Bloody Birthday (1980)
WRITERS: Screenplay by Ed Hunt and Barry Pearson
DIRECTOR: Ed Hunt
STARRING: Lori Lethin as Joyce Russel
Julie Brown as Beverly Brody
Bert Kramer as Sherriff James Brody
K.C. Martel as Timmy Russel
Elizabeth Hoy as Debbie Brody
Billy Jacoby as Curtis Taylor
Andy Freeman as Steven Seton
Susan Strasberg as Miss Davis
Jose Ferrer as The Doctor
QUICK CUT: After a freak eclipse during the birth of several children, they grow up into the creepiest, most sociopathic ten year olds ever, and terrorise anyone who gets in their way.
Joyce - The main focus of the film, and the teen who slowly figures out what's going on, in as much as she figures out kids are killing people. No one really bothers with why. She's studious, she's helpful around the house taking care of her younger brother, and a pretty typical teenager.
Timmy - Joyce's brother, the main focus of the psycho children's rage, in as much as they have any. The only reason he becomes said focus is because he manages to keep escaping, whereas they kept getting it right the first time with all their other kills.
Debbie, Curtis, and Steven - The trio of evilness that may or may not be the results of an eclipse. At least, that's a theory tossed out briefly during the movie, but pretty much brushed aside with the casualness of asking how the weather is. But I digress. All three are smarter than your average ten year old, completely insane, and racked up quite a body count already.
THE GUTS: The movie kicks off with dateline! Meadowvale, California! June 9th! 1970! A hospital! A car pulls up! This would be so much funnier if you could hear the old timey radio announcer voice I'm yelling at my screen right now!
Anyways, the doctor gets out of his car, and the wind machine kicks up like there's a hurricane just off the California coast, so he and a waiting nurse rush inside to tend to their duties before the eclipse comes. Um, even in 1970, we didn't have huge superstitions about eclipses. Hospital equipment WILL still work.
But whatever. The eclipse sweeps in, and we stare into the sun for a few moments while we hear a bunch of children being born, one on top of another. And then the movie jumps forward almost ten years, to the start of June, 1980, dropping us into a graveyard. And that's kinda clever to go from births to a cemetary.
In said graveyard, we find a pair of teens making out, and mumbling into the microphone. Oh, is this going to be one of THOSE movies? And by that, I mean one with poor audio? Sigh. Fortunately this is as bad as the audio gets.
They play one of your typical teenaged sexual exploration games, but instead of the usual "Doctor" they play "Ambulance". I am unfamiliar with this variant, but the guy explains it well enough. Either way, they'll be needing one soon enough, I figure.
As if they weren't tempting fate enough, the couple jump into an open grave (!) to continue their makeout session, and the cameraman begins to stalk them from the trees.
They hear something in the darkness just in time for the guy to get a repeated shovel in the face, and then the woman gets a rope tied tight around her neck, and choked. At least they're already conveniently planted.
With the movie starting off so nicely, we jump from there to boring old Joyce studying astrology, while the movie shows us ominous shots of a very sharp knife.
Outside, Timmy sneaks in through the window, and kicks the knife off the kitchen counter, getting the attention of his sister. Sigh, ominous setup with lame payoff. Still, it started with a double homicide pretty quick, so there's hope yet. I can appreciate a curveball, which is what Timmy's entire introduction is, from the establishing knife shots, to why he was sneaking around while there was murder most foul.
Timmy explains he was out feeding the dog and got locked out and...meh, whatever. More interesting things happen the next day with the girl rushing off to help a teacher while the local sheriff is talking to a class about murder. A little young, don't you think, officer?
When asked what it is, one of the kids - and I literally mean kids, we are not talking teens here - tells the cop that murder is when someone kills someone else, like on tv! The cop corrects her, and says it's not like on tv, it's real.
Oh, so like in the movies then!
He continues to ask them about a stolen jump rope with a missing handle, which I'm presuming is what was used to string up the girl a few minutes ago. And part of me can't believe he's asking ten year olds this stuff. Bonus information, the kid that answered what murder is, that's his daughter!
After being annoyingly strict, the teacher dismisses her class, and the kids try and weasel out of homework for next Monday, saying it'll be their birthday. Man, I wish I'd thought of that trick. But it doesn't work, and this teacher is quickly going on the list of victims, isn't she?
With classes done, the kids head home to goof off and...whoa hey, peep show! Debbie is selling looks at her sister through a hole in the closet! Oh those rapscallions.
I'm a little disturbed by just how long this goes on for. We get the point! And this movie is only 85 minutes long! This is shameless padding and titilation.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you...
Bev FINALLY gets dressed and meets up with Joyce to casually talk about their classmates being murdered. At least they're taking it in stride, and see the only downside is that Julie likes to make out at the cemetary too!
The sheriff heads home, where we see him take off his gun and are treated to a closeup shot of it inside the cabinet, where it should be out of reach for any devil spawn. Should be, but this may as well be Chekov's service pistol. We also see his youngest daughter skipping rope AND he complains how no one turns on the security alarm. Too much foreshadowing and setup!
Outside, the sheriff's own demon spawn calls him to show him something, right after we saw someone carefully placing a skateboard on the steps for an impending accident. Now, the easiest solution would have been to just have the cop see the thing, but instead they clunkily have him step over it and not notice it whatsoever. No, that's not forced.
Anyways, since that failed miserably, she shows her dad her rope with the missing handle, and...HOLY SHIT sheriff baseball!
That was awesomely out of nowhere. Kudos, movie.
While the trio of eville children adjust the body, Joyce's brother stumbles upon the crime scene and interupts them. The daughter calls out, saying that her daddy fell down the stairs and uh...yeah. With the whacks they gave him with the baseball bat, he fell down A LOT of stairs, I guess.
The movie jumps right ahead to the cop's funeral, where the witness gets glared at from the trio, who very clearly decide then and there to deal with the potential snitch. And we jump from THAT to their plan going into action as they play hide and seek with Timmy, and Curtis PULLS OUT A GUN! and threatens one of the other kids not to snitch out their hiding spot.
Glasses uses the old McFly gambit of calling Timmy chicken to get him to hide in an abandoned fridge for his hiding spot. Well, he's gonna suffocate, but on the upside, he is guaranteed to survive any impending nuclear blasts.
Even Later Still, Joyce is chatting up another teacher about her astrology project, and she actually tries to sell the concept that America has a horoscope. Using what for a birthday? 1776? But what about the country existing before that? Why am I thinking about this?
Elsewhere, Curtis is building who knows what while his grandfather watches with interest. And apparently not a whole ton of time has passed, as the other kid is still banging on the inside of the fridge trying to get out. I gotta give him credit, Timmy does a good job of thrashing around in a confined space, I kinda believe it.
Joyce gets a call from their parents, asking to speak to Timmy, but sadly, young Ryan Reynolds is preparing to audition for Buried: The Prequel. I love how this scene is little more than trying to explain why their parents are out of the picture, literally. Nice intercutting between the mundanity of parental concern, and Timmy thrashing, to boot.
Finally, Jimmy sees some lose piece of metal inside the fridge that he can unscrew, and Mini MacGyver actually gets his hands on the thing and uses it to undo the latch. I'm not sure how easy that would really be, but cleverness gets them points. And who am I to argue with triumphant escape music?
He tries to convince his sister what happened, but Joyce doesn't believe him, what with his habit of lying. He tells her the truth about the night of the graveyard murder, that he went to the sheriff's house to watch Debbie's sister undress, and she gets a good laugh at her pervy brother.
Meanwhile, the evil trio are hanging out in their evil treehouse and making plans to murder their teacher, and placing her picture in their Scrapbook of Doom. After they play with their incriminating evidence, we jump to the night, where Curtis goes around making his plans, and swiping Chekov's Pistol.
The next day, Curtis comes up behind his pain in the ass teacher and draws. When she turns around and sees the little psycho, her first reaction is not to the gun pointed at her face, but that Curtis snuck up on her. Way to prioritise!
She tells the kid to put the toy away, and while she turns her back to him once more, he wraps it in his coat and kills her dead. Not the best way of silencing the weapon, kid. And your jacket now has a tell-tale bullet hole and powder burns. Of course, in a town where they think multiple strikes from a baseball bat are a freak accident, I doubt they'll be caught.
They do an amazingly fast job of cleaning up and hiding the body, because Joyce almost immediately arrives, and the sole evidence she finds are dirty sponges. And almost finds a bullet in her own face.
While her back is turned, Curtis zooms out to not be caught, but runs right into Timmy, who proceeds to beat the holy hell out of Glasses. Nice. That? The appropriate response to being locked in a fridge.
And before Steven can shoot Joyce, she finds the dead teacher, who falls out of the closet in classic horror movie fashion. Gotta love the old cliches.
On Timmy's way home, Debbie calls him up to the Evil Clubhouse to play Ambulance. Don't do it, Timmy! There are no winners in that game! But in truth, she called him up there to push him off, but she never quite gets the chance, so he heads home instead. Well, that was pointless.
Joyce heads to the junkyard where a fake note from NotTimmy leads her, and she finds the fridge which convinces her of Timmy's incredible story of surviving a nuke. Before she can go home and apologise, she gets chased around by a car driven by one of Jim Henson's KKK Babies. It is so clearly one of the kids. Sure she can't see his face, but still.
Like any girl in a movie, she trips over a pile of crap and gets her leg tangled in a hole anyone could slip out of. The kids abandon their death car and rig it up to drive after her. Why not continue to chase her down like they had been, I don't know. Joyce only survives by tricking the driverless car into following her up an incline and driving off a ledge. And yes, that is why they couldn't be in the car, but they didn't know that!
After the cops arrive and find no one in the car, we jump to Curtis doing his best Taxi Driver impression in the mirror. He plays with the cop's gun, awkwardly jamming it into his coat, and wouldn't it be such a lame, fitting ending to have it accidentally go off? He then runs around outside and is about to shoot some kids through a hole in a fence, but he hears voices and gets scared off.
Meanwhile, Joyce is reading astrology books out loud to Timmy, and I can only imagine she is trying to put him to sleep. Or make him wish he was back in the fridge. And over at Debbie's, she's watching her sister make out with her boyfriend through the peephole, until she gets disgusted with the display and almost decides to kill people.
Back in astrology class, we learn that the eclipse at the start of the movie was in effect when Debbie was born, and the sun and moon were both blocking Saturn, which rules emotions, so she should be screwed up. SHOULD be?
Curtis keeps wandering around and finds Timmy and Joyce, and at last his bloodlust can be sated! He aims the gun at them through their window, but is once again scared off when a car starts up across the street. This, however, is still not enough to stop him in his quest for blood.
Fortunately for him, a pair of young lovers drives up to make out in their van on the rural street. Unfortunately for them, I guess. They hear Curtis spying on them, but the guy reassures her there is no one out there. I mean, it's not like they parked in the middle of a neighbourhood or anything!
The movie pads things out for a good few minutes of the couple screwing before Curtis can be bothered to open the doors to the van and kill them both. At last, his needs for blood and voyeurism have been sated.
And at long last, it's time for the big birthday bash people keep talking about, as the kids are playing darts, except for Curtis. He's busy in the kitchen licking knives.
Upstairs, Beverly is once again topless. I think she spends more time not wearing clothes than in them. And Joyce takes the opportunity to reveal the gaping hole in the closet to her friend.
The cake is finally brought out for everyone, and the trio from hell are called over to make a wish, while Debbie's mom has a brief breakdown that her husband sadly tripped and fell on a baseball bat a dozen times.
While everyone fills up on cake, Curtis ducks back inside to mess with the other cakes, adding poisoned frosting to them, as part of his plan to make Joyce seem crazy before she can reveal they are demonspawn.
Curtis is hiding the bottle of rat poison behind his back, and Joyce tries to find out what it is. Oh, I can see where this is going and yeah, that? That's pretty clever. He drops the bottle and Joyce sees it, putting things together. When asked what he's done, Curtis just smiles and says nothing, like any kid caught being mischievous would do. But the best part here? He isn't lying. Oh, you clever bastard.
Naturally, she rushes out to everyone stuffing there faces, and smacks the plates away, warning them of the non-existant poison. I love it! Curtis comes out and says he was just putting the poison away, and since his parents are like every single parent, they believe their kid over anyone else, because THEIR kid never ever lies. Well played, Curtis.
And the icing on the cake (Heehee!) is that Curtis tastes a big glob of frosting himself, proving there's no poison in it. Joyce finally puts things together, but no one will believe her now. Just like he planned.
If you can envision me slowly clapping my approval here? Then good, do that. This was a brilliant ploy.
Once the party is done, Joyce heads home in disgrace, where she and Timmy start putting poster board over the windows. Well, A window. In an entire floor to ceiling block of windows. Gonna need a few more there, guys.
But anyways, they hear a noise, and Joyce grabs a trophy or statue of some kind, creeping through the house to see what it was. There's some good tension in the scene at least, as they go down the darkened hallways, eventually finding an open patio door.
And that's when the closet behind Joyce opens up, and her never before seen boyfriend grabs her. He comes so, so close to getting that trophy in the head. I guess the movie needed more cannon fodder, except the guy is never seen again.
Back at Debbie's house, Beverly is getting ready for a date or something, and goes looking for some stuff in her sister's room. She stumbles upon the Scrapbook of Doom, and shows why it is bad to keep a record of your murders. And not unexpectedly, Debbie finds her sister as she's flipping through the pages.
They show it to their mother, and Debbie tries to say that Curtis left it there. When she opens the book to the clipping of her husband's freak baseball stairs accident, she declares that Curtis is never to come over again, and to burn the book.
While the book burns, Debbie calls over the Injustice Gang. Bev goes back to getting ready for her date, and while she waits for her friends to come over, Debbie ducks back into the closet and grabs Chekov's bow and arrow. She raps on the wall until her sister comes right over to the peephole looking through at Debbie and she gets an arrow RIGHT in the face at point blank range.
Debbie puts a towel under her sister's leaking face, and when the Evil League of Evil arrives, they dispose of the body while her mother is in the shower. I was at first confused by the towel, but they seem to be covering up the fact she was murdered there for the time being, and didn't want to leave any bloody evidence. Fair enough, I guess.
Their mom catches Debbie trying to sop up the blood that did make it onto the carpet, and she blames it on spilled nail polish, while the boys do all the dirty work of dragging Bev's body down the street.
And the movie jumps immediately from Bev's corpse at the trash cans, to this poor family's second funeral. I am hard pressed to think of another horror movie that spends this much time on actually burying the dead. You really feel for this woman though, who has now buried her husband and eldest daughter in such a short span of time.
For some reason, Timmy shows up at Debbie's house, hurling pretty hefty rocks at their windows, while the evil trio are playing tag. I guess he figures they're responsible for killing his sister's best friend, but it's still a bit of a leap, and a random response. Also, they slip in a line that the dead sheriff put in special glass, to explain away the styrofoam blocks bouncing off the window, which I find pretty hilarious.
Timmy gets chased away, but the princess and princes of darkness catch up to him, tackling him to the ground. They wrap a nearby hose around Timmy's neck to strangle him, but it's connected to a sprinkler that's currently on. Joyce sees the sputtering, jumping sprinkler, and goes to investigate.
Debbie sees her coming and knows they're hosed, so tries to make it seem like she's trying to stop the boys from killing Timmy. Joyce threatens to call the new sheriff, but Curtis says they won't believe her after the party. Um, slight flaw...Timmy was strangled, and can kinda atest to that fact. And probably has the bruises to prove it. Granted, he did provoke them, but still.
The kids head back to their evil treehouse where they have a new Scrapbook of Doom, and they start with a new collage of Joyce's doom. Meanwhile, Joyce is casually sharpening garden shears and...is this something people did? I'm sure SOME people did, like gardeners, but it seems an odd task to throw in, even if it WAS going somewhere with the shears. Which it isn't.
But anyways, Debbie asks if Joyce and Timmy can come over to babysit while her mom is seeing a shrink, and Joyce says sure. I am honestly not sure who is playing whom at this stage.
So that night they're babysitting, and Joyce puts on her headphones and gets to her homework. Ok, she has already been established that she thinks something is hinky with these kids. I would not be muffling my best early warning sense like that anywhere near them. Or even far from them! Heck, I'd be wary of even sleeping. But I guess that answers who is setting up whom. And outside, the boys of badness are getting ready to shoot her, and I do like that Curtis remembers to point out the bulletproof glass before Steven shoots himself.
Debbie lets them into the house, and Curtis wires up the security system for his own special purposes. Now, we've seen this system basically locks all the doors in the house, probably magnetically. They've shown all Curtis has done with his tinkering to the system in previous scenes is to...use it to lock all the doors. I am not sure quite what difference he makes, at least in as much as the movie hasn't shown me anything.
They sneak around some more and grab weapons, getting ready to take out Joyce and Timmy. Curtis takes his time setting up his shot, giving Timmy just enough time to wake up, see him standing there, and warn his sister to duck. She just barely manages to not get shot.
Debbie jumps out of the hallway and tosses her jump rope around Timmy's neck to start choking him like she did the graveyard gropers. Gee, maybe you guys shoulda done that one first while he was asleep and saved yourself some trouble.
I love that Joyce reacts quickly by grabbing the nearest lamp, and clobbering Debbie in the face with it. So satisfying. Even if she was a dumbass for wearing the headphones.
Curtis quickly uses up the ammo in Chekov's Revolver, and they duck for cover. Rather than try and stop the kids which Joyce should be able to do, she decides to try and escape. Which is a fair enough option. But still, a couple of kids shouldn't be THAT hard to take care of, especially when they're out of ammo and have to reload.
They try to turn off the security system, and I guess THAT is what Curtis did, disabled the unlocking circuit. Ok. She also tries to break a window, but we know how well that works. So, the siblings are trapped in the house, and Curtis has had enough time to reload.
Joyce ducks out of the path of incoming bullets, but that just puts her in the right spot for Debbie and her jump garotte to pounce from a nearby closet. She escapes that pretty easily though, and the look of disappointment on Debbie's face is priceless.
They barricade themselves in Bev's room, but Curtis keeps shooting at the walls and Van Halen posters. And hey! Debbie goes back for the bow and arrow, and they just reuse the footage of her doing so earlier! Foul! Foul!
Joyce reaches a phone but before she can call for help, an arrow lands right in the wall next to her. Timmy runs for the peephole and tries to block it. They let the door open up, and Steven stumbles in with a knife in hand. Joyce empties Bev's fishtank over him, and in his moment of WTF?! grab him and shove him in the trunk they were using to block the door, latching him in.
They rush for the sheriff's gun, not realising it's a fake, and the real one is the gun that's been firing at them all night long. Would that make this Chekov's fakeout?
And speaking of fakeouts, Curtis is ready to pull the trigger on his cornered prey, but discovers the gun is out of bullets again. Much like Debbie earlier, his look of shock is priceless, and the grin on Timmy's face is just as good. He runs over and tackles the evil kid to the ground, and punches him right in the gut several times. See? They should've done this first. And even better, they hogtie him!
Debbie ducks out a window, and once the security system has been defeated by bashing it with a shoe, Joyce sends Timmy out to call the cops from their working phone across the street.
Princess of Darkness's mom returns home from her shrink just in time to pick her kid up, and for the cops to arrive. Seeing the cops, she just takes her kid and drives away, not even waiting for Debbie to spin her web of lies.
Later, the two captured kids are being led out of the police station and handed over to...I don't really know. No one is talking. But Curtis gives Joyce his patented evil smirk.
And elsewhere, at a motel, Debbie is playing with a car jack, and her mother finds her briefing her on their new identities as the Simpsons. Make your own jokes here. Boy, Marge sure is understanding and ready to cover up her murderous child's ways, huh? That shrink wasn't doing her any favours.
So that's how the movie ends, with the new Beth Simpson showing she hasn't changed one little bit, having dropped a truck on some guy's head with the jack she was messing around with a few minutes earlier.
To which I call bullcrap. The girl gets away completely to continue her killings, and we don't really know WHAT was done with the other two. We just saw them leaving the police station. Was there a trial? Are they going home free? Are they going to protective custody? Seek help? Are their parents taking them home? What about that evil grin at Joyce? When will that be paid off? And what about their motivation? Was the lack of Saturn in their horoscope and the eclipse really a factor? That was just kinda tossed out there and brushed aside, much like evreything else in this movie. Where the hell is there any kind of closure here??
I give up!
Video: Not great, but being from 1980, I think they did a good job of making it look more than presentable. It looks like you would expect from the time period, and I presume any flaws and some off colouring is due to the filming itself, than a bad transfer.
Audio: A straight mono track, and actually sounds pretty good, considering. Better than a lot of other movies I've listened too, aside from that one bad spot at the start of the film. Sure, it didn't surround me with sound, but it was a good, clear sound mix.
Special Features: An interview with the actress who played Joyce, which was quite informative on how much has changed in movies since this was made, and how the cast members have changed. Also, a good audio interview with the writer/director Ed Hunt, which was also pretty informative and filled in much of the history of him and the movie. And finally, a feature, "A Brief History of Slasher Movies". My biggest complaint is that it was TOO brief. It was still packed with some good historical perspective and made me want more, which is never bad.
Sound Bite: "From now on mommy, I'm going to be your good little girl!" Debbie, now Beth, wrapping up the movie with a very ominous lie.
First Blood: About six minutes in with the kids in the graveyard getting a shovel to the face and jumpchoked to death.
Best Corpse: I think the best death has to go to the sheriff, since it was SO out of nowhere. Surprise baseball bat!
Blood Type - D: While we are treated to a few deaths, they are all pretty bloodless, and there's no real effects to speak of.
Sex Appeal: Horror movies, the genre that launched a thousand breasts. And this movie is no different. The girl in the graveyard, the girl in the van, and of course, Julie Brown spends copious time topless.
Movie Review: For the most part, the writing is okay here. The movie making itself isn't awful, either. It's not great, though. The editing leaves a LOT to be desired though, and a lot of stuff happens for the sake of things happening. Could be worse though, so it gets a three out of five fridges.
Entertainment Value: But I rather liked this one. The kills were fun, the kids were, quite frankly, amazing. Curtis was so gloriously EVIL. And he sold it completely. If the kids were not half the actors they were, and instead they were all Jake Lloyds, this movie would not be anywhere near as good. The entire plot revolves around how much you buy into their evil, and you do, you really really do. The whole astrology stuff is dodgy, but barely even there, and a decent cast do a lot for a mediocre movie. Four out of five jump ropes.