SET VISIT REPORT & INTERVIEWS – BATTLE: LOS ANGELES [PART 2]
January 28, 2011
HORROR 101: Miscellanea
January 28, 2011

Movie of the Day: Bloody Birthday (NSFW)

The Film: Bloody Birthday (1981)

The Principals: Susan Strasberg, Jose Ferrer, Julie Brown, Lori Lethin, Billy Jayne, Andy Freeman, Elizabeth Hoy, K.C. Martel. Directed by Ed Hunt.

The Premise: The film opens with a doctor (Ferrer) delivering three babies during an eclipse. We learn that the eclipse is special, because the sun and moon were blocking Saturn. We also learn that apparently Saturn controls your emotions. Further learnin’ learns us that apparently if you’re born when the sun and moon are blocking Saturn you will become an amoral psychopath who enjoys killing just for funzies. Such is the case with the three children –  Debbie (Hoy), Curtis (Jayne) and Steven (Freeman) – when we jump ahead ten years. With their birthday approaching, they start ramping up their slaughter. And no one suspects a thing. Except for brother and sister, Joyce (Lethin) and Timmy Russell (Martel), who soon find themselves in the children’s crosshairs.

Is It Good: No, of course not. It’s a cheesy slasher movie from 1981 about ten-year-olds who murder people. But in that context – it is delightful. The film feels a bit like a TV movie, with some pacing issues, but overall it is a lot of fun; one of those films that coasts by just on the sincerity and sheer whimsy of its own absurd convictions. I enjoyed that the three children have no real objective to their killing. This isn’t Village of the Damned. There is no conspiracy. They just like to smoke fools, with utterly wanton purpose, and obviously they don’t want to get caught. I also think it is funny that there isn’t any sort of curse or supernatural explanation for why that eclipse makes them soulless monsters. Saturn controls your emotions. They were deprived of Saturn during that apparently developmentally crucial moment of live birth. Thus: evil.

While the performances are predictably amateurish, Hoy and Jayne are nonetheless very appropriate for their characters. Lethin (as teenager Joyce) is essentially our protagonist, and she’s probably the worst aspect here, but she isn’t overly featured for the first half of the film. Veteran actor Jose Ferrer (father to veteran character actor, Miguel Ferrer) is barely in the movie; his presence was most likely a favor to friend and producer Gerald T. Olson. Unsurprisingly, The Manitou‘s Susan Strasberg (daughter of legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg) gives the film’s most legitimate performance.

The film’s most surprising treat is a very young Julie Brown, the songwriting comedian who a certain segment of you may remember from her MTV days (not to be confused with MTV’s ‘Downtown’ Julie Brown), her film Earth Girls Are Easy, and her sadly forgotten short-lived sketch show The Edge (which starred pre-famous Jennifer Aniston and Wayne Knight). Brown plays evil Debbie’s older sister, and fills the role of Slutty Best-friend to Joyce. More importantly, she is the focus of the film’s best running subplot – that Debbie charges the boys at school twenty-five cents to stare through a Porky’s-style peephole and watch Brown change clothes. And by “change clothes” I mean “dance around topless staring at her boobs in the mirror for several minutes.” Needless to say, Brown is a true American hero.

Still from The Daily Grind(House)

Is It Worth Seeing: You should know by now whether or not you are the kind of person who will enjoy this. It is off-beat early 80’s slasher horror, with more of a focus on the story than crazy kills (one of the kills is just Jayne shooting someone with a gun, for example). And this isn’t a so-bad-it’s-good kind of movie. It is just good enough that people like me can really dig it, but I imagine it is also just good enough that those looking for a drunken night of MST3King will be disappointed.

Random Anecdote: Billy Jayne (probably best remembered from TV cult hit, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose) is a member of the Jayne/Jacoby child-actor dynasty. His older brother, Scott Jacoby, played Ronald is the awesome 70’s TV horror movie, Bad Ronald, and his younger brother Bobby Jayne (sometimes Bobby Jacoby) was in Tremors (and sequels), Night of the Demons 2 and Can’t Hardly Wait.