Bloody Birthday (1981)
D: Ed Hunt
Lori Lethin, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jacoby
Who says you need a strong scientific foundation for science fiction? Certainly not the makers of Bloody Birthday. Maybe devoted zodiac followers will find the premise a little more believable. Here it is in a nutshell, a gaggle (pride? pack? flock?) of babies is born at the same hospital on the same night. Unfortunately, at that very moment there is an eclipse which blocks out the influence of Saturn. See, Saturn’s gravitational pull is what gives people their emotions. Without that influence, the children are born sociopaths.
We jump ahead a few years to a couple making out in a graveyard (an idea so smart it should be copyrighted). An unseen killer smacks him over the head with a shovel and strangles her. Well, two seats just opened up at the next MENSA meeting.
Meanwhile, our ‘final girl’ Joyce Russel (Lethin) is busy with homework and getting scared by her little brother’s wacky hijinx. When the sheriff (Bert Kramer) decides to have a talk with Joyce’s class about the morality and repercussions of murder, everyone becomes suspicious of each other. The eight year-olds blame the seven year-olds. The seven year-olds blame the nine year-olds. It’s anarchy! And through it all, three little moppets – Debbie, Steven and Curtis – just smile.
It doesn’t reveal anything to tell you that Debbie, Steven and Curtis really are the killers and that there reign of terror is both disturbing and ludicrous. Imagine the best friend from Silver Spoons developing a “Travis Bickle” relationship with his gun. Maybe he’s the Grandson of Sam. However, one wonders how legendary actress/acting coach Susan Strasberg got roped into this. She plays an icy teacher who crosses the terrifying tykes.
Of course, Joyce, being resourceful, stumbles upon the answer to why the kids are not all right by doing their birth charts. Why she was doing their birth charts in the first place is never answered, but it doesn’t pay to question things in a slasher film. That naturally makes her a target, and we get the usual showdown.
Actually, Bloody Birthday is quite a fascinating little film. The Saturn influence aspect is ludicrous. The person sitting next to you has more gravitational pull on you right now than Saturn does. It’s just a MacGuffin to explain why these kids have no consciences. The result is that the film inadvertently has a lot to say about the banality of evil. Curtis’s sneering pose seems less like an exhibition of pleasure than mimicking something he saw on TV. Had this film been released post-Columbine, it might have been considered a brilliant social commentary.
Previous films: The Prowler | Tenebrae