Bloody Birthday – Blu-ray Disc Review
Film Title: Bloody Birthday
Release Date: 1981
Runtime: 85 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Arrow Video
Audio Format: PCM 1.0 Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 12/18/18
Director: Ed Hunt
Cast: Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, K.C. Martel, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jayne, Andrew Freeman, Joe Penny, Bert Kramer, Susan Strasberg, José Ferrer
“Bloody Birthday” was a 1981 horror thriller directed by Ed Hunt. Hunt also co-wrote the screenplay to the film, along with help from Barry Pearson. Hunt and Pearson had both previously worked together on Hunt’s films “Plague” (1979) and “The Brain” (1988). It should be clarified that this film was indeed shot in 1980 and then released in April of 1981, despite rumors of being shelved for five years.
Bloody Birthday is a unique horror film about a group of three unsuspecting miscreant kids. The group, all born during a solar eclipse, end up turning blood thirsty right on the week approaching their birthdays – hence the film’s title. These 10-year-olds are a group, but it’s obvious they are led by a blonde girl named “Debbie” (Elizabeth Hoy). The two boys that complete this trifecta of evil are named “Curtis” (Billy Jayne) and “Steven” (Andrew Freeman). It’s also worth noting that Debbie’s father (Bert Kramer) just so happens to be the Sheriff in town.
The protagonists of sorts here are another 10-year-old boy named “Timmy” (K.C. Martel) and his teenage sister “Joyce” (Lori Lethin). Timmy knows that these three kids are up to no good and he tries his best to tell Joyce about it, since apparently their parents are on vacation. She doesn’t take him seriously at first, but even she starts to realize these kids are pure evil as the film progresses.
Some may compare it to the old thriller “Bad Seed” but it’s much darker than that film, almost seemingly just for the sake of being offensive at times. Hell, there’s nudity just 13 minutes in as some kids are watching a girl (Julie Brown) through a peephole in another room dancing around topless. To scale the level of evil these kids are: the little girl Debbie is so much in charge that she’s even charging (25 cents) for admission to the peephole in her closet. Just to see her older sister dance around naked to bad music.
I mean, sure there’s the whole plot that involves the kids being born under a eclipse and such, but are we supposed to believe that really could make a child evil? I’ve heard of the expression being born under a bad moon and all, but that’s a bit of a stretch.
31 minutes in is where this movie becomes a tad bit controversial. Hell, who am I kidding, this was controversial not just about ten minutes or less into the film. These kids are knocking off adults left and right and racking up a kills and not in a video game. Topless girls are a constant thing here, right along with the kids killing adults. They even go from spying curiously and creepily on those horny teenagers to downright killing them in cold blood. Creepy shit is what this is, and there’s no doubt about it.
These are three demented little kids we have here, and they’ll keep killing and killing, and most all of the females will continue to get topless. It’s like a never ending pattern that really doesn’t seem to actually have a damn real purpose. It also has no message, it’s just senseless violence and nudity to be just that. This borderlines offensive at times and exploitation type cinema, but still remains a horror film, regardless. It’s just darker than most horror films are, where the killers aren’t children.
I never did really dig the whole vibe this film gave off, to be brutally honest. It never had any real resolve or meaning, even at the damn end. Being born under an eclipse made only these three kids murderous little brats? Why only those three? I can never really understand this film entirely, yet I still can’t help finding myself watching this it from time to time. Bloody Birthday actually does scare me: the serious thought of young children murdering everyone with no real agenda, other than to kill as a result of just being evil? Yikes.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this film, but I don’t in any way find it to be bad – just about bad kids. It’s just the killer kid type film that’s multiplied into three and doesn’t ever make any real point aside from just mayhem. It’s mostly just a film that films like it borderlines on exploitation, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s definitely not a film that is for every horror film fan. I’ll end on that, and say that you parents out there may end up watching your children very closely after you see this film.
Movie Rating: 2.75 (out of 5)
According to the technical specifications listed on IMDb this was shot on 35MM film using Panavision cameras. “Bloody Birthday” is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, although it supposedly was originally shown in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This comes from a new 2K restoration from the original film elements.
A decent amount of film grain has been left intact, with some obvious visual imperfections on the film print still visible in this transfer. It’s color timing very early on in one of the opening few scenes can seem a bit off, by my standards, but thankfully this scene only lasts a minute and afterward the color is alright on all of the other scenes.
There’s a good amount of detail to be found in brighter lit scenes early on, especially in closeups of objects and text or writing. The black level is pretty much solid here, and the color palette can be vibrant at times with colors like red on wardrobe or cars showing off quite well. The blue and red on the police siren 16 minutes in really stands out as it should, as do the lit brake lights on the police car a few seconds later. Flesh tones for the most part here appear to be accurate, with only the exception of during a scene mentioned that color was off on early in the film for just a brief moment.
Overall it’s a somewhat detailed high definition presentation for the most part. Some scenes do seem rougher than others, and the amount of film grain can be a tad bit inconsistent throughout the film. It’s a pretty solid presentation, for a 1981 horror film.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in Uncompressed Linear PCM 1.0 Mono sound. “Bloody Birthday” was released theatrically in Mono as well, so it’s as intended. There’s a pretty clear presentation here, with the music, sound effects, and dialogue all coming across pretty nice, sharing the same channel. The music playing 13 minutes in as the kids peep through a hole in the closet comes through really decent, even if it is bad music, for it to just be in Mono. There’s a decent amount of bass to be found in the rock music from the soundtrack here. The sound effects really come across decent here to just be in Mono, especially really loud ones. Let’s just say these kids throw more than rocks when they want to attack. Things can get pretty intense at times in the mix, as rises come with the music during suspenseful scenes.
This lossless Mono mix sounds pretty decent here, and it proves to get the job done of setting the creepy vibe of this film. It does feel that it needs to be amplified a tad bit though, but when you do you will notice there’s a slight amount of hiss. If I didn’t have to amplify the mix so much past my typical reference volume level, and it didn’t really feel so much flat for the most part, I’d probably rated this slightly higher for audio. The audio seems to shrill, as well. It can be a bit unpleasant to hear at times. Thankfully that doesn’t happen all too often, only when the music gets a bit too intense with brighter notes that do not translate that well over into the Mono sound mix here. It’s nothing to write home about, but at the same time I suppose that it does this film justice. It’s good enough to go along with the film’s solid visual presentation. Plus, it’s expected for this to feel a bit dated and we should remember that it was shot on a low budget.
Audio Quality Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD video with Dolby Digital Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- A Collectible Booklet (23 pages) is included in the packaging. This features lots of photos from the film, a cast and crew listing, an essay about the film (by Lee Gamblin), and information regarding this restoration.
- Audio Commentary with writer-director Ed Hunt
- Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- “Bloody Babysitter” (8:13 – HD) has an interview with Lori Lethin (“Joyce”). Lethin played the older sister of the character “Timmy” that she was always babysitting in the film. The actress discusses her fear of horror films and reflects back on this film, that she starred in. She talks about co-starring with actress Julie Brown (“Beverly”), doing most of her own stunts in the film, the shooting style, the special effects, her career (namely in other horror films) and such. It’s really surprising to learn that she actually never saw the film during its original theater run.
- “Bad Seeds and Body Counts” (19:58 – HD) consists of an interview done with Canadian film journalist Chris Alexander. Alexander talks about first seeing this film and the films that it shares similarity and such. This is a fan of the film really discussing their love for the film. Other fans of the film and horror genre in general will find this to be pretty enjoyable. His thoughts regarding “The Little Rascals” are downright scary as hell, as if this film wasn’t frightening enough.
- “Starships and Killer Brains: Ken Gord on Ed Hunt” (21:15 – HD) features an interview with Ken Gord (a film producer) discussing the film works “of his friend and collaborator,” the director and writer of this film. This is new and made by Arrow Video for this release. Sadly, the audio on this interview really has an echo to it. This is pretty information and proves to be worth giving a watch. The discussion of Canadian filmmaking is obvious here. Essentially Hunt really came to Canada in 1969 to dodge the draft for the war in Vietnam and instead pursue a filmmaking career.
- Interview with Producer Max Rosenberg (17:26 – HD) is archival. Rosenberg served as the Executive Producer on this film. This interview is hosted by Dennis Bartok, former head of programming for the American Cinematheque is Los Angeles, California.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:59 – HD) is in pretty nice quality.
- Promo Trailer (1:07 – HD) it appears comes from a VHS source.
Overall the bonus materials on this Arrow Video Blu-ray Disc release of the film prove to be informative and entertaining. They also are roughly over an hour in length, not including the two audio commentary tracks. Plus, there’s the physical bonus of the collectible booklet included inside the packaging.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
“Bloody Birthday” is one of probably the most offensive of the killer kid sub-genre of horror films out there. It’s definitely offensive, and was during its original theatrical release. It’s developed a bit of a cult-following over the past 37 years or so and fans finally get it on Blu-ray Disc presented in solid video and audio quality. The bonus materials you get here are just as good as the film itself, in my opinion. So, with that being said, it’s safe to say that the fans of the film are going to be pleased with what you get here.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials