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Dead Birds
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Dead Birds (2004)

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Plot Summary:
"In Civil War America, a band of confederate outlaws take refuge in an abandoned plantation. Led by William (Henry Thomas), they plan to rob a bank that is temporarily storing a cache of Confederate gold. The rest of the group includes Sam (Patrick Fugit), Todd (Isaiah Washington), Annabelle (Nicki Aycox), Clyde (Michael Shannon) and Joseph (Mark Boone Junior). But when the robbery results in a bloodbath, the six flee the town, aiming for Mexico. Threat of an impending thunderstorm makes the outlaws take shelter at a nearby isolated and presumed deserted plantation house. As the night wears on, each member of the group begins to have visions of the atrocities that occurred within the house. As the fear in the group begins to grow and the supernatural forces in the house start to manifest themselves, the six turn on each other and exact the wrath of the souls trapped alongside them."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 12 June 2006 My Rating: out of 5


Set in the Wild West, 'ET' star Henry Thomas plays the leader of a bunch of bank robbers who seek refuge in an old abandoned house. Here they bicker over the stolen loot, wander around the house (a lot...a real lot), and experience all sorts of supernatural goings on that eventually add up to very little at all.

'Almost Famous' star Patrick Fugit plays Thomas' brother, who doesn't look like the bank robbing, Wild West-type. Other members of the gang include familiar faces like Mark Boone Junior (Steve Buscemi's old acting buddy), Michael Shannon, co-producer Isaiah Washington (who narrowly escapes Stepin Fetchit territory as the token Black character), and Nicki Aycox around for feminine spice. Genre veteran Muse Watson appears briefly in flashbacks/ghostly apparitions.

This low-budget genre-bending flick gets off to a great, splatter-filled start that shows what Sam Raimi's 'The Quick and the Dead' could've been had it focused on wild filmmaking and lots of gore instead of also trying to operate as a traditional western (and thus pleasing no one). It also features a refreshingly scummy group of main characters. Unfortunately, once our anti-heroes enter the house, we are saddled with a stock-standard and entirely flat ghost story-western hybrid, and characters who don't seem to have as much depth to them as they originally seemed.

The problem is mostly with the screenplay and how it is handled. At first, the ghostly apparitions/nightmares appear (huh, huh) to reveal too much information, and in a laughably perfunctory manner. But by the end, they haven't really explained a good goddamn thing. I'm still not sure why the place was haunted, aside from minor (and incoherent) references to a brutal slavery past. I also have no idea what the hell the title refers to. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

It's not an abomination, and some people might enjoy the blend of western and horror, and forgive its underwhelming execution. It also features solid work by Fugit and the stoic Washington (in underwritten roles), as well as a terrific A-hole characterisation by Shannon. But at the end of the day, this just doesn't come off.

Unusual, but ultimately uninspired mixture of western and horror forgoes early promise for suspense-deprived scenes of people walking around. The script needed a rewrite or two.

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 21 May 2005 My Rating: out of 5

After a surprisingly high number of positive reviews, I sat down to watch Dead Birds expecting a masterpiece and was surprised to discover that it was the most boring film I had seen in ages.

Don't get me wrong, the film looks absoloutely beautiful, and the filmmakers really made use of the beautiful Southern setting and creepy plantation house, but aesthetics and solid cast aside, the film's story was weak.

The film centres on a band of bank robbers who seek shelter in an old plantation house before succumbing to all manner of creepy and weird goings on.

The film's opening was quite shocking and graphic, and I must applaud their brave decision to kill a child, as it is definitely a rare occurence in cinema today, and especially in such a graphic manner. It is not however gratuitous, it is used to convey how relentless and greedy these people are, but it also allows the lead to show a little remorse in the hopes that the audience will be sympathetic towards him.

The cast, some of which are familiar to genre fans are all very capable and do a good job but they don't have much to work with. I agree that the filmmakers were brave for deciding not to make this contemporary, and the cast and locations make it easy on the eye, but it's essentially a bunch of people walking around a house and it's grounds spooked out, hallucinating, dreaming and witnessing manifestations.

The ending may confuse some people, but it isn't that hard to get if you pay attention throughout. I got the idea they were going for, but the fact of the matter is the story was slow and dull so I didn't really care.

A well made and acted film with a fine cast is nice to look at, but doesn't have much going on upstairs.....cue blonde jokes.

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