Dead Birds (2004)
Director: Alex Turner
Nicki Lynn Aycox/Annabelle
Amidst the civil war; a gang of bank robbing hooligans on the lam from the law, find refuge in a deserted plantation that happens to be haunted with peeved ghosts up the wazzo! Guess what happens next! Yup…they die!
I had heard a lot of great things about Dead Birds; some even proclaimed it to be one of the best horror movies to have come out in a while. So it was with mucho anticipation that I bounty hunted, rented it and sat through this little RIP tweedy. Alas, although not without its merits, the film didn’t live up to the hype around it or the one that I had individually generated for myself.
Now don’t get me wrong partners; there was a lot to cha-cha too within this decaying celluloid corpse. First of all, the premise was a tantalizing one! Horror Westerns are rare, horror Westerns should happen more often, horror Westerns make for a compelling genre mixer that always hits my spot. Dead Birds was no exception. The film’s “yippee ca he” aura made way for striking, Gothic and chilling mood imbued imagery and settings (old plantation, spooky cornfield). The flair behind the visuals definitely upped the impact of the ghostly proceedings for me. Then there was the character driven nature of the film which rubbed me the right way. It’s always refreshing to get that mature jive off a modern horror flick! The strong cast was an ace up this one’s sleeve as well. Henry Thomas, Isaiah Washington, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Patrick Fugi …talk about solid all around! The players made sure to keep my eyes on the screen due to their presence and chemistry with each other. Always good back up to have! Tag to all that a couple of solid frights (mostly boo scares); a novel creature (nice one by Almost Human FX) and some gory goods and you get a decent time at the County Genre Jail.
On the dead side of this bird (easy but I took it), the film’s pace had a tendency to lag in places. Now I don’t mind slow-burn affairs, but I am grated with extensive build-up that delivers nothing or next to nothing. There was a lot of that here. Furthermore, the dodgy CGI they used tarnished a couple of fear bits for me. I mean the flick played it grounded throughout and the obvious digital effects totally took me out of the game. Last but not least, the film’s lack of internal logic lost me quite often. There’s a fine line between aloof and a filmmaker not knowing what really is going on within his own film. The latter is what I felt; I don’t think they fully knew what was going on in their own story on a supernatural level; so how the hell could I figure out! If you’re going to toss everything and the macabre kitchen sink at me; make sure you have a concrete reason for it!
On the whole Dead Birds was a well shot, mostly engaging, at times scary and spooky chiller. With a tighter pace and more smarts behind the “why” behind the madness; it could’ve something big as opposed to just decent. Now you gonna stuff this bird or what?
It gets messy in this saloon! We get bloody gun shot wounds, a head blown up, nasty cuts, guts ripped out of one’s belly (nice one), a severed head, a face sowed shut (yowzer) and more!
Henry Thomas (William) has come into his own as an actor. Here he played a short on words badass with a soft streak and I bough it wholesale. Nicki Lynn Aycox (Annabelle) proved that she’s more than a pretty face and a tight body via this emotionally charged display. Isaiah Washington (Todd) was solid as per usual. Michael Shannon (Clyde) often stole the show as the smarmy tough guy that you shouldn’t trust. Patrick Fugit (Sam) has come a long way since Almost Famous; and he showed off his skills here.
T & A
Henry Thomas takes off his shirt for the ladies and we get a naked white monster to hard on to. Not fair!
Alex Turner excelled in dread filled atmosphere, slow and steady build up and potent shot compositions. He needed more of a handle on pacing and tension though. But then again…WTF do I know?
The score by Peter Lopez did wonders in supporting the macabre imagery on hand. Subtle and unnerving…good job!
Dead Birds “taxidermized” my arse via its strong initial set up, creepy locations; kick ass ensemble cast and a couple of potent gory/fear bits. Too bad it occasionally lost its hold on me due to a slow pace, not enough going on for what’s going on, weak CGI and a shaky foundation in terms of its paranormal happenings. I didn’t think the film was as great as others made it out to be, but with that said it was still a worthy sit down that I recommend you hit up with both six shooters fully loaded and a bottle of Gin. SADDLE UP COWPOKES!
Old sets from Tim Burton’s BIG FISH were used for the Western town scenes.
The film was shot in 21 days in Mobile, Alabama USA
The flick was shot under The SAG Low Budget agreement
Look out for Muse Watson (IKWYDLS) as the ghost of the Father