• Bloody Birthday (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: December 11th, 2018.
    Director: Ed Hunt
    Cast: Elizabeth Hoy, Andy Freeman, Michael Dudikoff, Erica Hope, Billy Jayne, Julie Brown
    Year: 1981
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    Bloody Birthday – Movie Review:

    Bloody Birthday begins in 1970 when three children – Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jacoby) and Steven (Andy Freeman) - are born at the pinnacle of a lunar eclipse where the sun blocks Saturn, which is the planet that according to astrological lore, controls human emotions. Ten years later, the three kids, now fully enrolled in school and well known around town, start killing off some of the townsfolk. Obviously because they're just a bunch of innocent-looking little kids – and we all know kids are angels, right? - nobody suspects them.

    A kid named Timmy (K. C. Martel of Growing Pains!) and his sister, Joyce (Lori Lethin), become convinced of their evil disposition and decides to do something about it. The three evil kids, however, are smarter than you’d expect and so they decide that they have to try to get rid of their problem. As things start to get even worse around town, Joyce will have to try and convince the adults of the town and the proper authorities that these three young killers are the real thing, which won't be easy.

    Notable for a couple of gratuitous nude scenes (including one by future MTV star Julie Brown of Clueless and other goofball comedies), Bloody Birthday has only some mild gore (which is unusual for an 80s horror film when you consider how grisly the slasher films would get in the first part of the decade) and very little suspense worth noting. As an 80s time capsule of sorts, the film works though, and it's good for a few unintentional laughs for those who appreciate that decades specific brand of camp. Time hasn’t been kind to it on certain levels, but it’s still got some pretty significant entertainment value to offer and it’s easy to see why it remains a cult favorite.

    Influenced by Village Of The Damned, the mother of all killer kid movies, Bloody Birthday moves at a good pace and actually succeeds in creating a fair bit of suspense towards the end. The performances aren’t bad for a low budget early eighties horror film and Lori Lethin in particular does quite well in her part. The three ‘killer kids’ in the film aren’t particularly scary, but they play their parts with enough conviction that you definitely do get the vibe that they’re bad news. The shot of Debbie zipping around with a full size hunting bow towards the end of the film is simultaneously goofy and eerie – two adjectives you could use to describe most of the film. To explain, the fact that it’s very much a product of the early eighties makes the fashions, hairstyles and furnishings on display amusingly campy, but the actions of the kids are, at least in this day and age where kids do periodically kill one another, can get under your skin a little bit. Some creative kill scenes, a novel premise, some welcome celebrity nudity and the presence of a very young Michael Dudikoff makes this one worth revisiting. Dated or not, it holds up well and benefits from excellent camerawork throughout.

    Bloody Birthday – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow gives Bloody Birthday an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation on a 50GB disc with the picture framed at 1.85.1 taken from a new 2k restoration from ‘original film elements.’ Detail and color reproduction are improved over the Severin Blu-ray release. Colors look more natural and better defined while depth and texture advance. Black levels are stronger as well, and the movie has slightly better shadow detail. There are no noticeable compression artifacts nor are there any noticeable problems with edge enhancement or noise reduction. There’s no print damage to complain about while a natural amount of expected film grain is visible throughout the picture. All in all, this is quite a nice-looking transfer. Arrow’s disc is also framed differently, the Severin Blu-ray having been put out at 1.66.1 widescreen, and as such there’s a bit more picture information on the left and right of the frame.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language LPCM Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems to note here, audio is clean, clear and nicely balanced. The score and effects sound quite nice and there are no problems to report with any hiss or distortion.

    Arrow includes two new audio commentaries, the first of which is with director Ed Hunt who covers pretty much everything that you’d expect him to – the story, how he came to direct the picture, the locations, the cast and working with kids on set. He talks about the involvement of the cast and crew and gives a nice overview of the production and his involvement in it. The second commentary features the guys behind the podcast The Hysteria Continues, who actually covered the film a few years back on one of their episodes. If you’re familiar with these guys, you’ll know what to expect – a nice mix of humorous insight, earnest discussion about what works and what doesn’t, and trivia about the cast and crew. It’s an enjoyable listen.

    Also included on the disc is a brand-new interview with actress Lori Lethin that runs eight-minutes in length. She shares some quick stories here about how she got the part, what it was like on set and her thoughts on the movie. Bad Seeds and Body Counts is a new video appreciation of Bloody Birthday and the killer kid sub-genre by film journalist Chris Alexander that runs twenty-minutes. Here Alexander gives some context to this sub-genre of horror, expresses his appreciation for the title at hand and compares it to some of the other entries. Starships and Killer Brains is a new interview with film producer Ken Gord on Ed Hunt that clocks in at twenty-one-minutes. This is quite interesting as Gord was quite close with Hunt for a period of time and he’s got some neat stories about the guy that are worth hearing. Arrow has also dug up an eighteen-minute archival interview with producer Max Rosenberg who passed away in 2004 wherein he touches on his involvement in the film.

    The film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection round out the extras. None of the physical extras or inserts that accompany this release have been made available for the purposes of this review so we can’t comment on their worth.

    Note that none of the extras from the Severin Films release have been carried over to this reissue and they remain exclusive to that disc.

    Bloody Birthday – The Final Word:

    Bloody Birthday is as a very fine killer kid film with some cool kills, even cooler boobs and plenty of entertainment value. Arrow’s Blu-ray reissue offers up an improved presentation and a nice array of exclusive extra features making for an impressive release overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Bloody Birthday Blu-ray screen caps!