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‘Happy Birthday’ is a Chaotic Joyride of Intoxication and Terror (Review)

Happy Birthday movie

Directed by: Casey Tebo

Cast: Matt Bush, Riley Litman, Vanessa Lengies, Britne Oldford

Never go to Mexico to party and blow off steam… especially after catching your partner cheating on you. Nothing good can come out of that scenario and both Brady and Tommy learn that the hard way. Happy Birthday, Brady, your life is about to take a gruesome turn. Hope ya’ enjoy those tequila shots!

As you probably guessed, Brady’s broad cheated on him, and he found out. So, he’s down in the dumps, because very few things hurt as much as betrayal in a loving relationship. Enter Brady’s best friend, Tommy, who concocts a plan to get Brady’s mind off of his girl: They’re going to spend a weekend in Mexico getting hammered, and maybe wrestling naked with a few lovely Latina women. And it all seems to be going according to plan, until these two get so obliterated they wake up handcuffed to a pair of beds in a rundown motel.

It turns out these guys are being held for ransom. But there’s a problem: Tommy is the one who comes from family, and he gets delivered a dose of a drug his body simply cannot handle. He bites the big one, which just leaves Brady… and Brady’s an orphan. No money in that family tree. So things become hectic once their captors realize that they aren’t going to see a penny for the surviving hostage.

What can Brady do? How can he escape? Is there any safe haven to turn to in Mexico? Viewers will get all of those answers as well as two awesome story twists. If you’re keen on picking up hints, you may see the finale coming, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Our performers are awesome. Riley Litman turns Tommy into a wonderfully obnoxious D-bag and Matt Bush kills as the heartbroken and confused Brady. To top it off we get some superb supporting players. Erik Palladino is amazing as Texican, his mammoth sidekick El Caballo, played by the hulking Matthew Willig does a fine job of dropping subtle zingers. Britne Oldford is awesome as Lucia and the sexy Vanessa Lengies works wonders as the compassionate Katie. That said, I can’t neglect the great Steven Tyler’s performance as a doped up medicine man of sorts known as Kasape Suka. It’s just a great cast, top to bottom.

We don’t see a ton of gore, or an abundance of particularly frightening shots, it’s the possible reality of the situation that births the fear. My wife is Mexican, and even she has no desire to return to visit her old stomping grounds. The cartel has become so dangerous over the last decade that a trip to Mexico is a bold gamble. And that idea – knowing how ruthless cartel members can be – is a huge part of what drops this film into a horror classification. And that underlying threat of abduction, torture or worse, death, really helps the film to move forward.

Writer/Director Casey Tebo does a great job on the technical front. The camera techniques are effective and fun, and the pace never once slows down. But I’ve also got to issue huge respect to those who edited the film (referencing imdb, that credit doesn’t seem to be listed). A director is only as good as his editor, and Tebo has an awesome editor here working to make the film complete and cohesive.

If you’re interested in a fun flick that never takes itself too seriously, you’d be wise to look into Happy Birthday. It’s a chaotic joyride of intoxication and terror, and the final act is just flat out awesome. Happy Birthday is one of 2016’s serious sleepers.

Rating: 4/5

About The Overseer (2283 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

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