September 18, 2010

Dead Birds (2004)

"A group of Confederate soldiers who hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank, and find themselves at the mercy of supernatural forces."

"Dead Birds" was the latest in a long line of crappy DVDs that I've rented from Netflix this month. It's not that the film itself was completely awful but the DVD itself was scuffed up so badly that it was skipping and sticking all over the place at the beginning.

From the titles "Dead Birds" looked like a quality production and the opening bank robbery scene was really very well done. A head being blown off with a shotgun was completely lush and the gunfight as the robbers made their escape was realistic and suitably exciting. A lot of attention was obviously paid to the costumes and look of the actors but somehow the characters were a little bit on the bland side. I'm not entirely sure if this was down to the casting of the actors themselves or just lacklustre writing but, either way, I started to worry that this was going to be as bad as "Fort Doom" (also from 2004) which was set in the same time period.

But then things started to get creepy. On reaching the deserted plantation which would become the robbers' hideout and setting for the rest of the events, everything changed into something that H.P. Lovecraft would have been proud of and therein lies a problem. On the one hand there were some great effects, jump scares and atmosphere but, on the other, there were also a lot of times where everything lagged and nothing made a great deal of sense.

Some reviewers have pointed out that "Dead Birds" is very derivative of "The Evil Dead". It's easy to see what they mean as both stories share the basic idea of a group of people trapped in a house where demons have been summoned previously but "Dead Birds" has a lot more of a ghost story feel to it. I wish that it had actually been a ghost story rather than going for gory effects and demons as it might have worked better. It was all a bit incoherent at times and reminded me of Japanese horror. I noticed that the backstory had to be explained three times as well which would have been unnecessary if there had been better writing to begin with.

As I said, "Dead Birds" isn't a completely awful film but it really does have a lot of flaws which are largely to do with the pacing and lack of charisma of any of the actors. Henry Thomas' performance as the leader was very weak and he was totally eclipsed by Nicki Aycox in any scene he shared with her. They've both done a lot of TV work and horror before but only Nicki Aycox seemed to be really into this and did a great job with what she had to work with. Michael Shannon was completely wasted in his role too. Really if you are going to use actors of this calibre you should at least give them something to get their teeth into and cast them appropriately.

The rating for "Dead Birds" on the IMDb is currently way too high at 5.7 out of 10. It's actually worth half of that because it had a lot of potential but ultimately failed to deliver on any level. It wasn't gory enough, wasn't scary enough, was overambitious as a "thinking man's horror" and mostly made a mess of following tried and tested formulas. I still enjoyed some of it, but it isn't a film that I'd want to watch again.

No comments:

Post a Comment