DVD Reviews: BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE BABY, and NIGHTMARES (1980) from Severin Films

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
June 28th, 2011

I've almost run out of compliments to pay Severin, as you have seen from our continual coverage of their releases; they take great pride in resurrecting oddities and presenting the films with the best picture and audio quality and with informative and entertaining supplemental features. Any fan of horror and grindhouse flicks probably already has a love affair going with the company, but just in case you're not yet convinced, just let us take a look at the three titles they are releasing today. Yep, BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE BABY, and NIGHTMARES (1980) are all available to own now on DVD!


During a total solar eclipse in 1970, three children are born. Years later, just before their 10th birthday, they go on a killing spree. You see, it turns out that during that eclipse Saturn was blocked and it (obviously) being the planet that controls emotion, its absence means these children are heartless bastards. Of course someone (in this case neighborhood kid Timmy and his big sister Joyce) is on to them. Will they be able to expose the killer kiddies for what they are before the bodies pile too high?

BLOODY BIRTHDAY is a spectacular entry into the violent children sub-genre of horror (in fact, it's my favorite). First, there's no detailed explanation of their murderous habits - it's Saturn's fault, no more information, deal with it. Second, these kids are as mean as can be - they toy with their victims, play up their cute smiles when someone catches a whiff of their evil intents, and are all around jerkfaces through and through. The cast is uniformly solid, never letting things slip into camp territory. Among the child actors, people are most likely to recognize Billy Jayne (credit here as Billy Jacoby) as Curtis. He went on to play a butthead in several films including JUST ONE OF THE GUYS and DEMONWARP. There's also a not-so-star-making turn by Julie Brown (West Coast not Downtown) where she exposes all. Threadbare plotting combined a complete disregard for anything even resembling taste make this a true trash classic and the best killer kid slasher around.

Severin Films (as they are wont to do) has presented BLOODY BIRTHDAY in its best package to date. Overall picture quality is excellent, the film restored from the original negative. The picture is noticeably warmer than a previous release from VCI, but this balances out flesh tones and is overall a much more pleasing palette. Features kick off with a 50 minute audio interview with director Ed Hunt, which is an interesting retrospective of his career though not much time is spent discussing BLOODY BIRTHDAY. Don't Eat That Cake!is an interview (running about 10 minutes) with star Lori Lethin (Joyce) who discusses working with the children and director Ed Hunt. Finally, there is a Severin-produced featurette called A Brief History of Slasher Filmsfeaturing "Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher" author Adam Rockoff talking the audience through (duh) a brief history of slasher. Running about 15 minutes, this is more the For Dummies, high-level version of longer documentaries on the subject but is a quick, information and clip packed featurette worth watching. Finally, trailers for several Severin films (including their upcoming HORROR EXPRESS which will be dropping on Blu-ray on September 27th) are included.


It's nearly impossible to accurately describe THE BABY to anyone without sending him or her into the film with unfair pre-conceived notions. The basic outline goes like this - Ann, a recently-widowed social worker, is assigned to the Wadsworth family, who have the unique distinction of having a family member that is a 30 year old baby. Rounding out the clan is the menacing, chain-smoking mother (Ruth Roman) and her two grown daughters. Ann becomes obsessed with Baby (bravely and disturbingly played by David Mooney) and is met with opposition when she attempts to intervene in family affairs.

There was a lot of crazy shit passing through grindhouse and drive-in theaters in the '70s but shit rarely got crazier than this. This PG (!) rated chunk of babysploitation (?) takes a premise that is so far out there it's almost incomprehensible and takes things in directions that nobody could possibly predict. There are bizarre sexual situations, bloodshed, and lots and lots of adult male baby crying. It's hard not to be completely glued to this oddity and when the final reel hits, well...hold on to your butt. The funny thing is, director Ted Post released MAGNUM FORCE the year after - THE BABY was made by a legit big time director. Of course, this is the same director that boiled brain mush with the awesome and awesomely weird BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES a few years before.

Like BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE BABY has been restored from original negative elements and looks great. Tales from the Crib is an audio interview with director Ted Post who, through the course of 20 minutes, discusses all aspects of THE BABY and provides some insight into the bizarre subject matter. Baby Talkis an interview with star David Mooney (who is now a teacher in San Antonio!) who has some fun stories about working with the women in the cast. Finally, a trailer for THE BABY and a few other Severin releases are included.


Cathy's mom can't seem to keep guys off of her. First Cathy catches her in bed with one man then, while on the road in the rain and sleepy, she sees another groping her mother. Thinking the man is hurting her mother, Cathy intervenes which causes a crash, ejecting mom partly through the windshield. In a final act of crazy whoopsie daisy, Cathy tries to pull her mother back into the car, slicing her neck open on the broken windshield. Years later Cathy is now Helen and is a stage actress with some serious sexual hangups. When she begins to get hot and heavy with a co-star, she starts having nightmares involving the cast of the show and glass-stabbing. As corpses mount, Helen begins to question her grip on reality.

Directed by ozploitation maestro John D. Lamond, NIGHTMARES (not to be confused with the 1983 anthology film and also known as STAGE FRIGHT but not to be confused with the Michele Soavi or Hitchcock films) is a bare basics slasher-bare not exactly but maybe sort of being a pun for the copious amounts of nudity on display. There's little mystery in the film and it's actually quite entertaining to pick out the rudimentary tricks employed to attempt to throw the viewer off. They fail and the only option is to sit back and enjoy the wonderful style of the film. There is some excellent Stedicam work in the film and Lamond, an obvious admirer of the female form, stages many stalking sequences with near-nude and all-nude victims. Supporting characters such as the director of the current production and an obnoxious theater critic add to the fun. As a slasher, NIGHTMARES is a complete miss but a miss that's nonetheless worth watching.

Severin presents NIGHTMARES with the expected quality transfer and the film is completely uncut. Features start with a superb commentary with director Lamond and NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD director Mark Hartley. The pair are refreshingly friendly and talkative and are openly critical of many parts of the film. It's a wonderful listen. A Brief History of Slasher Filmsis the same short featurette found on the BLOODY BIRTHDAY disc. There is a trailer reel of Lamond films that includes FELICITY and THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX among others. Finally, a trio of Severin trailers rounds out the disc's offerings.

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