On a scale of one to ten in awesomeness, this gets an eleven. However, beware that just because I liked it, doesn’t mean you will. The Birthday is what would have come out of a writing session between Dali and HP Lovecraft after getting together for a couple of shots of absinthe and being commissioned to script an 80’s romantic comedy.
So this isn’t your usual Saturday night at the movies by any stretch.
It’s November 24th, 1987. Norman Forrester (Corey Feldman) has been invited to his girlfriend Alison’s father’s birthday party. He intends to propose to her there and meet her parents for the first time. That’s the setup. Only a few things stand in his way: His girlfriend’s a bitch, his father-in-law hates him, he has little social skills, and the end of the world is coming…
Corey Feldman has had a tough decade, what with all the slumming in cheap films, Michael Jackson trials, and publicity weddings on reality TV shows; people have forgotten how good an actor he used to be. However, ignore all that because he’s finally found a movie that suits him. His role as Norman Forrester is a natural extension of Ricky Butler, Tommy Jarvis and Edgar Frog. What’s nice is that Feldman is actually stretching here and not just showing up for work. He’s doing a restrained Jerry Lewis imitation. You wouldn’t think it’d work, but it does.
The Birthday is beautifully shot and the ultimate proof that just because a story takes place in a hotel it doesn’t have to look like The Shining. Director Eugenio Mira has crafted a movie that’s not quite horror and not quite comedy, but instead a surreal interpretation of both.
The decision to place this in the 80’s is no accident. The whole plot structure is straight out of a movie from that time: The dialogue, the acting, everything. Remember films like: The ‘Burbs or Lucky Stiff or Neighbors? It’s got their “feel” down pat.
Erica Prior as Alison does a dead on impersonation of a spoiled rich girl. Those of you who have dated cheerleaders, princesses, drama queens, actresses and trust fund babies will know exactly what I mean. She’s got that loving but perpetually annoyed with you tone nailed down to perfection. There’s a scene where she starts freaking out over Norman’s shirt, going “YOU CAN’T WEAR THAT TO MY DADDY’S PARTY!!!!!” that gave me ex-girlfriend flashbacks.
The only downside is that, it’s not as funny as it could be. The film’s got a sense of humor to be sure but it’s often played too low-key when it should be broad. I kept thinking of Robert Rodriguez’s segment in Four Rooms as an example of how it could have been set-up.
As horror though, it’s got the perfect tone. Director Mira made sure that we’re watching a horror movie that’s only pretending to be a comedy. Avoiding the mistake every single other movie that’s tried to blend jokes and fear does, which is to make a comedy with not-so-scary bits to avoid offending a wide audience. From the get-go we see disturbing omens peer from the edge of the screen. We’re creeped out and laugh nervously. By the time the nihilistic ending arrives, with cult members awaiting the birth of their God, we’ve been preparing for the darkness since the opening credits rolled.
It’s not for everyone, but if you like your movies to suffer from quiet dementia, this might be your cup of tea. Hell, it got 11 on the Awesome-O-Meter from me.