Review by John Delia
The Israeli thriller Happy Times works as both a comedy and a horror flick for an adult audience. The derivative script idea however, could have easily been centered on a Thanksgiving gathering as it was filmed in Los Angeles. But, thankfully, Happy Times takes place at a religious Jewish Shabbat dinner party, making it unique, interesting and more mystifying.
So what is â€œShabbatâ€ for the Gentiles who are reading this review? â€œAccording to halakha (Jewish religious law),Â ShabbatÂ is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night.Â ShabbatÂ is ushered in by lighting candles and reciting a blessingâ€ according to a Google website. In this instance the movie follows a dinner party with Jewish friends and family plus a Shiksa. The group is awaiting the arrival of the family Rabbi to give the formal blessing. He is running late.
The film opens showing a Jewish family and a lot of kids running around the house shooting toy guns and getting out of control. The Moms are a bit upset at all the noise, especially the host who is still making the dinner for her many guests at their formal dinner. The chaos is a nice ploy to set up the future mayhem.
Guns seem to be the discussion of the evening as Avner shows off the host Yossiâ€™s M-1 rifle. He mumbles when the cocking mechanism is a bit sticky and thereâ€™s a lot of apologyâ€™s along with the complaining. It also brings up a discussion on guns that gets comments. In the meantime the many kids are finally shuffled off to another residence to continue their mischiefs somewhere else so the adults can have their evening without all the commotion. But, with this dinner party, the hosts and guests will all contribute to the adult quarrels leading to a lot of deadly deeds.
I like the mix of Yiddish and English in the dialogue as the film brings in realism and the personality of each guest, except the Shiksa, who is hilariously lost in the conversations. Itâ€™s the beauty of Michael Mayerâ€™s creative film. Fueled by a â€œspecialâ€ cocktail thatâ€™s brought by one of the guests as a prank, itâ€™s the forecast as to whatâ€™s to come. So begins a night of argument, disagreement, challenges and death.
â€œScene 26â€ an alternate cut
â€œScene 32â€ deleted scene
Director and writer Michael Mayer lets the story take a very sick turn. If you like films that involve a dinner turned deadly like â€œKnives Outâ€, â€œBeatriz at Dinnerâ€, â€œThe Partyâ€, â€œReady or Notâ€, and more, than Happy Times is one you wonâ€™t want to miss.
Happy Times is Not Rated by the MPAA, but it contains violence, language, drug use, grisly images, slurs and other adult matter. The film has been released on VOD, DVD, and BRD, Streaming Platforms. Evaluation rating is 3.5 out of 5 Stars.