one more reason to love the film: There’s an amazing rip-off of the main theme from Jaws (1975) during one of the death sequences. Enjoy!

Bloody Birthday, newly restored by Arrow Films and presented by AGFA, screened at Fantastic Fest, taking place in Austin, Texas, from September 19–26.

Review by Joseph Perry

Categories: Festivals, ReviewsTags: ,

1 comment

  1. I’m watching this — POST HASTE!

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