Spanish title: The Birthday
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Director: Eugenio Mira
Produced by Ibon Cormenzana, Corey Feldman and Sebastian Mery for Arcadia Motion Pictures, Infinity Films S.L.
Story and screenplay: Mikel Alvariño, Eugenio Mira
Music: Eugenio Mira
Cinematographer: Unax Mendia
Editor: Alejo Levis
Art director: Javier Alvariño, Daniel Izar de la Fuente
Cast: Corey Feldman (Norman Forrester), Erica Prior (Alison Fulton), Jack Taylor (Ron Fulton), Dale Douma (Vincent Papahistros), Mikel Alvariño (Bass Player), Jim Arnold (Jonathan Beresford), Harry Arouh (Priest), Ana Lucía Billate (Anjelica Fulton), Tony Corvillo (Vincent’s Friend), James DePaul (Tiny Ricky), Richard Felix (Theodore Burns), Sue Flack (Marion Beresford), Alison Hughes (Mrs. Emma Hamilton), Chen Min Rao Jang (Dr. John Ming O’Pie), Liz Lobato (Madeleine), Robert Long (Manager), Rolf Master (Bar Tender), Stuart McLauchlan (Suite Waiter), Rick Merrill (Casper Fulton), Inma Mira (Yulia), Colin Morgan (Killer Waiter), Carlos Navarro (Guitar Player), Bert Palmer (Nigel), Oliver Sala (Keyboards), Craig Stevenson (Waiter Z), Alejandro Tejerías (Elmer Brannigan)
Spanish takings: €213.999,70
Spanish spectators: 43,639
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€410.223,00), Ayudas a la Conservación de Negativos y soportes originales (€16.432,58), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€24.250,00)
Corey Feldman – a cult actor if ever there was one, who also just happens to be one of the most irritating performers in the history of cinema – plays Norman, an idiot who is invited by his posh girlfriend Alison (Erica Prior) to attend a birthday celebration for the hotel owned by her dad (Jack Taylor) and Uncle (Rick Merrill). All of her family are there and frankly they’re weird as hell, seemingly going out of there way to make Norman as uncomfortable as possible. In the meantime, a bunch of businessmen / fratboys are having a party in one of the upstairs rooms and the waiters and other staff are frankly hostile to everyone. Then Norman bumps into a conspiracy theorist / freedom fighter (Dale Dorman) who explains that the hotel is likely to be the location for a group of wackos to resurrect an ancient demon and create a gateway to hell (or something like that). But who are the wackos and can Norman do anything to stop the devious plan.
Creating a cult movie is not as easy a thing to do as it sounds. Over time, there have been many films that have striven quite openly for ‘cult’ status and which, quite frankly, have been unwatchable. I can sit through just about any old crap and – usually – find something vaguely salvageable from it, but all of my worst viewing experiences (and the only ones where I’ve been unable to finish the movie because I really do find the damned thing unwatchable) have been of films which fall into this category, sometimes quite respected ones as well. Napoleon Dynamite, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Aaaaaaaah!… they all had me reaching for the off button. It’s not that I don’t love cult films, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I most certainly do, but one of the things that unites most good and interesting examples of the type is that they’re not made with the intention of being cult movies; they’re just intended to be normal films, but the people making them are a little bit leftfield and as a result the finished product is eccentric. Not, I stress, quirky; quirky is those annoying people who dye their hair pink and wear fluorescent tights in an attempt to look interesting when everyone knows that beneath the very superficial statements of personality really boring as hell.
The Birthday isn’t as bad as the above mentioned films, but it suffers from this kind of transparency of ambition. It was the debut production of Eugenio Mira, a director who has gone on to direct a couple of very effective subsequent films (Agnosia, Grand Piano). It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very raw, and that’s perhaps where the problems lie. Mira shows a great eye and the run down art deco hotel location is well constructed and used with some skill. The are some images which stick in the mind and, from a stylistic perspective, it’s a more than competent calling card. But… it’s all a bit annoying. From Feldman, who seems to be channeling Franco Franchi and Norman Wisdom, to the self-awareness of the narrative. It’s a horror comedy that’s neither frightening nor horrible, yet lacks the imagination and creativity of Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), the films that I’m guessing inspired it. Instead the script feels like its cobbled together from elements of other movies, cult of otherwise – The Beyond, The Nameless, The Shining – with little extra to add of its own. Looking at other films it seems to be a love it or hate it affair; so maybe if you’re tolerance for ‘quirky’ is slightly higher than mine you might enjoy it.
Review by Matt Blake, 2017
Notes and further information