DIRECTED: Casey Tebo
WRITER: Casey Tebo
Jeff Daniel Phillips
When Brady discovers that his girlfriend has cheated on him on his birthday. His best friend Tommy plans a wild weekend away that should take Brady's mind off of all his recent troubles. The weekend will involve a lot of debauched fun, drinking, drugs, and banging prostitutes. It's when the two mates meet two incredibly beautiful girls while out partying, that they become involved in an extremely sinister kidnapping plot.
Going into Happy Birthday, I was going into this flick blind. I don't know what I was expecting from this movie. I hadn't witnessed the trailer beforehand or even read the premise for the movie. I was only going on the very cool poster art for the film which was listed as a Horror online. I went into this film honestly expecting some type of an anthology film. Little did I realise, that I was about to witness a very dark and twisted little comedy that actually surprised the hell out of me.
Happy Birthday starts off as a road trip comedy between two friends. The jokes begin flying fast, and we are introduced to our two good mates. Immediately I was enjoying the dynamic between our two friends. We get enough character development early on for us to start liking these two guys. They do well in providing us lots of interaction between these two friends. By this point, though, I was wondering when the horror would kick in as this movie was ripe with an over the top silliness.
For the first thirty minutes of Happy Birthday, we have these two guys partying it up in Mexicali. We have a lot of scenes where the comedy is at the forefront of the film, and I was ready to stop writing down notes as I always do when preparing to review a horror film. Scenes of cockfights, Steven Tyler as an 'Aztec Shaman', we witness a huge bodyguard shitting and vomiting simultaneously, and a Mexican tour guide ends up getting his balls licked by a tranny were making me reconsider this review.
It's at the thirty-minute mark of the film where the darker elements take over in a very cool tonal shift. For the next forty minutes or so, the film ramps up the tension. While not exactly a horror film, things get pretty intense. The movie still never loses that sense of dark comedy and at times is incredibly mean-spirited. I always found myself enjoying the hell out of the film even if at times it was seriously cruel in its nature towards its characters.
The best moment of the film comes with the first reveal or twist if you will. I didn't see it coming at all. The twist knocked me for a six. While not shocking in a horrific way, it's just unexpected, and I was stunned by it. The film then goes and throws in the second twist, but at this point, I had kind of guessed it was coming and I was already anticipating it. While not bad, it adds a meta touch to the story which also kind of throws all of that build up and intensity out the window. It's still rather cool how it all tied together, though. I thought it was rather amusing.
The last thing about the twist that I want to mention and what I could class as maybe a bad thing is that when the twist is revealed, while I think it's a pretty smart reveal, the whole thing made me question how far you can take friendship. It sort of feels so mean-spirited that it's unbelievable. If a friend of mine did what he did to his mate in this film, I think I'd have killed him. It's just the most extreme situation, and it feels cruel. I think them staying mates is a little hard to swallow.
The acting in the film was pretty good. Matt Bush and Riley Litman as our two friends have some great chemistry and I felt like they had been friends for years. They had a great dynamic on screen. So when trouble hits the pair, I felt like I wanted to see the two of them make it out safely. Vanessa Lengies and Britne Oldford as the two girls they meet in Mexicali deliver the best performances in the film. Both give the most emotional and dark roles in the movie. I enjoyed all four of the leads.
Casey Tebo has crafted a slick looking film. The movie is well made for the most part. The movie isn't a big budgeted film, but for a somewhat indie comparison to movies like The Hangover, it looks great. With the film very colourful poster, the visuals within the film represent the same sort of feel of the poster. I noticed that during the darker scenes, all flare is drained and I really liked that about the film. It's a decent looking production. I can't wait to see what Casey Tebo does next.
DEATH TOLL: 0
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Someone is seen carrying a body in a carpet.
- A bird splats against a car window.
- A chicken has its head ripped off.
- Someone has their throat sliced.
- Someone is given a sedative and has an allergic reaction.
- Someone chokes on their own vomit and dies.
- Someone crawls over tacs.
- A chicken is shot.
- A kid is covered in blood splatter.
- Someone is shot in the chest.
- A goat is launched with a catapult.
- A person is shot three times.
Happy Birthday isn't a horror film but a very dark, pitch-black comedy. So if you go in expecting something gory and horrific, you'll be sorely disappointed. The best way I can describe Happy Birthday is that its a very dark and mean-spirited comedy. It has a bit of The Hangover II meets Very Bad Things. The film is well acted, at times very intense and has an incredibly clever first twist. I came out of this movie somewhat surprised. Happy Birthday is worth a watch.