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MAY 9 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975)
From monstershack.net

Bill Rebane is no stranger to schlock B-movies. His epic "The Giant Spider Invasion" is the pinnacle of 70′s schlock…believe you me. An outrageous story, nonexistent acting, horrid special effects, along with a bizarre white-trash cast of characters combine to produce an awful movie. (Rebane was hoping to primarily distribute the film in the Southern US, so he hoped to widen the movie’s appeal by creating red-neck characters…at least the only explanation I can come up with.) There are many who defend the movie, noting that although it is a bad movie, it’s still fun. Well, I agree. It is fun…but boy is it also bad! B-A-D!

Now, I’m sure that Rebane didn’t delude himself into believing that this movie would ever win an Oscar. Rebane himself said that he often made monster movie ‘quickies’ in order to generate money so he could produce more serious flicks. Remember that back in the 70′s, there were thousands of drive-in movies, and cheapy monster flicks could be made quickly and distributed to a massive audience relatively easily (read: profitably). In addition to "TGSI", Rebane has pumped out Invasion from Inner Earth (1974), Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975) (also known under the lurid title of Croaked: Frog Monster From Hell), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), and his last effort, starring the ukulele-playing Tiny Tim (!), Blood Harvest (1987). I’m hoping that you’ve noticed I’ve left out one film in particular: Yes, Monster A-Go Go, from 1964. You can’t really blame Rebane entirely for that mess. (You can read more about the film following the link above.)

The story? Well, let’s see: A meteor crashes in Wisconsin and opens up a black hole. Out of this black hole comes a giant spider that starts controlling all the other local spiders. Oh yeah, the meteor crash scatters a bunch of geodes full of diamonds… and more spiders. Red necks get eaten and spiders run around until a couple of space, <ahem> experts arrive on the scene. They decide to drop a bomb on the black hole and close up the inter-dimensional rift, thus causing all the other spiders to melt and explode. (Well, it’s certainly a creative story line.)

I read an interesting interview with a guy who lived in the town where one of the scenes featuring THE giant spider was filmed. As everybody knows, the ‘main’ giant spider was a VW Bug decked out with fur and long, hairy legs that never really reached the ground. (If you look carefully, in some scenes you can see tire tracks in the grass behind the ‘spider’!) Two large glass globes were placed over the headlights as eyes. The eyes were then painted yellow with large red lightning bolts for pupils. The guy in the interview also recalled that some vandals had spray painted profanity on the back side of the ‘spider’, thus forcing Rebane to film the beast only from the front and sides. (The paint couldn’t be washed off…) Just as funny is the fact that in some scenes the spider had to be ‘pushed’ by extras in order to make it ‘walk’, thus you can see groups of ‘victims’ running with the spider as they push it along, screaming in ‘fear’.

Man…I love this job! Let’s get started!

Opening credits overlayed over a star field. Check.

Comic looking ‘meteor’ flying through space accompanied by a high-pitched <swooshing> sound. Check.

Yup, this is gonna suck.

Jump cut (like every cut in the film) to the office of Sheriff Jones. In strolls the local news hound, Dave Perkins, snooping around for a story to print. (As a wink to the audience, Rebane has Sheriff Jones greet Dave with a "Hi little buddy!". Ahhh, what I wouldn’t give for 90 minutes of Gilligan’s Island instead of this…)

Nope, no news today. "It’s pretty quite around here," the Sheriff remarks in an ironic observation since, you know, this quiet town is soon to be invaded by inter-dimensional giant spiders from a black hole. Wow. Talk about foreshadowing. I’m getting goose-bumps. After some shameless exposition, we learn a few more character’s names, which I won’t get into now since I haven’t seen any of them yet. Well, OK. We learn that Dave has a date that night with Terry. But watch out…Terry lives with her brother-in-law, Dan Kester, who’s a "strange man…and he’s working up a big head of steam" (?).

Cut to the Kester place…a tin roof shack, complete with chickens in the yard and pick-up truck in the dirt driveway. Get the picture? Anyway, Dan’s aheadin’ into town for a revival meeting at the local church. His wife, Ev? She’ll stay home and drink, as usual.

As Dan jumps into his battered truck to leave, Ev delivers some classic parting words, "Sometimes the only way I know you’re alive is when I hear you flush the toilet." Ok, Rebane, I’ll give you this much: I did laugh at that line. Cheers!

Moving right along, Dave shows up at the Kester place and waits on the stairs outside with Ev while her sister, Terry, pretties herself up inside for her date. Not wanting to be out of character, Ev offers Dave a drink which he politely declines. More Classic Lines are exchanged until Terry finally emerges from the house’s tattered screen door.

Once Dave and Terry leave, Ev has a fit because there’s no more booze in the house. She makes a desperate call to the local cafe owner, Dutch, and asks him to bring over some booze. When Ev says she’ll be "mighty appreciative" if he would, Dutch quickly agrees.

Back with Dan now where we spot him leaving a woman’s trailer (Ahhh, Dan you bad boy! You didn’t go to the revival, you slept with this woman! God’s going to send a giant inter-dimensional spider after you!). The woman tells Dan that he forgot something then she runs back inside and fetches Dan’s "back brace" which she proceeds to set into place after he drops his pants, exposing his red long-johns. (Rebane, um, wtf?)

When Dan returns home, he is met by his suspicious wife waiting for him on the front stairs. After a few Classic Lines, a meteor falls out of the sky and lands behind the house in an explosion of cheap cartoon effects. As is usual when a meteor lands, a cold wind blows over the entire town, lights go out, and cars won’t start. You know, normal stuff that always happens when a meteorite hits the ground.

Oh gee, it gets better. A lone motorcyclist loses control of his bike and slides to a halt in some gravel. For some reason his motorcycle explodes (well, the bush behind the bike explodes, I don’t think they had the money to blow up a real bike), and the cyclist runs off on foot.

Anyway, despite the massive explosion in his back yard, Dan decides to just go to bed. Great. I guess if he did do what 99.9999 % of every other person on Earth would have done, i.e., gone back to investigate, the ‘black hole’ plot point would be revealed too early in the film. Brilliant scripting here.

Later that night, Dan hears a noise in the kitchen. Armed with a shotgun (and dressed in his red long-johns and corsett…echh…), he switches on the lights to find Terry sitting in the kitchen alone. You see, she couldn’t sleep because of the "weird" things that happened when she was out on her date. (I guess she considers ‘wind’ weird.) Deciding not to waste his trip to the kitchen, Dan sets aside his shotgun, pulls out a plate of cold fried chicken, and plops down on a chair beside Terry. Some inane conversation ensues, resulting in Dan getting angry with Terry and shouting, "Why, I outta put you over my knee, pull down your britches, and spank the hell out of ya!" (He speaks to his sister-in-law like this?!) To the strums of a banjo on the soundtrack, Dan chases Terry out of the kitchen and returns to his midnight snack. Good old’ country fun.

Cut to an observatory where Dr. Jenny Langer (Barbara Hale) notes that something strange is happening. "We’re getting gamma ray showers and the barometer has dropped an inch in less than twenty minutes." Oh…gee…and that’s bad, right?

Another deftly executed jarring jump cut takes us to…someplace with a big rocket. Ah yes, now we get to meet Dr. J.R. Vance (Steve Brodie). I assume the stock footage of a rocket on a launching pad was used to convey the fact that the following scenes take place at NASA headquarters. Well done, lads.

"There’s more freaky stuff happening in Northern Wisconsin", reports one of Vance’s subordinates. ("Freaky"? Doesn’t sound just a bit non-scientific? See Classic Lines for the full report.) Vance remembers other reports of ‘freaky’ going-ons, and travels to Horton, Wisconsin to have a meeting with Dr. Langer. (I wonder if those two will fall in love. Ahhh, nothing more entertaining than watching 2 scientists in their late 50′s falling in love…)

OK, boy, there really isn’t a hell of a lot happening here. Vance and Langer meet, at which point Vance just can’t believe that Langer is a scientist because she’s, you know, a woman. (Ouch. Didn’t this kind of "humor" go out in the 50′s?) They exchange a lot of mumbo-jumbo, and boy do I mean a lot. Zzzzzz. Get yourself a beer or two at this point, you won’t miss anything. Langer takes Vance up to her lab (which is obviously, and let me say obviously, a high-school science class room), where she proceeds to print out a bunch of stuff from an adding machine. The print out from the adding machine indicates that the radiation levels are still high. (How an adding machine measures radiation is beyond me.)

Back with the always enjoyable Kester family. Dan and Ev are stomping around their land looking for whatever smashed into the ground the other night. Although they are standing in an open field, Ev manages not to see a severed cow’s head directly at her feet until she ‘falls’ and lands immediately beside it. "There’s another one!" Dan shouts, referring to a bloody cow skeleton at the bottom of a hill. Ev, worried that they’re going to lose a bunch of money because of the dead cattle, asks Dan what they should do. Dan, always the entrepreneur, says he’ll just cut up the meat and sell it anyway. (I wonder how much meat he’s going to get off a cow skeleton…idiot.)

Ahhh, the excitement mounts as we jump cut back to Vance and Langer. "I’ve never seen so much fouled up data in my life," Vance exclaims as he waves a handful of adding machine printouts, "It’s against every known law of physics!" Realizing that they won’t get anywhere by just "brainstorming", Vance suggests that they take a Geiger counter out into the woods and look for the crash site themselves. Now this is going to be exciting! Steve Brodie with a Geiger counter!

Meanwhile, Dan and Ev stumble across a bunch of strange round rocks scattered all over their field. Walking around for a few more minutes yields and exciting discovery: A huge impact crater! (Well, somebody dug a big hole in the ground and threw a bunch of geodes on the ground at least.) Sensing that something unique in the history of science may have happened in his own back yard, Dan takes a bunch of rocks back home to "bust ‘em open." When he and Ev get home, Ev grabs a beer while Dan takes a few whacks at one of the rocks with a hammer. After a few blows, a rock rolls off the table and cracks open on the floor, releasing a rather startled looking tarantula. (Of course, Dan and Ev manage not to "see" the spider…because you know…it’s a bit too early in the story for that.) "Those look like diamonds!" Dan shouts with glee. To test his theory he pops out one of the crystals and scratches up his kitchen window. Yup. They’re diamonds all right. After collecting a bunch of the, <ahem>, diamonds, Dan plans on taking them over to cousin Billy’s rock shop for an appraisal. (Cousin Billy’s rock shop?)

Over in Dutch’s Cafe, Dr’s Vance and Langer meet with Sheriff Jones. To give you an idea of the quality dialog that takes place, I’ll provide you with a sample:

Sheriff: "What’s that?"

Vance: "A Geiger counter."

Sheriff: "Why, we don’t have any ‘geigers’ around here! <haw haw>"

OK, when you stop laughing, here’s another one:

Langer: "I’m sure [the Sheriff] has taken physics."

Sheriff: "I used to take physics, now I find that prunes do the better job!"

Hee Hee Ho Ho Ho Hoooo!

(Just shoot me now.)

Later that day, Ev is sitting in the kitchen drinking. "I feel terrible…this house is full of spiders," she growls as she smacks one of the creepy-crawly’s with a fly swatter. Dan assumes she’s just drunk again and shouts at her to lay off the booze. Another quality scene. Cut to the Sheriff’s office.

Yes, the wife of the motorcyclist has called Sheriff Jones to report that her husband has been missing ever since he went on his motorcycle ride. The diligent Sheriff promises to "take a look around". Hmmm.

Well, as Dan is out gathering more of those strange rocks from his field, he spots the missing motorcyclist’s bloody body. It appears that half of him has been reduced to a skeleton, but he still has all of his clothes on. Go figure. Dan does the sensible thing as always, and simply buries the remains in the ground and continues collecting geodes.

More footage of tarantulas crawling around the Kesters’ filthy kitchen. A lot more footage. And a lot of filth. Time for a lame gross-out scene. A spider slips into the blender as Ev fills it with booze and some strawberry stuff. In stomps Dan, looking pretty upset after discovering the body, at which time Ev chugs the drink. (I can just imagine the 70′s kids in the audience shouting "Ewwwwwww!") Dan doesn’t want to mention the body to the police because of the diamonds and "all the grass were growing." (Oh gee. Thanks for bringing up that plot point a good 45 minutes into the movie.)

Blah. After telling Ev he’s heading over to his cousin’s place, Dan sneak over to have a quickly with the woman he’s seeing on the side. Ev, on the other hand, goes off to bed for a drink. No, not a drink before going to bed, but gets into the bed and starts drinking from a bottle of booze on the night stand. After some fairly innocent (and blatant) ‘tush’ shots of Ev’s underwear and a spider crawling closer..closer…closer…Ahh, just before it puts its legs on her butt, Ev gets up, for no apparent reason, and walks over to her dresser. When she opens the top drawer, an enormous set of puppet spider legs pops out and tries to grab her. How in the hell that spider got in and closed the drawer behind itself is never explained. To make a long scene short, Ev runs from the bedroom, gets covered in webs that are now (suddenly) all over the house and makes a really smart decision: hide in the barn. Needless to say, inside the barn is a giant spider puppet that some off-camera stage hands toss onto the screaming actress. After catching the spider puppet, Ev falls to the ground, pulls the ridiculous contraption over her (note the wires dangling behind the puppet), and screams as the spider ‘eats’ her. Fade to black.

The next day Dan heads into town with his "hot rocks". Dan’s cousin, Billy, is every bit as sleazy as Dan. (Yes, it’s possible.) In another charming scene, Billy looks at the diamonds and asks Dan to come closer so he can tell him how much they’re worth: Zilch…as indicated by Billy ‘razzing’ Dan right in the face. Oh, how I love you, Rebane.

OK, let’s see if anything exciting is happening…nope. Sheriff Jones takes a trip out to the Kester place to ask about the missing motorcyclist. Vance and Langer hire a helicopter to fly around the crash site. …hmmm…anything else? Nope.

As Vance, Langer, and reporter Dave sit beside their car (talk about a slow news day!), the helicopter pilot reports back that he’s "found a radioactive source." (Just how he did that is not revealed.) Well, the impact site is confirmed as being around the Kester place so Vance tells the helicopter pilot to take a picture of the crater.

Back at the lab, in a absolutely delightful science mumbo-jumbo moment, Langer holds up what looks like an ink blot against a large map of the region. After peering at the map with a magnifying glass, Langer calmly declares: "It fits…that’s a space warp allright…this must be the only energy photo-gram of it’s kind." (!!)

I love crap like that. I really do.

Oh, yes, now it’s Vance’s turn to recite a bunch of nonsense when Dave asks him what a space warp is:

"A ‘space warp’ is a gravitational pull so intense that it makes a black hole in space."

"There’s only one thing I know of that can cause a space warp like this," says Langer.

Vance nods and completes her thoughts, "A miniature black hole."

There you have it folks. Bill Rebane’s condensed version of Stephan Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’.

Ohhh…this is rich, yes, even more:

Langer: "If a dead star collapsed all its masses [sic], the star would gradually shrink to a point…"

Vance: "…and disappear into another universe…"

Langer: "Right. A parallel universe with a door back and forth…"

Vance: "…That sucks everything up!"

Langer: "…And throws everything out!" (Huh?!)

Are you getting all this?

Back at the Kester farm, Dan is out once again gathering rocks. This time however, the giant spider gets manages to sneak up behind him and eat him. Sorry if that description of the action left out a lot of details, but that’s pretty much how it happened. One second he’s sitting on the ground wiping his forehead, the next moment he’s in the spider’s mouth.

Boy, I’m sure gonna miss that guy.

OK, more lame comedy between Dutch and his waitress, Helga (!). (Helga is played by German bomb-shell Christiane Schmidtmer. Christiane was a model and actress (posing in Playboy from time to time), but she is probably most famous for her role as Miss Dietrich in the 1971 women-in-prison exploitation film The Big Doll House.)

OK, time to dispense with more superfluous characters. Now it’s time for Cousin Billy to meet his 8-legged fate. Billy is driving down a completely flat and straight road, but manages to not see a gigantic spider-web stretched across the road, nor does he spot the bus-sized spider perched in the middle of it. After a confusing sequence of scenes, Billy manages to free the car from the web but then crashes into a gas station. Do I need to mention that his car, the gas pumps, and the gas station itself all explode in a massive fireball of flame? I don’t? OK, thank you.

Cut back to Terri. After a gratuitous booby-scene, Terri is attacked by a bunch of tarantulas that have begun to burst out of their little geodes. Oh, OK, enough of that scene I guess. Cut to Dutch’s cafe. Reporter Dave tries to get ahold of Terri on the phone, but the lines are dead. Worried because of all the "strange things" that have happened recently, Dave decides to take a trip out to the Kester’s and see if she’s OK.

Oops, OK. Cut back to Terri, running through the house dressed in panties and a cut-off t-shirt (sans brassier, of course.) The entire living room is filled with webs now, which makes me wonder when that occurred because she obviously had to walk through the living room to get to her bedroom so she could flash her boobs. But…oh well. As she screams and tries to act ‘scared’, a giant fuzzy spider leg reaches through a window and grabs at her.

Once again, I would like you too take a peek at the screen-shot to the right. Yes, the giant spider is on top of the Kester’s house…and nobody notices this kind of thing?

Meanwhile, Dr. Vance and Dr. Langer are walking through the wilds with a Geiger counter, trying to find the exactly location of the black hole, sorry, I mean "space warp".

Cut to Dave, who roars up in his car at Terri’s house and notices two things which are out of the ordinary: One, the house is demolished. Two, there is a giant spider in the backyard. Dave reaches into the car’s back seat, pulls out a rifle (!), and starts firing madly at the giant spider which is strolling around the Kester estate for a bit of exercise.

Oh boy, Vance and Langer hear the rifle shots and run…somewhere…ok, up a hill. When the reach the top, big Old Eight Legs is there to greet them and we are treated to a hilarious scene of Steve Brodie and Barbara Hale rolling down a hill as a giant spider waves its legs at them and makes weird ‘squeaking’ sounds.

I love this job.

Vance and Langer rush back to town and tell Sheriff Jones about their most unusual encounter with the interstellar arachnid. (See Classic Lines.)

Langer, battered and bruised after Vance rolled over her on the hill, says in a concerned voice, "It looks like our black hole has turned into a doorway to Hell…God knows how many monsters might come through…" After picking up a flare gun (!) from the desk sergeant, Vance and Langer return to the lab with a couple of geodes in order to "run some tests" on them. Oh Joy.

Oh boy, oh boy. Vance and Langer discuss ways to solve their little problem. I now bring to you some more great mumbo-jumbo:

Vance: "How are you going to kill a monster like that…an alien energy pattern…we haven’t even found the impact area of the black hole."

Langer: "And that’s undoubtedly where the spider’s coming from."

Vance: "The energy pattern has to feed off of the gravitational field of the black hole."

Langer: "Could we soak up the energy?"

Vance: "We could feed it so much extra mass, we could choke it."

Langer: "We could shower it with neutrons!"

Vance: "A neutron initiator…it just might work!"

There you go! It just might work!

Vance calls his buddy back at NASA headquarters and asks him to send over a "Cal-Tech neutron initiator."

Umm…a what?

"Have them set it with a six-hundred gram charge and set the pattern at three-hundred and sixty degrees!" Vance orders.

Meanwhile, Dutch has organized a lynch party to "Go kill that spider!". Boy, if you want to see a group of small town, rifle-toting Wisconsinites from the 70′s, well, here you go. Despite Sheriff Jones’ pleas for them to calm down and return home, the posse rides off, packed into 3 pick-up trucks, to go do battle with the spider.

Cut to "Gleason Days", the yearly summer fair in, yes, the city of Gleason. Kids, sun, carnival rides, beer-chugging yokels…the perfect place for a giant spider attack. Wow! I was right! Out of nowhere, and really, how could people not see this giant spider, here comes our star: The giant spider from outer space. Some people run in fear while others courageously push the spider so it can ‘move’. (Try not to notice that the spider’s legs never really touch the ground.)

Next we see Vance and Langer out at the impact site in the middle of the night. I’m not sure when that time-warp took place, since it was the middle of the afternoon just 2 seconds ago. (Actually I’ve read that Rebane filmed these scenes with the wrong type of film, thus it was so underexposed that it just looks like night time.) Anyway, Langer and Vance make their way back to their car after seeing bunches of spiders coming out of the crater. (I couldn’t see that because the shot was so dark, but we’ll just assume that’s what they saw.) Langer stumbles over another corpse. Once again, the corpse is a completely clothed skeleton…boy I’d love to see how the spider did that.

OK, back to daytime. Vance informs the Sheriff of the growing number of spiders coming out of the hole. No wait, it’s night again and the mobs are getting out of hand, and Sheriff Jones has called in the National Guard to help maintain order. "I got a man from NASA and he knows what he’s doing!" Sheriff Jones shouts to the angry mob in an effort to disperse them.

Sheriff Jones raises Vance on the radio and reports that the mob is out of hand and is "hellbent on destroying that beast."

"The bomb is on the way," Vance assures him, "Just try to keep the spider there!"

Hoo boy.

Not really knowing how to keep the spider "there", the Sheriff drives his car in front of it and starts honking the horn. (If you really want to know, the spider killed Dutch.) Faced with a barrage of car horn honking, the spider retreats back to the forest.

Truly, these are some of the most underexposed shots I’ve ever seen in a ‘movie’. Imagine how scary it is to see a huge black spider walking through the woods in the middle of the night. Yeah, it’s that scary.

Back out in the fields, Vance spots the spider and orders the helicopter to drop the neutron "gadget" (!) into the hole when he fires up a flare. This is a great plan except that Vance forgot the flares in the car. (Idiot.) Langer runs back to get the flares while Vance runs off into the woods. Something like that. I really can’t understand what’s happening now. I don’t think Rebane knew either.

Oh gee, the Sheriff (?) runs up and fires his pistol into the spider. When that doesn’t work, he undoes his pistol belt and throws it at the 50-foot arachnid. (!) Needless to say, the spider devours the hapless lawman, with a little help from some stage hands in the spider itself that have to help pull the actor into the mouth. (By the way, there are several reviewers that think that the guy who just got eaten was the Sheriff. It is obviously not Alan Hale Jr. But whether it’s supposed to be an entirely different character, or whether they just couldn’t find a stunt man who looked like Hale Jr., is unclear. I mean, the guy that gets eaten has a full mustache! However since we never see the Sheriff again, I do think that this scene was supposed to be the Sheriff’s death.)

Langer returns with the flare gun, Vance fires up a flare and an explosion engulfs the giant spider. Then we see the explosion sequence run in reverse, which I assume indicates that the black hole is now closed. OK. The spider starts to burn, then melt, then sort of just dissolves in a puddle of goo.

As the end credits roll up the screen, we hear a preacher shouting something from Exodus about flies, spiders, and locusts.

The End.


MAY 9 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1980)

During a solar eclipse, three babies are born at almost the exact same time at a hospital in the small town of Meadowvale, California: Two boys and a girl, all born to different mothers. Ten years later, a series of brutal murders are happening in Meadowvale, each one gorier than the last. The first are two teens who are necking in a graveyard. One is repeatedly hit over the head with a shovel and the other is strangled with a jump rope. The three birthday kids, Debbie, Curtis and Steven, are all best friends and, quite frankly, are as crazy as a bag full of baboons. We first know something is wrong when we see Debbie charging the two boys a quarter each so they can spy on Debbie's sister, Beverly (Julie Brown), dancing topless in her bedroom through a hole in the closet. The three then kill Debbie's father, who happens to be the sheriff, and then make it look like an accident. The only problem is that neighborhood kid Timmy (K.C. Martel) saw them murder the sheriff, so they must get rid of him, too. Curtis locks Timmy in an abandoned refrigerator and leaves him there, but Timmy escapes and runs to his older sister, Joyce (Lori Lethin). Since he's known as a somewhat untruthful kid, she doesn't believe him. Curtis then shoots stern schoolteacher Miss Davis (Susan Strasberg) with the sheriff's gun, but Joyce finds the body too soon, so the demonic trio try to run her over with a car, but fail (Did I mention that they're only ten?). Debbie keeps a scrapbook which contains newspaper clippings of their kills, which will be instrumental later on. Joyce, who is heavily into astrology, does astrological charts on the three murderous brats and her findings show that all three, thanks to being born during an eclipse, were born without consciences. Joyce and Timmy have a hard time convincing anyone that these three ten year-olds are responsible for the spate of murders happening in town. As more murders continue, Joyce and Timmy take it upon themselves to bring these three down. Killer kid films are a rare breed. Because of the dicey subject matter, very few filmmakers tackle this subject full-bore. BLOODY BIRTHDAY does and, with such films as DEVIL TIMES FIVE (1974), THE CHILDREN (1980) and BEWARE: CHILDREN AT PLAY (1989), does so with relish. The three kids truly have no souls as they kill with smiles on their little faces. Little Debbie (not the snack food company) kills her sister by shooting her in the eye with an arrow, while Curtis wanders the streets at night with a gun, shooting a naked couple who are making out in a van. Since they are all very smart, they are devious as well as deadly and are able to cover-up their crimes quite well, usually blaming them on innocent people. This is inarguably director Ed Hunt's best film, as he has also helmed the awful STARSHIP INVASIONS (1977), the so-so PLAGUE (1978), the laughable ALIEN WARRIOR (1985) and the campy THE BRAIN (1987). Pretty suspenseful in spots, it's unnerving watching little kids firing guns, driving cars, shooting arrows and wielding knives. While not as bloody as you would expect, BLOODY BIRTHDAY still delivers enough chills to make it a worthwhile purchase. But a word of warning: The fullscreen print on the VCI Entertainment DVD is a bloody mess. It's severely cropped and not even in pan-and-scan (the opening credits read "LOODY BIRTHDA") and shows plenty of grain, even though the DVD sleeve says it's a widescreen print that's enhanced for 16X9 screens. It also says that it was recorded in Dolby Digital. It isn't. Future B-movie action star Michael Dudikoff has a small role as Julie Brown's pot smoking boyfriend. Also starring Melinda Cordell, Billy Jacoby (who's fantastic as Curtis), Joe Penny, Bert Kramer, Elizabeth Hoy (as Debbie), Andy Freeman (as Steven) and Jose Ferrer as the doctor. A VCI Entertainment Release. Rated R. { text from critcononline.com }

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