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  Bloody Birthday What Hath The Eclipse Wrought?
Year: 1981
Director: Ed Hunt
Stars: Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Joe Penny, Bert Kramer, K.C. Martel, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jayne, Andrew Freeman, Susan Strasberg, José Ferrer, Ben Marley, Erica Hope, Ellen Geer, Michael Dudikoff, Cyril O'Reilly
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten years ago, there were three babies born in this Californian town all around the same time, but the unusual thing was they came into this world during an eclipse. Maybe nothing more than a passing note was made back then, but perhaps it would be worth taking into consideration as now, in 1980, it is the time of their tenth birthday. However, the town is not concerned with that so much as the recent double murder of a couple in a graveyard last night - a murder yet to be solved.

Can you put two and two together and make five when you hear that one of the weapons used to kill was a child's skipping rope? That's right, we were in the territory staked out by the fifties chiller The Bad Seed, which took the unthinkable notion that there could be evil kids in the world and turned it into entertainment intended to shock the audience. Of course, if you watch that movie today you'll find it camp and ridiculous, though not so much that you won't enjoy it, and Bloody Birthday, which followed the same line only with more violence and more killers, has a small circle of admirers precisely because it's difficult to take seriously.

That was more to do with the cheap presentation which extended to some functional at best acting, although the child actors were not too bad considering what they had to work with. The three little ones born during the eclipse are the ones to watch out for in a dubious bit of psychology spawned by some equally dubious astrology, so not all the kids are bad, actually one of their schoolfriends is the hero in this. He was Timmy (K.C. Martel), and he though he was their friend at any rate, but when they lock him in an abandoned fridge at the junkyard he understandably has reason to reconsider.

Luckily he has a sister, Joyce (Lori Lethin) who after some persuading begins to come around to his way of thinking, mainly because there are more murders happening, although she doesn't know the whole story. After ending up humiliated at the birthday party of the terrible trio when she thought they'd poisoned the cake and they hadn't (a devious way of creating cover for themselves) she is lured into their clutches for a standoff that takes up the climax, but tense this isn't really, mainly due to us expecting some kind of comeuppance, though we might also expect a downbeat conclusion as was the style of the day.

Killer kids in horror fiction don't exactly have a great pedigree, and while in novels like the seventies paperback shocker Let's Go Play at the Adams' authors were able to go pretty far with the wicked deeds, on film the set ups can be hard to believe, meaning the element of fantasy is necessary to offer an excuse for us to accept them. At least that was the case until the twenty-first century when being shocking was the reasoning behind casting youngsters as the villains, but Bloody Birthday belonged to the style of something like Children of the Corn rather than tapping into any audience fear of real life kids running amok. To that end, it wasn't especially explicit in its violence, allowing the central theme to carry its rather silly scenes of people being hunted with a bow and arrow or shot with a stolen gun, although for reasons best known to themselves the filmmakers included lots of female nudity, more than you'd get in a horror these days anyway. Mainly this was daft more than sleazy, with grim ideas it played with rather than confronted. Music by Arlon Ober.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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