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 ARTICLES Horror Channel launches assault of premieres for June plus further seasons of Farscape
Posted in Features, 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 Wyrmwood: Apocalypse - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Saturday 30th April 2022 Wyrmwood: Apocalypse 101 Films Certificate 18 ***
Zombie cinema is a genre that's literally dying on its feet. Restrained by its own concept strong or original movies of the undead are few and very far between. The TV series The Walking Dead and all its spin-offs has ensured that every possible avenue of interest or uniqueness has been followed. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a brutal and bloody entry and attempts to deliver a more violent and relevant to today's de-sensitised audience.
In a zombie infested Australian wasteland, hard-edged soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) - who uses zombies as fuel for his barbie - dedicates his days to tracking down and capturing s...SHARE: READ MORE From Rob Savage comes Dashcam
Posted in News, Saturday 30th April 2022
Rob Savage's provocative new horror Dashcam will be released in selected UK cinemas on Friday June 3, by eOne and will be available for digital download from Monday June 6. Savage, who was the genius behind Host in 2020 seems to have tapped into what makes found-footage such a chilling genre and this time has turned the tension up to 11!
Dashcam follows Annie Hardy on a crazy horror road trip. Viewed through her livestream, this abrasive musician's night takes a dangerous turn after she agrees to help transport a frail elderly woman out of town. As you can guess, things don't go to plan and a surreal road-trip begins to unfold...Written by Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage and Jed Shepherd ... SHARE: READ MORE The Boy Behind the Door - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Friday 29th April 2022 The Boy Behind the Door Acorn Media Certificate 15 ****
This title crept up on me, I knew little about it so went in blind, came out the other end disturbed, challenged and I have to admit, a bit emotional. The Boy Behind the Door takes a very sensitive subject, that of child abduction and the evils which go along with it, and ramps it to an extreme and intense level.
Twelve-year-old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and best friend, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) are abducted on their way home from school and taken to a house surrounded by miles of bleak, dark country in every direction. Bobby manages to escape his confines and quietly navigates the dark h...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted in Interviews, Friday 29th April 2022
A birthday bash becomes a bloodbath when monsters escape from a supernatural storybook, leaving a group of teenagers to fight for their lives and shut the party down in the UK TV premiere of Book of Monsters on May 16th on Horror. We chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke about this fun, retro-filled fright-fest.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a film director?
SS: I remember first realising that I wanted to make films during one of many viewings of The Mummy (1999) on VHS in my bedroom on an old 15" TV. I became quite obsessed with the film and tried to make all my friends come over to watch it ...SHARE: READ MORE Dare you see The Boy Behind The Door?
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th April 2022
The Boy Behind The Door is the dramatic and evocative feature film debut from writing-directing duo David Charbonier and Justin Powell. This Shudder Original from the talented team - who went on to create the critically acclaimed horror The Djinn - has been described by the NME as 'practically flawless' and is now set for its UK Blu-ray, DVD and digital release, from Acorn Media International.
The film, set for its UK physical premiere on 2 May, is unrelentingly fast-paced and conjures up the nerve-jangling sense of dread of a childhood nightmare. A night of unimaginable terror awaits twelve-year-old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and best friend, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) when they are abducte...SHARE: READ MORE Dominic Brunt's new horror movie, Wolf Manor, enters post-production.
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th April 2022
The werewolf horror thriller Wolf Manor has entered post-production.
Directed by Dominic Brunt, this full-throttle, gore-filled tale of a film crew caught in the claws of a manor house's resident werewolf, was shot in three weeks in locations in Shropshire.
Brunt's UK-produced film, which was written by Pete Wild and Joel Ferrari, stars James Fleet, (Bridgerton, Operation Mincemeat) Jay Taylor (Donkey Punch, Misfits), Thaila Zucchi (Evie, Attack of the Adult Babies), Rupert Procter (Luther, Ripper Street) and John Henshaw (The Keeper, Looking For Eric).
Wolf Manor's creature design was created by renowned special make-up effects artist Shaune Harrison (Star Wars, ...SHARE: READ MORE John Carpenter, Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter announce original soundtrack for Firestarter
Posted in News, Thursday 21st April 2022
The horror master John Carpenter is back with his Halloween series collaborators Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter for their infectious new soundtrack to the 2022 adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter. The soundtrack is set for release digitally alongside the film's theatrical release on May 13th via Black Lot, with vinyl, CD and cassette tape due on October 14th on Sacred Bones.
The score marks the first official soundtrack that the team has composed together outside of the Halloween series and their inspiration and evolution as a creative team is on full display.
The film is a new take on the thriller examining a girl with extraordinary ...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault
Posted in Features, 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 in Features, 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 Scream - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Sunday 10th April 2022 Scream Paramount Certificate 18 ****
The last few years has seen a resurrection of genre favourites such as Halloween, Child's Play (and the Chucky TV series), Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters to name a few, and although Scream has already had a successful TV series the studio bosses decided that it was time for Ghostface to come back to the big screen.
Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a terrifying new killer resurrects the Ghostface mask. As the deaths mount, Woodsboro's new targets must seek help from the survivors of the original Ghostface attacks. Now, only Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), former sheriff Dewey...SHARE: READ MORE Wyrmwood: Apocalypse gets Blu-ray, DVD and digital release
Posted in News, Friday 8th April 2022
Having thrilled UK audiences - and sated horror fans' thirst for bloody-bedlam on its UK premiere at FrightFest Glasgow, now Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is set for its Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release on 16 May from 101 Films. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse will also be available as a Blu-ray double set.
Australian brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner have penned another gut-splattering sensation with this fantastically frenzied feature, so get set for a hellish, high-octane return to the Aussie outback for some outlandish, blood-oozing rampaging zombie action.
In a zombie infested Australian wasteland, hard-edged soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) - who us...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 27th May
Friday 20th May
Saturday 28th May