Directed by Alex Turner, 2004. Review originally written 3-30-05
I always check out the quotes they decide to put on the cover/back of a DVD. I had been looking forward to Dead Birds anyway, just because of what I read of it in Fangoria, but I was even more eager when I read on the back, “The savviest American horror flick since Cabin Fever.” Cabin Fever is a personal favorite of mine. I think it was a milestone in modern American horror and couldn’t agree more as per how “savvy” it was, so imagine my delight to read this on the back. Granted, I’ve never heard of “Eye Weekly”, but hey, anything comprable to Cabin Fever gets a nod in my book.
Not so much with actually watching the movie.
I dug the atmosphere in the begining. I like horror set out of the present and it kicked off to a decent start, though admittedly the believablity of the shootout in the begining of the film was rather low. However, as you can tell from the above picture, the creature design was actually pretty damn good and we actually get our first look at one relatively early in the film. But then it goes away for a while, as do the scares. The film becomes overly reliant on the imagination of the viewer without actually providing a reason for the imagination to take over. This leads to a rather uneventful film, even if things are going on it, everything seems anti-climactic.
But again, the creature design was pretty freaky, HOWEVER, they’re actually not that freaky when they’re in motion. Get a glance of one in a still frame and it’s rather haunting, but once it starts moving it looses it’s coolness. And as scary as those creatures are, they never create any sense of dread. There is no fear as to what these creatures are going to do to anyone. I’m actually not even sure the writers had anything in mind when it comes to what the creatures will actually do to people. Hell, at one point a creature causes a person to turn and jump into the air and they actually just dissolve into a green cloud. What the ****? They’ve got teeth, use ’em.
The cast are all more than capable of their parts. Patrick Fugit is actually rather hard to adjust to initially, due to the charm he brings to the films he has previously been in, but once he has his climax he’s pretty solid. That being said, they aren’t given a whole lot to do in this movie. It’s reflective of the atmosphere the filmmakers are trying to create, but I longed for some dialogue that wasn’t an exchange of 10 words between two people.
I did like the ending, probably much more so than I should have. But overall, the movie didn’t do much for me. Maybe it is because I had higher than average hopes, but I really think it’s just because the film relied too much on “scares” that were unoriginal in concept and lacking in execution.
I’m reminded of a mini-review I read in Maxim years ago of Tool’s fantastic CD Lateralus. They (wrongfully, IMO) said that Lateralus “moved strongly sideways, but rarely soared.” The same can be said of Dead Birds. It can deffinetely ride what it has going on, but what it has going on isn’t anything to write home about.
3 out of 5, it’d probably be more enjoyable if you caught it half way through at 1am on HBO. I’m probably being more harsh than I should, but I was let down by all the potential. It is only 91 minutes, give it a look if you like your horror paced like the beat of an old man’s dying heart.
The One Sentence Review: Dead Birds is a film one should only actively seek out if they either live in a farm during the Civil War or scare way too easily.