LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
By James Whittington, Saturday 16th October 2021
Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.
HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?
MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat community in Los Angeles, is that it's very diverse, a real microcosm of Israeli society. This dinner party was no different, and pretty soon everybody around the table was sharing their political two cents whether other guests cared to hear them or not. Things heated up quickly, but nothing really happened apart from a few bruised egos maybe, but it made me think - what if the evening did go off the rails? I felt like the discourse was just explosive enough and the guests just familiar enough, that things could easily have gotten out of control. I shared my thoughts with Guy Ayal, a close friend and a talented musician who, like me, grew up in Haifa and now lives in Los Angeles. He thought it would make a great movie, and we jumped right in.
HC: What was your writing process with co-writer Guy Ayal?
MM: Guy and I like to start every writing session by braiding each other's hair and discussing that week's Torah portion over a cup of hot cocoa.
GA: The first step was figuring out our list of characters. That was relatively easy, since we've lived in Los Angeles long enough and knew most of these archetypes. Figuring out their triggers took a lot longer, but once that was done, offing them in entertaining and creative ways came shockingly easy to us.
HC: Are any of the family based on people you know or have met?
MM: Absolutely. But it's more like each character is an amalgamation of a bunch of different people we know. Sigal, the hostess (played by Liraz Chamami), for example, is a combination of four different women I've known for years. The same goes for her husband, Yossi (Ido Mor) or her cousin Michael (Michael Aloni).But as culturally specific as these characters are, I feel anybody watching will recognize these people immediately. Because while you may not have met an Israeli housewife from LA, anybody will recognize the nouveau-riche couple, the wannabe actor, the social climber, the bitter stay-at-home mom, etc. These are universal characters we're all familiar with.
HC: Why did you split the movie into sections?
MM: We were toying with the idea of breaking up the story into chapters from the beginning, but there was no one specific reason at first. We thought it would add an air of watching a cautionary tale. We thought it would set up all the different killings. We thought it would make sense for a film dealing indirectly with Jewish traditions. We wanted to give a nod to films we love that do this so well, like The Shining, Go, or any Tarantino movie ever. Then finally, when we screened an earlier cut, we saw that people were actually laughing when the chapter breaks popped up. They really worked to help release tension and add a level of commentary and irony to the story.
HC: The cast are just superb, did you write it with a cast in mind?
MM: I worked with two of the actors before, Michael Aloni and Alon Pdut, and knew I wanted to work with them again. We kept in touch over the years and when I first had the idea for Happy Times I shared it with them. Both Michael and Alon loved the concept and said they'd do it, so as Guy and I were writing, we sort of assumed who will play the roles of Michael and Avner. But the rest of the characters were not written with anybody in mind.
HC: The effects are fantastic, were they all done on set?
MM: Yes. Except for a couple of scenes where we added some blood digitally, everything was practical make-up and effects. We had an amazing hair and make-up team lead by Monique Paredes who has a real passion for genre, and a great special effects make-up studio, Vincent Van Dyke Effects, who have done everything from DC's Birds of Prey, Halloween, TV's Dexter, Oscar winners Darkest Hour and I, Tonya and many others.
HC: Which scene or sequence was the hardest to shoot?
MM: The biggest challenge was scheduling ten busy actors, and I have to give giant props to producers Paola Porrini Bisson and Tomer Almagor and first AD Keren Hantman for figuring out all the moving parts. In terms of shooting, if I have to be completely honest here, the biggest challenge for me was filming the scenes with the kids. There's actually one scene with the kids that didn't make it into the movie because I was unhappy with the way it came out.
HC: How difficult was it balancing the comedy and the horror elements?
GA: When we were writing the script, we were mostly concerned with the comedy. Our goal was, first and foremost, to entertain. The horror was more of a bi-product of the plot, and its realism on screen was necessary because honestly, Michael is a very sick individual.
MM: I think our amazing cast made keeping that balance much easier than it could've been. They all got it and played the whole thing with a straight face. I'm still blown away sometimes when I watch Liraz Chamami (who plays Sigal) or Stefi Celma (plays Aliyah) go from absurd comedy to total freak-out to genuine tears in the span of a two-minute scene.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
MM: I'm developing a thriller series with Fremantle and working with Guy on a heist movie gone wrong.
HC: Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal, thank you very much.
MORE FEATURES Horror is moving from channel 69 to channel 41 on Freeview from May 25th
Posted on Tuesday 24th May 2022
Horror Channel is moving to a new home on Freeview, find us on channel 41 from the 25th May 2022.
Go to Freeview for more information on how to continue watching.SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel continues to unlock The Vintage Vault this June with Sunday night classic genre double-bills
Posted on Thursday 19th May 2022
This June, Horror Channel once again journeys into the history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault, presenting double-bills of classic sci-fi and horror films every Sunday night.
The vault is unlocked on Sunday June 5th with Nathan Juran's Ray Harryhausen inspired 20 Million Miles to Earth. This is paired with Fred F. Sears' rampaging alien bird yarn The Giant Claw. Then on Sunday June 12th, we have The Monolith Monsters, in which the world is attacked by thirsty giant crystals, followed by the beastly mutant classic The Deadly Mantis.
On Sunday June 19th, the brilliantly lurid The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), directed by Terence Fisher, hits our screens, followed ...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel launches assault of premieres for June plus further seasons of Farscape
Posted on Thursday 12th May 2022
Ryan Simon's British supernatural chiller Demon Eye, starring Darren Day, and Liam Fox, and Brad Baruh's Coen-sequel mystery thriller Night Drive, starring AJ Bowen and Sophie Dalah, both receive Friday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel.
There are also channel premieres for John Carpenter's cult classic Assault On Precinct 13 and Finnish-German sci-fi Nazi horror spoof Iron Sky: The Coming Race, directed by Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky) and starring Udo Kier, reprising his role as Adolf Hitler.
Plus, cult classic Farscape returns with the channel premieres of Season 3 and 4. This Australian-American Sci-Fi TV series, created by Rockne S. O'Bannon, has proved a big hit with Horror...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault
Posted on Thursday 21st April 2022
Starting in May, Horror Channel journeys into the history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault, which will present double-bills of classic sci-fi and horror films every Sunday night.
The season premieres on Sunday May 1st with The Invisible Man, in which Claude Rains delivers a remarkable performance in his screen debut. This is paired with Bride Of Frankenstein, the celebrated sequel to the 1931 classic with Boris Karloff reprising his role as the monster. Then on Sunday May 8th, we have Christy Cabanne's frightening chiller masterpiece The Mummy's Hand, followed by Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, featuring the original Wolf...SHARE: READ MORE Kim Newman dares to check out this weekend's Classic Sci-Fi event
Posted on Thursday 14th April 2022
Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the celebrated B-movies joining Horror for our Classic Sci-Fi Weekend event running from 16th-17th of April.
The Horror Channel returns to a decade riven with fears of devastating climate change, imminent global war, mutating diseases and general paranoia... albeit in black and white, with miniature effects and make-up masks rather than CGI and the kind of urgency that means world-menacing phenomena can be invoked, allowed to run rampage and then dispelled in well under ninety minutes of crisp, sometimes poetic, sometimes bombastic melodrama.
The times weren't really simpler, and neither were the movies i...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel reveals raft of UK TV premieres for May plus channel premieres for Dalek movies
Posted on Thursday 7th April 2022
Stewart Sparke's award-winning dark comedic monster movie Book of Monsters and Audrey Cummings's grisly chuckler She Never Died, starring Olunike Adeliyi, are amongst the raft of Saturday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel during May.
Also in prime-time slots are the UK TV premieres of gruesome action thriller Becky and Henry Jacobson's stylish crime chiller Bloodline, starring Seann William Scott. There is also a Channel premiere for Peter Medak's classic supernatural horror The Changeling, starring George C. Scott.
Plus, there are channel premieres for Dr Who and The Daleks and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. The films star Peter Cushing as Dr Who and al...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel adds Channel premiere of Farscape to Sci-Fi Zone from Monday 4 April
Posted on Wednesday 30th March 2022
Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult sci-fi programmes to its audience and this trend continues with the channel premiere of Season 1 of the 1999 Australian-American Sci-Fi TV series Farscape, created by Rockne S, O'Bannon and produced over four seasons.
Astronaut John Crichton (ben Browder), on an experimental space mission, is accidentally hurled across the universe to the midst of an intergalactic conflict. Taken on board Moya, a huge bio-mechanoid "living ship" desperately trying to escape captivity, Crichton is trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology and hunted by a merciless military race. H...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates Sci-Fi B-Movies with a second Classic Sci-Fi Weekend in April
Posted on Tuesday 22nd March 2022
It's back to terrify once more! Horror Channel once again celebrates the Sci-fi B-movie world of strange creatures, alien invaders and weird science with Classic Sci-Fi Weekend 2, a follow-up TV special to the popular Classic Sci-fi weekend broadcast in April 2020. The fifties are acknowledged as the Golden Age for Sci-fi movies and Horror Channel has picked ten of the most iconic, which will be broadcast on Saturday 16th April and Sunday 17th April.
The season includes five channel premieres: the heart-pounding Alien invasion classic It Came From Outer Space, pulp-horror favourite Tarantula, featuring an uncredited Clint Eastw...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel reveals raft of UK TV premieres for April
Posted on Tuesday 15th March 2022
Rob W King's gripping dystopian thriller The Humanity Bureau, starring Nicolas Cage, and Rob Grant's twisted survival drama, Alive, starring Angus MacFadyen, are amongst the raft of Saturday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel during April.
Also in prime-time 9pm slots are the UK TV premieres of Owen Egerton's supernatural horror Mercy Black and Jonathan Zarantonello's sinister, psychological thriller The Butterfly Room, starring Barbara Steele and Ray Wise.
Plus, Padraig Reynolds's suspense-filled neo slasher Open 24 Hours, starring Vanessa Grasse, gets its channel premiere.
Here's all you need to know:
Our first UK TV premiere of the month arrives on the 2n...SHARE: READ MORE I am not a number. I am a free man! The Prisoner tries to escape this March on Horror
Posted on Tuesday 1st March 2022
Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult thrillers to its audience and this trend continues with The Prisoner, a taut psycho-thriller about a secret agent who retires and finds himself thrown into a Kafka-esque world of mindplay and enigma - a man known only as No. 6.
A major cult following has built up around one of the most inventive and ground-breaking TV series ever produced. Multi-talented and twice winner of an Emmy, Patrick McGoohan who stars, also created and produced the series and wrote and directed many of the episodes.
Produced by Everyman Films for distribution by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, a single series of seventeen episodes wa...SHARE: READ MORE A tasty release from Burning Witches Records, A Banquet
Posted on Saturday 19th February 2022
On March 11th, London based composer, sound designer and recording artist CJ Mirra releases the OST to IFC Midnight and Hanway Film's A Banquet, which premieres at Cinemas on the same date. A limited run of Pea Green vinyl will be available via Burning Witches Records .
A Banquet is a visually arresting, slow-burning psychological horror that uses subtle supernatural elements to create tension within a family in the midst of a breakdown, exploiting the complicated bond between three generations of mothers and daughters. Variety likens it to Lars Von Tries' Melancholia and Jeff Nichol's Take Shelter. A Banquet sees composer CJ Mirra reunite with...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel announces Killer Thriller week for March
Posted on Tuesday 15th February 2022
Horror Channel turns up the tension in March with Killer Thriller Week, featuring the UK premiere of mystery thriller Paradise Cove, staring Mena Suvari and the channel premiere of cat-and-mouse road thriller Cop Car, starring Kevin Bacon. The ultimate 7-day suspense ride also includes Gus Van Sant's revival of the Hitchcock classic Psycho (1988), the 2014 version of erotic thriller The Loft starring Karl Urban, Colin Minihan's deliciously warped What Keeps You Alive, Rod Lurie's 2011 pulsating remake of Straw Dogs and Bad Samaritan, starring a cunningly murderous David Tennant.
Plus, there are four additional UK TV premieres, highlighted by the late Johnny Kevorkian's last fi...SHARE: READ MORE Features Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuesday 28th June
Monday 27th June
Wednesday 29th June