Friday, May 7, 2010

In celebration of my birthday!

Bloody Birthday (aka "Creepers") (1981)
Starring: Lori Lethin, Elizabeth Hoy, K.C. Martel, Billy Jacoby, Julie Brown and Andy Freeman
Director: Ed Hunt
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Three children, born at the same moment in a small town hospital under a full eclipse, go on a killing spree shortly before their tenth birthday. Clever and evil beyond their years, will they manage to finish off the only people who suspect them (Lethin and Martel) before the pair can find proof that anyone will believe?

"Bloody Birthday" is an excellent concept for a movie that plays like a cross between "Village of the Damned" and "Beware: Children at Play". It features a decent musical score and a fine cast of actors--with child actors Elizabeth Hoy (as a blond, angelic-looking moppet who likes to choke her victims with a jump rope) and Billy Jacoby (as a bespecled bookworm who likes to lock playmates in abandoned refrigerators and grins happily while blasting victims into oblivion with a gun stolen from a dead police officer) are particularly chilling as the two lead killer kids, but everyone else also does a fine job in their respective parts. (Even comedienne Julie Brown in an early film role is good... although her part consists almost entirely of dancing around half naked.)

Unfortunately, this is another one of those films that's lacking in one of the most important departments--it's script. The film just sort of meanders from murder to murder, as our trio of devils with the faces of angels escalate the terror they're visiting upon the town. While the killer kids should definitely be the focus here, it would have been nice if there had been a little more meat and organization of the material between the murders. (We have police work so sloppy that Barney Fife would be embarrassed by it--has no one in the town heard of ballistics or autopsies?-- characters that are introduced for absolutely no reason--such as Lori Lethin's boyfriend--and there are only two of a number of "gun above the fireplace" moments that end up paying off; both inexcusable artifacts of sloppy writing and even sloppier filmmmaking.)

The writer also ultimately wusses out at the end. I know there's unwritten rule of filmmaking that you NEVER kill off a kid, but if there ever was a film where a kid or two NEEDED to be wasted, then this is it! One dead or severely injured kid at the end of this film would have improved it quite a bit, and I wouldn't have been left with the feeling the filmmakers chickened out at the end.

Although far from perfect, this film has enough good bits in it to make it worth seeing. There are some excellently staged moments where two-thirds of our trio of killer kids is trying to run a girl over with a car, and another where a boy is trying to escape from a fridge he's been locked inside. It's a film that's of interest to lovers of slasher-movies--particularly if your interest goes beyond mere entertainment and crosses over into scholarly/criticism--and it's also a perfect addition to any "bad seed"- or "murder in a small town"-themed Bad Movie Night. (Perhaps making it one-half of a double-feature with "Beware! Children at Play" is worth considering.)


  1. I never heard of this flick! I went to IMDB and saw that it also has such esteemed actors such as Jose Ferrer and Susan Strasberg, who both needed the money, no doubt.

  2. Yeah... it's one of those movies that make you wonder whether they did it for the free trip to some place or as a favor for a friend. Or because they had some SERIOUSLY delinquent bills to pay.

    Of course, in many of these small films, the stars are just there for a single day. Like "Girls' Night Out," where all of Hal Holbrook's scenes were shot in one evening and in one location. (And my guess he was even appearing in the film as a favor to his son and/or his son's buddies.)