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I am constantly searching for good horror movies. Being a fan of the Genre, I am more often than not disappointed by the quality of the current films. “Dead Birds” is an example of a small horror film that really pulls itself off well. Granted it is not a flawless masterpiece, but it is a damn fine horror flick.
“Dead Birds” takes place during the Civil War. The plot revolves around a group of robbers that stop at an abandoned house on their way to Mexico. It turns out that the house is not vacant. Sadly for our robbers, what dwells there is not human, but an evil force that quickly begins to spiritually and psychologically feed off its new inhabitants. The plot line slightly resembles the original Evil Dead, but don’t expect the unintentional humor. The film is directed incredibly well. The house itself becomes one of the main stars of the film. Scenes of empty hallways and family rooms are very unsettling. It is a film where atmosphere often takes certain stage, but the story turns out the be quite interesting in itself. This is a movie where the reasons behind what is taking place are explained. This is done in a serious of flashbacks that work much better than what most horror movies pull off. Often I think explanation can hurt a film like this. Sometimes not knowing “why” keeps things more frightening, but “Dead Birds” really pulls off the revelations well. It gives you the outline, but doesn’t bog itself down with details.
Despite the fact that the major creatures are shown on the cover and on the back, I still found myself a bit freaked out by their presence. Granted, there is some shoddy CGI work here and there, but for the most part the special effects are convincing. I must admit, I love the look of the monsters in this flick. They do resemble an anomaly you might see in reality, yet they ooze with a supernatural eeriness. They are horrifying in a tragic yet evil fashion. Some of the scenes, particularly in the flashbacks, make you almost feel sorry for them.
The actors in this film are certainly above par when compared to the common horror film. I was surprised that they where able to pull together such an excellent cast. It includes Henry Thomas of “ET” fame, Patrick Fugit from “Almost Famous”, and Isaiah Washington from “Ghost Ship”, who turns out my favorite performance in this movie. Some people may be turned off by the Civil War setting, but once you get past the first ten minutes, it is not that noticeable. In fact, with a few minor changes, this film could have been set in modern times. Personally I love the setting, but some horror fans get turned off by period horror films.
The DVD has some cool extras, including two commentary tracks, a small batch of deleted scenes, and a making of feature. The one major issue I had with this film was that near the end, one of the characters “exits” the movie in a very odd way. As to not to spoil the movie, I will keep this vague. The “exit” made me go straight to the commentary track for an explanation, which was not given. Though I was able to figure it out, after watching the first few minutes of watching the making of feature, I found out something interesting. The writer had the character’s storyline end in a different fashion, and in my opinion, a way that makes a tad more sense. The Producer pushed the change, thus we are left with a scene that is less satisfying than it could have been.
Fans of horror should certainly give this one a chance. I found “Dead Birds” to be one of the best horror movies I have seen in a while. Sad that this one didn’t get a theatrical release, but at least it is receiving a wide DVD release. The way film is made has created a scary, unsettling and fresh entry into the Horror Genre. Four Cans.
Added: Monday, May 02, 2005
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