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BLOODY BIRTHDAY (October 17th)


'I really can't wait to see these kids snuff it' is a line I said halfway through tonight's movie. Not a line that I think I've said very many times in my life admittedly. However horror films force into these crazy conclusions. Children are to be found in an awful lot of genre films but rarely do I wish harm on them. In supernatural horror – unless they are ghosts themselves - they are protagonists and are at the centre of the story and are therefore super easy to empathise with. Think of films like The Sixth Sense, The Shining or series like Stranger Things or The Haunting of Hill House. In slasher movies however, they barely feature. These movies are predominantly adult and the only kids you'll ever see are ones either being babysat or attending some kind of summer camp where their minders are being stalked and killed. Children are basically safe in these films. Good luck getting a film about a masked psychopath offing a bunch of 11 years olds past the censors.17 year olds are fine though apparently. However there are a few movies where it's the kids who are doing all the killing. The Children, Them, Children of the Corn and Who Can Kill a Child all feature psychotic nippers and although they vary wildly in tone and application, they all point to the fact that on some level, there's something a little unnerving about children. There, I said it. And it's one of the reasons why I chose to watch 1981 slasher Bloody Birthday tonight...

The film opens at a Californian hospital in 1970 where, during a solar eclipse, three children are born – Curtis, Debbie and Steve (ha, imagine a baby named Steve now!). Flash forward ten years and we are watching a teenage couple making out in a graveyard (romantic!). The girl is a bit worried about being seen so they make the logical choice of getting into a big whole that's been dug in preparation for a burial. They are then attacked and killed by an unseen assailant(s) who use a skipping rope and a shovel as their weapons of choice. The next day we see the local sheriff talking to a class of ten year old kids about the murder and asking them where they were the previous night! Three of the kids exchange suspicious glances and in the ensuing scenes we realise that these three kids were the ones born at the beginning of the film and for some reason, they just want to kill people. Their teachers, their family, strangers. No one is safe. However one of their classmates and his older sister soon become suspicious of their strange behaviour...

Oh this is a real treat. When you go into an 80s slasher, what you are really looking for is a bunch of inventive and enjoyable kills (yes, slashers are pure nihilism) wrapped up in a blanket of big hair, dodgy dialogue and mild titillation. And we get all of that and more in Bloody Birthday. It's ludicrous. Utterly ludicrous. But I loved it.

Made in 1981, there are definite Halloween vibes here too from the sound design and setting (which feels eerily like Haddonfield at certain points) to the Laurie Strode-seque central character and her younger brother, who for a few minutes I actually thought WAS the kid from Halloween (he's not, he's in E.T. Though). Admittedly it doesn't contain much of the suspense or style of Carpenter's classic but you could easily imagine one of these little critters becoming a Michael Myers. It's the randomness and sheer absurdity that makes it so fun though. These kids are all raging psychos because of some astrological anomaly. WTF?! This is beautifully explained by our heroine who just happens to be into all that bollocks. 'According to this chart, those three kids are missing something. Maybe it's a conscience?' she muses at one point. Genius.

It's the kids who make this film such a blast though. That and the script that just makes them do and say the craziest shit. One of the kids, the little blonde one called Steve doesn't do much. Well, that's not strictly true. He does contribute to a few of the murders. But he's largely a non-entity. The other two though are just great. Debbie may appear be to be a sweet regular little girl but she's completely twisted. She keeps a scrapbook where she records all of her kills and she has cut a peephole into her older sister's bedroom and charges her classmates money to come over and ogle her whilst she's getting dressed etc. Curtis, who looks like a 39 year old accountant, just can't contain his murderous tendencies and seems to really revel in the trappings of being a serial killer. Listening to him trash talk his teacher whilst planning her murder is grimly hilarious. As is the scene where he poses in front of a mirror with a gun. Then there's the scene where the three of them are at a funeral (yep, there are a number of funerals!) and through a series of looks and nods, single out their next target. Although it plays is quite straight, you can't take any of it very seriously and although there's something unnerving about watching a small kid kill an adult with a baseball bat – it's more darkly comical than it is shocking. If you can't laugh when two ten year olds high five each other after locking another kid in an abandoned refrigerator, I think there might be something wrong with you.


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