FEATURES

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
thumbnail_HT_set_Marie Alyse Rodriguez

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 Channel premieres zombie musical Anna And The Apocalypse on Xmas Day
Posted on Tuesday 30th November 2021
Anna & the Apocalypse-WEB2

There is a Xmas Day treat in store for genre fans, with the Horror Channel premiere of Anna And The Apocalypse, a pure gore delight with a mental, maniacal and magical edge. John McPhail's infectious zombie musical stars Ella Hunt, Mark Benton and Paul Kaye.

Anna is looking forward to the end of high school. But while her widowed father dreams of university, she has other plans - jet-setting around the world to experience life before settling down. Suddenly a zombie apocalypse threatens her sleepy Scottish town, forcing Anna and friends to struggle, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the living dead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. Shaun O...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel unwraps eight UK TV premieres for December including Tales From The Lodge, Aquaslash and Sacrifice
Posted on Tuesday 16th November 2021
Horror Channel Dec highlights - tweet banner

Horror Channel comes bearing gory gifts for the Xmas season, presenting eight UK TV premieres, including Abigail Blackmore's gruesome and comically dark Tales From The Lodge, starring Mackenzie Crook, Sophie Thompson and Johnny Vegas, cosmic chiller Sacrifice, starring horror icon Barbara Crampton and Aquaslash, a mad exploitation slasher harking back to the classic 1980s era of gushing blood and teenage turmoil.

Also showing for the first time on British TV are Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's romantic body horror Spring, Greg McLean's supernatural horror The Darkness, starring Kevin Bacon, deadly thriller, Desolation, Brit mon...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel takes off with premiere of action series Airwolf from Thursday 25 November
Posted on Thursday 11th November 2021

Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult action thrillers to its audience and this trend continues with Season 1 of the 1984 US military drama series Airwolf, created by Donald P. Bellisario and produced over four seasons.

A renegade helicopter pilot, Stringfellow Hawke, played by Jan-Michael Vincent, is given the chance to know the whereabouts of his imprisoned brother if he conducts daring missions for a shadowy intelligence agency. Hid first mission is to go to Libya and steal back a high-technology military helicopter, code-named Airwolf, at all costs. With its riveting, high-tech, battle scenes, AIRWOLF is consid...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel invaded by week of Sci-Fi Horror
Posted on Wednesday 3rd November 2021

Horror Channel goes extra-terrestrial with Sci-Fear Week (Saturday 20th to Friday 26th, 9pm), in which strange science, terrifying tech and insidious invasions takes control, highlighted by the Channel premiere of jolting sci-fi thriller The Last Days On Mars, starring Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai and Olivia Williams. It also includes the channel premieres of 1980 British science fiction movie Saturn 3, which stars Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel and XTRO, an unsettling slice of Sci-Fi Horror and one of the few British films that landed on the UK film censors' infamous 'Video Nasty' list. The week also includes Scanners, Ce...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel unveils an unholy host of premieres for November
Posted on Thursday 21st October 2021
Nov highliights-social-1

Long weekends just got scarier as Horror Channel announces eleven premieres for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights across November, including five UK TV premieres, three by emerging female directors.

Being shown for the first time on the small screen are Elle Callahan's allegorical paranormal thriller Witch Hunt, Amelia Moses' lyrical lycanthrope horror Bloodthirsty and Coralie Fargeat's directorial debut, the slickly gruesome Revenge. Also getting their first showings on TV are Nicolas Pesce's smartly sadistic Piercing and John Berardo's subversive slasher Initiation.

Neil Marshall makes a welcome return with the channel premiere of Doomsday, as do the Sosk...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
DMC_SetPic copy

If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Father of Flies director

A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?

BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Universal Monsters are back on Horror Channel and Kim Newman is here to tell you all about them
Posted on Thursday 14th October 2021
Kim Newman

Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the Universal monsters joining Horror for our Classic Horror Halloween event running from 30th-31st of October.

With Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Wolf Man (1941) and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), Universal Pictures introduced the lasting icons of horror... combining the presence of stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr with the make-up artistry of Jack P. Pierce (except for the Creature who came later in the day and was designed by the extraordinary Millicent Patrick ). These are the genre's cornerstone fiends, and - despite the way they have been domesticated an...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel goes out of this world to bring Channel premiere of Brit sci-fi thriller series UFO from October 20
Posted on Wednesday 13th October 2021

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing great cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Season 1 of the 1970 British science fiction TV series UFO, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by the Andersons and TV mogul Lew Grade.

One of the best of its genre, the 26-part series combines the remarkable talents of the Andersons with those of special effects director Derek Meddings. And with a stellar cast including Ed Bishop, Michael Billington and George Sewell, it proved a popular hit at the time.

Following syndication in the US and favourable ratings, a possible second series was plann...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel - Now on Instagram!
Posted on Saturday 9th October 2021
HorrorIGCrossPromotionV1

You can never have too much Horror Channel in your life, so follow us on Instagram too!

Find us at instagram.com/horrorchannel_uk/

SHARE: READ MORE
Classic monsters will rise this Halloween on Horror
Posted on Thursday 7th October 2021
Classic Horror Halloween Banner

Famous monsters rise again!

To celebrate the Halloween weekend on Saturday 30th October and Sunday 31st October, Horror Channel presents Classic Horror Halloween, two diabolical daytime marathons highlighted by five channel premieres, including Bride Of Frankenstein, the celebrated sequel to the 1931 classic with Boris Karloff reprising his role as the Creature, Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, featuring the original Wolfman, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster, The Invisible Man, in which Claude Rains delivers a remarkable performance in his screen debut, Christy Cabanne's frightening chiller masterpiece The Mummy's Hand and Revenge ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Features Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Eat Locals
EAT LOCALS
Friday 10th December
10.30 PM
Star Trek: Voyager
STAR TREK: VOYAGER
Thursday 16th December
7.00 PM
An American Werewolf In Paris
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS
Tuesday 7th December
9.00 PM