a film by Mark Harriott and Mike Matthews
2010 | 90 mins | UK
›› Unhappy Birthday
a homo horrific take on estranged village life.
Unhappy Birthday by Mark Harriott and Mike Matthews Breaking free from the traditional gay narrative, here the writing / directorial pairing of Mark Harriott and Mike Matthews have turned to the classic British horror genre to deliver a creepy, if downright dark take on estranged village life; albeit served homo horrific style.

And it all takes place on the tidal island of Amen. Secluded from the mainland by way of a three-mile causeway, its habitants are a law unto themselves, worshipping the Lord, God-fearing fashion, when not out on the fields tending to their crops. Isolated and aloof, they do not take kindly to strangers, all of which makes enigmatic local girl Corinne's invitation for outsiders Sadie and Rick, along with their openly gay friend Jonny to visit them, somewhat odd. Then again, perhaps not, given and unknown to the birthday girl to be, the boys have arranged the event in the hope that Corinne can provide some much needed answers to the many questions that Sadie has over her family background, having been abandoned as a child. Only as Sadie's big day approaches, is she set to learn more than she bargained for?

Unhappy Birthday by Mark Harriott and Mike Matthews And the answer to that is all but obvious, given both cast and crew play the bloody scenario for all its worth, reworking the classic "at the mercy of strangers" à la Wicker Man theme in the process, whilst navigating a series of ominous twists and turns, including scenes of human scarecrows, religious iconology and an undercurrent of ingrained homophobia. Yet and in as much as David (Tinsel Town to River City) Paisley as bisexual Rick, Jonathan (Spring and former LLGFF programmer) Keane as his gay and more than just best friend Jonny and Christina De Vallee as the girl with the ever inquisitive mind revel in their love triangle roles, it is Jill Riddiford who delivers the crazed goods by way of her Annie Wilkes like character; at first charming and welcoming as Sadie's seemingly long lost sister, but all along manipulating the situation to her advantage.

Making the most of its low budget, this rollercoaster ride of thrills 'n' chills is good old fashioned "will they make it out alive" styled fun, a scenario that is well-executed throughout, aided by Lin Sangster's menacing soundtrack and complete with stunning time-lapse photography that perfectly illustrates how soon land can turn to sea. That it is equally not afraid to go gay, the horror way and here we're talking about footage of overt man sex, is of no surprise given co-director Harriott is none other than Amory Peart of Piccadilly Pickups gay erotica fame. Queer and in not just the gay way, this broodingly atmospheric piece is guaranteed to delight fans of the genre, whatever their sexuality be. Need more be said?

Only that and with scenics courtesy of the quaint former market town of Belford, together with shots of the causeway and nature reserve of the renowned Holy Island of Lindisfarne, this marks and unless my memory is going, the first gay film to be made in the beautiful county of Northumberland, England; a lush location that is clearly underused for works of the homosexual kind. Directors - take note!

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the brief full monty. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 
screened as part of the 25th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2011.
starring: David Paisley / Rick, Christina De Vallee / Sadie, Jill Riddiford / Corinne,
Jonathan Keane / Jonny and screenwriter David McGillivray as the landlord.
dedicated to the memory of Andrew Savage (1963 - 2009).
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #439
›› previous page | back to top | print me ‹‹
click for gay celluloid - home