Those daft punks from Crewless Productions are at it again with the brilliantly silly “Birthday Call”. Okay, maybe “brilliant” is the last word anyone would ever use to describe Alabama-based filmmakers Chuck Hartsell and Chance Shirley. Hilarious, irreverent, and gleefully twisted maybe, but hardly brilliant. Like their previous effort, a fiendish satire on familial relations called Reciprocity, Hartsell and Shirley’s latest can only be categorized under “dark comedy” (for those of you who crave categorization, you know who you are). And indeed it’s a fitting category for this short short-film (clocking in at just under 3 minutes), since it’s… well, both dark and funny (hence, comedy). I guess “Birthday Call” also qualifies as a bona fide zombie movie too, though it’s hardly the next 28 Days Later. Instead of creeping you out, those nice boys at Crewless just want to make you laugh. Fortunately for them, they’re not the only ones who find this kind of thing funny.
With only a few minutes to play with, “Birthday Call” is essentially a one-joke film. But it’s a doozie: two guys (friends? brothers? whatever) steal a moment away from fighting zombies to call a friend and wish him “Happy Birthday”. Holed away in their basement, the guys matter-of-factly make preparations for a zombie assault while chit-chatting on the phone with their friend Chez. (Choice dialogue: “We were going to try to fly up, but we’ve got this zombie plague we’re dealing with down here.”) Apparently, this sort of thing happens all the time, for when the zombies do come, mechanically waving their rotting, oozing limbs under the garage door and through windows, our heroes simply bat them away like flies or calmly rev up the chainsaw. Clearly this is no big deal. They even find time for some good old-fashioned product-placement. (“Oooh Chuck, is this your nice delicious ice-cold Coca-cola?” “No it isn’t, but that sure would be refreshing right now.” “Aaaaahhh!” exclaims one of them as he breaks the third wall with a hearty, thirst-quenched smile.) And who’s playing these two cool cats, why it’s Chuck Hartsell and his real-life brother Chris. True, they’re no thespians, but come on, what do you want? They keep a straight face through all this madness, which is more than I could have done.
Filmed in black and white, for only a couple hundred bucks (I’m guessing), and with no “guest stars” or “musical acts” for moral support, “Birthday Call” is hands-down funnier than almost anything I’ve seen on the past two seasons of Saturday Night Live. Perhaps Lorne Michaels, in all his infinite wisdom, will someday “discover” these guys and give them a writing gig on his show, where they will find much success and go on to make the next “It’s Pat: The Movie” or “Stuart Saves His Family” or The Ladies Man. Nah, I think Hartsell and Shirley are far too smart for that.
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