Dead Birds (2004)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 60%
Overall Rating
Ranked #4,271
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A group of Confederate soldiers hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank and find themselves at the mercy of supernatural forces. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: April 1, 2005
Our feature film takes place in the 1860's, in the small town of Fairhope, Alabama. As our movie gets underway, we see a group of Confederate soldiers going to a bank to deposit four bags of gold. Two of the soldiers enter the bank to make the transactions, while two stay outside to guard the bank due to the rather large value of the gold that they're carrying around. The two soldiers guarding the bank don't have to wait long for trouble to arrive, as a group of deserter soldiers show up with dollar signs in their eyes. A bloody massacre takes place inside the bank, and the deserters manage to make their way out of town with the gold in tow. After being run out of town, William (Henry Thomas), the leader of the group, leads his posse out to an abandoned house located in the middle of nowhere, with the plan being to hide out there for the night and take off to Mexico in the morning. His group, consisting of his girlfriend Annabelle (Nicki Lynn Aycox), brother Sam (Patrick Fugit), Joseph (Mark Boone Junior), Todd (Isaiah Washington) and Clyde (Michael Shannon) agree to the plan. After getting lost in the woods between the town and the house, they finally arrive at their destination. The men find that the land surrounding the house has become overgrown with corn, so they start to trek through the mess... when, from out of nowhere, a huge animal / demon monstrosity comes barreling out after them. Todd whips out his pistol and shoots the thing dead, leaving the men to wonder just what in the hell this thing was. They come to the conclusion that it was some type of boar or a large dog, and continue onwards to the house. Once inside, the men find out that they're not exactly alone in this house... and whatever is sharing the rooms with them is far from human.

This movie shares something in common with Boo! The Movie, that being that it received a huge amount of praise when it made its way around the festival circuit. However, unlike Boo!, this one actually deserved every last bit of that praise. The storyline, at first glance, seems like your typical open-and-shut, done-to-death ghost story... however, without spoiling anything, one finds that that is far from the case after watching this title. While some parts of this movie are reminiscent of other movies in the horror genre, especially "Scarecrow" (not to be confused with the god-awful "Scarecrow Slayer" series), the movie at hand manages to mix these little nods together into an effective movie, one which is also filled with plenty of originality. Another thing that I enjoyed about this one was the ending, which came off in a style similar to that of Japan's horror films. The ending isn't a simple "this is what happened" deal where every last thing is explained to the viewer in one fell swoop; no sir, the thinking cap is required to piece together what just happened. After thinking it over for a bit, it becomes pretty apparent what exactly happened... but if the crowd that I watched this film with is any indication, it's not something that one would get as soon as the credits roll.

Another thing that I enjoyed was the way that the director really set the mood of 1860's Alabama. Unlike so many other films that set themselves far back in history, this one never came across as modern day people playing the part of an old-timer... you really start to feel like you're placed back in the time that the film was set. This is due in part to the actors, all of which did a fantastic job with their roles, but it's more so due to the great sets, costumes, and script. Adding to the authenticity is the blatant racism that Todd (a black guy) endures from some of his white partners in crime. Viewers may find the repeated usage of "nigger" a bit harsh, but it does indeed reflect the treatment that blacks received in the South during this time, so it goes a long way towards setting the tone of the movie.

At this point in the review, I feel that I should point out that this is not your typical American horror / supernatural film. The opening scene of the film is fast-paced, with plenty of excellent gore-effects usage and blood-spraying; hell, a man even has his head blown off courtesy of a pistol, with an extreme amount of blood spraying the walls. After this, however, the pace of the movie slows down considerably, relying more on mood-setting and atmosphere than cheap scares and the red stuff to deliver the scares. That's not to say that there's no scares of blood after the opening scene, but if you're looking for a fast-paced film where ghosts appear or someone dies in every scene, you'd be well advised to skip over this one. Personally, I find this style of horror to be much more effective, but your mileage may definitely vary.

If you're a fan of slow-building horror films that can really deliver the goods in the end, this would definitely be one to check out. It's not perfect, but it's pretty damned close. 9/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added June 24, 2005 at 4:46am
Unfuckingbelievable. This movie was amazing. One of the best horror movies I've seen in years, with a great twist at the end.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added December 26, 2005 at 10:31pm
This movie continues to rock to the back of my brain! 10/10!
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #3: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added April 3, 2006 at 2:04am
What an awesome horror movie- nice scares, creepy atmosphere, intriguing story.

Here's a field guide which gives some good insight to what actually goes on in the movie:
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