Happy Endings Are a Rarity 2017
After a traumatic event renders him unwilling to leave the confines of his home, Landon struggles to maintain relationships with the love of his life and his childhood friends. When they visit him during their final winter break before graduating from college, old secrets are brought into the light, and Landon begins to suspect that his house is haunted.
July 7, 2017
Will Bryant, Paige Smith, and Cullen Ries
Happy Endings Are a Rarity is a rarity in 21st Century horror; an arthouse slow-burn with elements of psychological and supernatural terror. Writer/Director Blair Hoyle takes the arthouse aesthetic of Jim Jarmusch and combines that with aspects of metaphorical storytelling seen in films like It Follows and The Babadook. At the same time, Happy Endings Are a Rarity is a straightforward mystery that unfurls with the calm patience of a sea turtle before snapping like an alligator with a powerful and poignant climax. The film is a lean 62 minutes but has all the character development and complexity of a film twice its length. Clues are dropped with subtlety before their shocking relevance is revealed and, at the core of this beautiful anomaly, there is a mystery within a mystery. The conclusion is as final and profound as it is nebulous and haunting.
Official Synopsis: After a traumatic event renders him unwilling to leave the confines of his home, Landon struggles to maintain relationships with the love of his life and his childhood friends. When they visit him during their final winter break before graduating from college, old secrets are brought into the light, and Landon begins to suspect that his house is haunted.
Written and directed by Blair Hoyle, Happy Endings Are a Rarity stars Will Bryant, Paige Smith, Cullen Ries, Phil Culton, Stefani Cronley, Tyler Stafford, and John Lineberry.
The film is built on a backbone of strong, believable performances by a talented cast of young actors. Act 1 consists of 4 friends sitting around and sharing memories after a long time apart. The chemistry is palpable and deliveries are spot on. It’s easy to believe that this quartet is comprised of actual friends; it’s not hard to imagine that these four are playing versions of themselves and this film may be somewhat autobiographical. The actors take that kind of ownership over their portrayals; nothing feels forced or artificial. Even bouts of hysterical laughter feel 100% genuine; it’s infectious—you might find yourself laughing even if you’re on the outside of an inside joke.
Before Happy Endings Are a Rarity transitions from a coming-of-age drama to an unnerving creeper, it becomes a poignant and realistic examination of depression. Main character Landon (played by Will Bryant) has been completely consumed by depression since a traumatic event took place 4 years earlier. A scene involving his best friend Wyatt (played by Cullen Ries) could be used as educational material in a class on how not to initiate a conversation with someone who is suffering mental illness. True, Landon has been crippled by depression for over 4 years, but Wyatt seems to think his downtrodden friend can simply “snap out of it” if he decides to. This is a common approach and it’s clear that Wyatt has never suffered from clinical depression; if he had, he’d understand how ridiculous his stance is. A person suffering serious depression can’t “cut it out” any easier than someone can stop being gay or straight. Depression is an invading entity that usurps lives like a mind-controlling parasite.
Landon’s relationship with his girlfriend Summer (Paige Smith) illustrates a much deeper and more productive understanding of depression. While she eventually feels pushed to her limits, she spends years offering Landon patience and support. It’s only when she believes his agoraphobia is creeping towards psychosis that she demands he change his approach to healing. They don’t always see eye-to-eye, but there is a genuine attempt at understanding on the part of both parties. Again, props to both of these young thespians, as they provide an emotional core that moviegoers can build genuine connections with.
Gorehounds or those who like their horror high-octane probably won’t like Happy Endings Are a Rarity; for the majority of its run, the film is a drama. When it does venture into horror territory, it does so with such skill, you won’t realize you’re in the thick of it until you’re surrounded. The film’s most terrifying moments are delivered without sound, creating an anti-jump-scare effect that’s surprisingly visceral; it’s violence without any adornment, actions and consequences without any artistic filters: Raw, blatant, and in-your-face. Still, this is a cerebral horror, the kind of off-kilter experience created by The Twilight Zone and Gothic literature.
Happy Endings Are a Rarity is a grand adventure for horror fans who enjoy playing sofa-detective; pay attention to names and objects that pop up more than once. We spent the majority of the film trying to answer one underlying question: What happened to Landon that made him retreat from a life of opportunity? What changed him from a popular and outgoing student with a bright future to a man unable to leave his house or even contemplate a life beyond his secluded cabin. No one will suspect that an even deeper mystery has been hiding in plain sight the entire time. This illustrates another one of the film’s strengths: While it unfolds at a leisurely, meandering pace, nothing is incidental or excessive. Everything means something.
Bottom Line: This is primarily a drama and an arthouse horror that will bore to death those looking for the next Jason or Freddy to make iconic. Fans of The Twilight Zone and slow-burn psychological creepers will be most impressed. The film is almost devoid of special effects, but the terror is real; everything is built off of an incredibly talented ensemble cast. Writer/Director Blair Hoyle is a filmmaker to follow.