Unhappy Birthday

"Good"

Unhappy Birthday Review


You have to give credit to the cast and crew for creating an effectively gothic atmosphere in this low-budget British horror movie. It doesn't always work, but it's still rather good fun to watch, if only for the campy, creep-out vibe.

Rick (Paisley) drives his girlfriend Sadie (De Vallee) into the countryside to isolated Amen Island for a birthday surprise involving a local woman (Riddiford) who has a secret connection to Sadie. Along the way, they meet up with their friend Jonny (Keane) and are delayed waiting for low tide to cross the causeway to the island. But things are beyond strange on this island. And when Sadie discovers that Jonny and Rick are having a fling, her reaction isn't exactly predictable. Then the villagers figure it out, and things get increasingly freaky for everyone.

There's an ominous sense of menace from the opening shot, with brooding music and eerily altered images of the rising tide. And the island community is like the Village of the Damned, as these three colourfully dressed "incomers" are stared at when they arrive. Clearly, things are going to turn very nasty. And while much of the sinister insinuation is enjoyably batty, with a strong religious vibe, it's also a little clunky.

Meanwhile, the story's emotional elements, which mainly focus on Sadie's discoveries about her own past, feel somewhat overwrought. But it's very well shot, drawing us into the story through the sheer mystery of it all. The central plot is involving, even with the awkward editing and a couple of uneven performances. And there's a very strong sense of the isolation of this place, which is palpably separated from the rest of society.

While the film's moody tone is effective, the filmmakers are trying just a bit too hard to stir in dark secrets, religious imagery and echoes of creepy-village movies like The Wicker Man. This makes it feel rather pushy and portentous, especially since the film feels more silly than scary. Even so, the plot, acting and filmmaking get increasingly histrionic, which provides plenty of entertainment value. And you do have a sense that this might be what the writers-directors intended.



Unhappy Birthday

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 21st June 2011

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 3.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Mark Harriott, Mike Matthews

Producer: Nic Speranza, Mark Harriott, Mike Matthews

Starring: Christina de Vallee as SADIE, Jonathan Keane as JONNY, David Paisley as RICK, Jill Riddiford as CORINNE

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