Top 10 Horror Movie Birds!
What is up friends and fellow Arrow in the Headers...we're less than a week away from Turkey Day. You believe that sh*t? What are your plans for the holiday? Booze, food, football, movies, more food...rinse and repeat? Damn fine plan if you ask us. So too is our scheduled Top 10 ahead. You see, in honor of the American past time that revolves around eating a stuffed bird, we're doing similar with this week's Horror Ten Spot. That's right, we're all about various birds that have shown up and made their mark in horror movies. Not turkeys per se, although included, we're talking all sorts of aviary examples. Crows, gulls, owls, ravens, swans, coots, woodpeckers, f*cking kites...they're all in play (feel free to add your own below).
Happy f*cking Thanksgiving you guys and gals...feast upon our Top 10 Horror Movie Birds above!
With Turkey Day upon us, what better way to get things jumping than with a stint of apt holiday horror? Granted, the chintzy micro-budget THANKSKILLING franchise does not offer great works of art, the clear tongue-in-cheek approach favors the humorous over the horrifying, but damn, few horror movie birds are as nasty, ugly and ultra-violent than these rabid and ravenous gobblers. Talk about foul fowl! What sets these apart from most, aside from being flightless (or frightless), is the fact they crack bad Freddy Krueger style jokes to their victims right before doing them in. Oh, the first flick also features an axe-wielding turkey.
Now here's a refreshing change of pace. Not only do we depart from ominous blackbirds and villainous birds of prey - crows, ravens, vultures, buzzards etc. - in THE SHALLOWS we're treated to a seagull who serves as an accomplice of survival. It's true. The broken-winged gull - who is really named Steven Seagull! - that refuses to leave Blake Lively's curvy side when the two are marooned on a seaside rock not only gives a convincing performance, but helps Lively survive a harrowing shark attack as the tide ebbs and threatens to submerge both. Honestly, I kept thinking Lively was going to eat the bird in order to stay alive, but what she does is actually much smarter and far more humane. We won't spoil the specifics beyond that, but damn is this one sweet and loyal seabird!
One of the most terrifying aspects of flight-birds is how they can act as carriers for deadly diseases and world altering plagues. The farther they immigrate, they more infectious the can potentially become. Danny Boyle's superlative virus-zombie yarn 28 DAYS LATER realized such a fear quite effectively, as poor Brendan Gleeson's oblivious character, attempting to shoe-away a deafening crow's caw, catches an infected drizzle of blood directly into his eyeball. Of course, it wasn't the bird who had the disease in the first place, it too became infected when picking away at a zombified corpse moments before Gleeson got gorily rained on.
We've made little bones around here about calling Robert Eggers' THE WITCH one of the best horror films to come out in some time, so why in flame-roasted hell would we omit its blood-craving raven from this here bird bash? Wouldn't dream of it. Now, in order to avoid spoiling the particulars for those who've yet to see the film, we won't contextualize the how and why of it all. We'll simply say there is a fiendish raven in the film that plays a vital role in unfolding the story, and in one freakishly unforgettable image, said blackbird is seen voraciously sucking at the bosom of the title character. Not just for mother's milk, mind you, but for peckishly piercing her skin for fresh blood. Damn disturbing. The best part? Word is the shot was achieved in only a single take. Get that bird a damn agent already!
Talk about a murder of crows! It's true, Dario Argento's portentous slasher opus OPERA sets the tone with the immediate perch of a murderous magpie leering over the audience. Later in the film, the evil killer unlocks a cage of ravenous blackbirds on the crowd of hoity-toity patrons. One of the birds soars into the masses, the others follow, and soon a full-fledged attack ensues. Some great sweeping, overhead camerawork is achieved to give us the birds' POV, ultimately landing on a few onlookers before viciously gouging one of their eyes into a gory mass of eviscerated pulp. The entire scene is deeply unnerving, the close-ups of the birds, the disorienting camera sweeps, the deafening caws, and yes, the Argento-style splatter work. High art indeed!
We could have just as easily prompted a pic of mustachioed madman Vinnie Price in the 1963 version of the Edgar Allan Poe poem (or Karloff in '35 for that matter), but come on, look at Cusack's morbid pose with the titular creature above. Shite's gorgeously macabre. Interestingly, the trailer for the flick was released exactly 162 years after Poe's real life mysterious death. More criminal still, Poe only netted $9 for The Raven poem that has since been canonized in infamy. More trivial yet, the dying words uttered by Cusack in the film - "may god have mercy on my poor soul" - are said to be the real last words of Poe on his deathbed. Pay close notice to the dance scene, many background extras are made up with wings so to resemble an unkindness of ravens!
Never mind the overall quality of the movie, the gnarly raven-attack that the promotional material of DAMIEN: THE OMEN II was built around caws volumes of abject avian violence. It really does. Just look at that poor gal get picked, plucked and clawed to bloody shreds when a large devilish black-bird aggressively accosts her head in the middle of the street. The bird savagely beaks the girl's eyes out of her skull, then ominously leers on as her helpless body is suddenly struck by a passing truck. Outside of the movie ROAR, it's one of the most realistic looking animal attacks we've seen onscreen. Serving as Damien's homicidal id, the raven actually kills three people in the film.
Natalie Portman's Oscar winning turn in Darren Aronofsky's fractious psychological thriller BLACK SWAN is at once a grand meta-marvel and a gorgeous visual metaphor for the rigors of stress, competition, compulsive obsession and the need to succeed. Of course, Portman's character wasn't actually morphing from the white swan - a paragon of untouchable innocence - to the black swan - a symbol of corruption and self-sabotage - it was all in her goddamn head. That said, it was the status of attaining the role of the black swan that sent Portman's character on a deathly destructive quest to be the best. The way Aronofsky darkly adapts Swan Lake with a mixture of high and low-brow sensibilities is chief among why one of cinema's most radiant birds (Portman) took flight!
As far as real life horror stories go, few if any outrank the tragically fatal shooting of Brandon Lee on the set of THE CROW in 1993. How that piece of brass-bullet fragment remained lodged in the barrel of the gun is flat-out unthinkable, if not grossly negligent. That said, few horror movie birds have played a cooler, darker and more integral role than in THE CROW. Eric Draven, metal-head poet guitarist, is ferried back from death by a large black bird to the place where his killers reside. Regenerated with vengeance on the brain, Draven starts viciously waylaying his assailants, slowly resembling the very crow that revived him along the way. And for the uncertain few, the real shot of Lee being shot in the side through a grocery bag was NOT the one used in the final film.
All roads and flight-paths seem to invariably lead back to Hitchcock, do they not? Indeed, the master of suspense reigns supreme! Only three years after shaking and reshaping the rules of horror cinema via PSYCHO, Hitch gave us the equally entertaining and subtextually subversive avian thriller THE BIRDS. No one winged-creature in the film need be singled out, but if we had to make a case, poor Tippi Hedren getting authentically picked and pecked to near death ranks up top. Remember, Hedren is on record as claiming, as a result of denying Hitch's lewd advances, was particularly and painstakingly subjected to excessive torment on set. We know of Hitch's indifference to actors, his fastidious framing at whatever cost, so perhaps such claims aren't out of the realm.