Killing Birds (1987)

Killing Birds (1987)

After a soldier arrives home at his remote Louisiana house to find his wife in bed with another man, he promptly kills them both before he has his eyes pecked out by some birds-of-prey which were kept in cages on the porch. Years later a team of students arrive at the house of the blind soldier, now a bird specialist, to study a species of woodpecker in the nearby swamps. But the house is now haunted and strange things begin to happen.

 

This film, dubbed Zombie 5 in some quarters, is an appalling mess of a horror flick and features a distinct lack of both zombies and erm, well ‘killing birds’ too. I hate it when films that are clearly stand alone efforts are simply tagged with the name of a popular film series in a feeble attempt to cash in. They’ve done in with the later Hellraiser films which clearly had nothing to do with the original films so they simply inserted a few minutes of Pinhead to pretend they are part of the franchise. Some of the later Anaconda films seem like rubbish third-rate snake films which were slapped with the more famous title in an attempt to trick audiences into thinking Ice Cube or Jennifer Lopez were in it. But no evidence is more damning than that of the Italian Zombi films (usually referred to as Zombie Flesh Eaters in the UK) – five films that have about as much in common with each other as the Pope and myself. However all are billed as sequels to Fulci’s classic in a futile attempt to fool the audience and cash-in. Well anyone expecting Killing Birds to fool the audience must be in clear need of help – those looking for a zombie film will be grossly disappointed and those looking at the front cover and thinking “oh look, an Italian version of The Birds” will be in for even more of a shock.

Ripping off everything from Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond to Hitchcock’s previously mentioned classic and even John Carpenter’s The Fog, Killing Birds is just a loosely connected series of gore set pieces with a poor framing device. It’s just a nothing film in all honestly. There are no long explanations of what is going on. Things just seem to happen because they can. The film shifts from different sub-genres with abandon, going from zombie film to haunted house flick in an instant and then switching back whenever the need for another set piece arises. The deadly birds that feature so prominently on the front cover aren’t the main focus of the film and do very little except kill one person (and not as graphically as the front cover, I might add). And there’s only two zombies lurking around the house so they can’t be the main focus either. In fact I don’t even think they are zombies – more like horrible-looking ghosts.

Robert Vaughan’s blind character seemed to be a bit of a menace and perhaps the big instigator of the film at first but then he turns out OK in the end. I mean just what the hell is going on? What was Robert Vaughan doing when he signed on to this – he must have been playing his blind character in real life when he signed the contract! And think about it for a moment – his character is a BLIND BIRD WATCHER! How does he know whether he’s looking at a pigeon or a crow? Actually he’s not that bad in his role and it’s a pity that he isn’t in the film for longer than his five minutes of fame. The rest of the cast are absolutely atrocious and it’s never a good sign to be chalking off people you want to see die quickly. These teenagers act like complete morons for the bulk of the time and, given that not a lot else happens for around fifty minutes, you’re going to be looking at the clock with angst and waiting for the zombies or birds or just some random runaway car to take them all out.

Even the gore, usually the sole positive from Italian horror, is pretty bad. The same neck-slash effect is used too often and it seems like the only way these ghosts know how to kill people. The film itself looks pretty bad too, with a lot of scenes being too dark, too fuzzy or simply just not framed correctly. But then in some other scenes, the cinematography is excellent and the lighting is spot on – including a great scene in which an approaching zombie is back-lit. I think the copy I watched may have been victim of the BBFC and its unnecessary butchering but I doubt it. Killing Birds looks like two very poor films edited together in a nonsensical way to create an even worse mess. There’s not even a decent pay off at the end of the film and it all ends just so abruptly. Either they ran out of money by hiring Robert Vaughan or they simply gave up and called it a day. Maybe it was the wisest choice they ever made. Euro-horror and especially these Italian-made ones hold a very special place in my heart because at least they try their hardest, usually with the same disappointing results.

 

Killing Birds is a sorry mix of The Birds, The Beyond and The Fog. Surely with ripping off those films, then this film should at least have some half-decent moments? Nope. Don’t even waste ninety minutes of your life trying to prove me wrong.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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