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“Deadbirds“
Reviewed by: Wayne A. Klein
Genre: Horror
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic widescreen, high definition trnasfer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages English, French
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Thai
Length 91 minutes
Rating R for strong violence and gore
Release Date 3/15/05
Studio Sony Pictures Home Video
Commentary: Director Alex Turner plus second audio track with Turner, writer Simon Barrett and Henry Thomas
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: Making of “Deadbirds”
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Previews
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Deleted scenes with commentary
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Nicki Aycox, Michael Shannon, Muse Watson, Mark Boone Jr, Isaiah Washington
Written By: Simon Barrett
Produced By: Ash Shah, David Hillary, Timothy Peternel
Directed By: Alex Turner
Music: Peter Lopez
The Review:

Gore is a universal language. How else to explain the appeal of films that put gore above actual storytelling skills and plot. Most of the horror films that have been released over the last couple of years appeal to that universal language (one only has to look at the audio subtitles track to give you an idea as to the appeal) without bothering to put together a decent plot, acting or direction. The atmospheric “Deadbirds” has that crossover appeal but, surprisingly, has a fairly well written script although it also has a lot of fairly gaping plot holes. “Deadbirds” has a fair amount in common with films like “The Shining” and the recent American remake of “The Grudge” but with more gore and more genuinely creepy moments than both films. If you feel like you never heard of the film you probably didn’t; it played a number of film festivals but never received a proper release and is, more or less, a direct-to-DVD project but definitely is a step above those types of films. ***

Set in Alabama in 1863, a group of robbers led by William (Henry Thomas) take refuge in an abandoned Southern Plantation after taking down a bank full of gold. The group plan on spending the night in the plantation until whatever posse that might be in pursuit passes by. Unfortunately, they don’t know that the place is haunted by a nasty supernatural presence that shows each one of them some of the horrible atrocities that occurred in the mansion. As the evening wears on the frightened group are visited by manifestations of the creatures that haunt the walls of the mansion. With a nod to H. P. Lovecraft and Poe, “Deadbirds” features nasty creatures that would have fit right in to Lovecraft’s Cthuthlu mythos. ---

Image and Sound: Sporting a spooky high definition transfer, “Deadbirds” looks surprisingly undead in this anamorphic widescreen presentation. There’s some minor analog imperfections noticeable in the first twenty minutes of the movie which is a surprise given the care the rest of the transfer is given. The ominous score by Peter Lopez and the sound effects are nicely spread around the 5.1 mix making you feel as if you’re trapped by the same four walls that keep our ruthless bad guys from getting away.
The Extras:

We get a “Making of” featurette on the film that should probably be watched after the movie. Shot in digital video, the “Making of” featurette focuses on pre-production, production and post-production . The production crew discusses the logic of the screenplay (which still escapes the film even after they shoot it). The young production crew (writer Simon Barrett looks like he can’t be older than 24) and director (who looks like he isn’t much over the age of 30 at best) fight over the creature designs, the ending of the script and their perception of what the film is truly about. Loaded with plenty of behind-the-scenes images and interviews with the cast, it’s a step above the standard “Making of” featurettes we’re used to seeing. Using carpenters and swing people from a population of prison inmates probably only heightened the tension on the set (it also reduced the production costs). We also get the original theatrical trailer and an assortment of Columbia-Tristar previews. ---

Commentary:

Director Alex Turner’s informative commentary track provides lots of tidbits about the film including the budget of the film (less than $2 million), the fact that this was his feature debut and a discussion about the creation of the unusual title sequence. Shooting on the sets of “Big Fish” which were left standing after the completion of the film but dirtied up quite a bit, Turner and his production designer used the main street from that film effectively tripling the budgeted look of the film. ***

The second commentary track featuring the director, writer, Henry Thomas, Nicki Aycox and other cast members provides lots of behind-the-scenes stories about the shooting of the movie. The tension that occurred during the initial table read rehearsals carried over into the shooting of the film adding to the atmosphere of the film. ---

Final Words: A riveting, frightening and very, very gory movie, “Deadbirds” will interest horror movie fans that bemoan the lack of atmosphere in many of these movies. Director Alex Turner creates an atmospheric film on a meager budget by using existing sets and creating a film that’s almost a throwback to the horror thrillers of the late 70’s (“Dawn of the Dead”). It’s a scary ride and, while there are some narrative problems with the script, the action carries the day.

 

 
 
 
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