Tag Birds

Bird’s II: Land’s End, The (1994)

The Birds II: Land's End (1994)

History Has A Nasty Way Of Repeating Itself.

A family decide to spend summer on the island of Land’s End but when they get there, they find that birds are starting to attack people.

 

When talking about random sequels, surely The Birds II: Land’s End must crop up there in the conversation. Made thirty-one years after Hitchcock unleashed his feathered friends upon Bodega Bay, this pointless sequel wasn’t even deemed worthy enough to be turned into a cinematic release, instead ending up as some half-baked TV movie.

The first thing you’ll notice (or maybe not originally notice…but now you will since I’m drawing your attention to it) is the directing credit. The actual credit is Alan Smithee, a well-used pseudonym taken on by directors who are too ashamed of the final cut of the film for whatever reason and decide to hide their identity – and the Director’s Guild prohibits the disclosure of such reasons. Well to name and shame him regardless of reasons, it’s Rick Rosenthal! Now I’m not saying that Rosenthal thought that this was a total pile of a crap (well you don’t need to think it, it is) and therefore he removed his name from the credits to avoid embarrassment. It may turn out that the film has been cut or censored in some way without his involvement and therefore he has some reason to disown it. Ah who am I kidding – the film is a complete turkey and Rosenthal knows it.

There’s no reason for The Birds II: Land’s End to exist except for shameless cashing-in purposes. There was no story left to tell – the bird attacks were simply a random event and, as the ending showed, it all seemed to sort itself out. But here the bird attacks are shoe-horned into the whole ‘nature getting revenge for pollution’ motive which immediately kills any sense that these are random attacks. Once the script starts explaining the reasoning, there’s no sense of mystery and a logical solution (stop polluting) is found. The Birds II: Land’s End also brazenly rehashes most of the original’s best moments but fails to recapture any of the suspense, tension of general eeriness that the original had. You just know that by the finale, the main characters are going to barricade themselves in an isolated house in an attempt to wait out the birds.

There are a couple of obligatory and quite pointless side stories that are there to fill the gaps in between the bird attacks. It’s your usual TV movie drama filler designed to get us emotionally involved with the characters……ya ya ya. The sentimental and emotional heartstring tugging is all a bit forced down our throats for the sake of it. Heck, they even use the ‘mayor refuses to accept the presence of a monster because it will hurt the town’s economy’ Jaws-formula which was a bit weird to see.

The bird attacks do get a bit gorier – thirty-one years after the original, there’s no way that they were going to be any less brutal. I say ‘bird attacks’ though because the complete lack of birds means that there’s only a handful of them doing the attacking at any one time. There are nowhere near the massive flocks of birds that attacked in the original. But at least this was made before the advent of CGI cheapies so the birds are all real, when you eventually get around to seeing them attack people. The last ten minutes or so are actually reasonably entertaining but it’s a pity that no one bothered to make sure the rest of the film was entertaining.

Tippi Hedren also shamelessly makes a cameo appearance as a totally unrelated character to the one she played in the original, though at least she has said since that it was absolutely horrible and it embarrasses her horribly. Rod Taylor was still kicking around at the time (not that he was dead at the time of writing) so it’s a wonder they didn’t just bring them both back and do a proper sequel with the same characters or even descendants of the pair. It would have been a darn sight more interesting than what we get here.

 

The Birds II: Land’s End is just a wholly pointless and feeble rehash of the original with loads of B-movie clichés thrown in for good measure. Remaking and rehashing Hitchcock’s classics can be done with certain degrees of success as some of the Psycho sequels proved – you just need to have money, talent and passion to do it (things that no one here displays).

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Birds of Prey (1987)

Birds of Prey (1987)

You don’t have a wing of a prayer!

A news reporter and her cameraman head to Spain to investigate the story of a farmer and his wife being attacked by their chickens. It turns out that this isn’t an isolated incident and a whole town was wiped out thirty years ago by birds. Now they’re back and hungry for more.

 

Alfred Hitchcock would clearly be turning over in his grave if he knew what had happened to his thrilling 1963 nature-runs-amok classic The Birds. Not only did it get given a horrid sequel thirty years later, it has also been unashamedly ripped off countless times, probably none more as blatant as René Cardona Jr’s Birds of Prey. With all of the tactless attributes of a 80s Italian exploitation horror flick, I was surprised to find out that Birds of Prey was a Mexican-Spanish production. It could quite easily masquerade as one of those glorious rip-offs that the Italians did better (or should that be worse) than everyone else – the numerous Dawn of the Dead knock-offs, the never-ending slew of Jaws clones, etc. In fact in Italy, this was actually billed as a sequel to The Birds, no doubt the ‘town wiped out thirty years ago’ part of the synopsis referring to the town of Bodega Bay from Hitchcock’s film.

Taking a page from Hitchcock’s book by not giving any explanation for the bird attacks, Birds of Prey would no doubt entertain those of you looking for some campy low grade rubbish to watch. Most of Hitchcock’s film is ripped off in abundance, so much so that at times it runs like a scene-by-scene remake. There’s the growing sense that the birds are massing against man. Almost everyone in the film mentions that the birds seem to be organised at least twice throughout the running time. The birds attack a group of children, here at a party. There’s even a ‘siege’ inside a house. Only where Hitchcock actually managed to create fear and sustained tension from birds attacking people, here you just have to laugh at everything as pigeons and doves don’t exactly make the most threatening enemies. Rarely do any remotely aggressive birds appear and there’s nothing to rival the classic scene with the crows – it’s always the feathered friends with the least brains that seem to get to do the dirty work here.

The ‘attack’ scenes follow the same formula every time instead of mixing it up a bit: there are plenty of slow-motion shots of birds flying through the air followed by shots of the actors being mobbed by them. In most cases the actors are simply thrust into a room full of birds and told to act scared. In fact it looks like the birds are actually embarrassed to be on the camera. Take for instance the scene where the farmer and his wife are attacked. The guy is clearly holding the birds as they swarm him on the floor and, as he falls, you can see birds struggling to break free and get away from him. Some even appear to be tied to the actors’ clothing. I’d bet that a lot of the birds involved in this were killed because the actors clearly don’t care about falling on top of them or crushing them against the wall as they wave about and struggle to make the attacks look terrifying.

On the flip side, it’s hard not to dislike some of the exploitative elements to the film. You can’t really go wrong with an opening scene in which a hang glider has his eyes pecked out by birds whilst he’s in mid-air. Or another overblown scene in which a guy standing on his balcony has his eye ripped out by a swooping eagle in one swift swoop. With the gore in abundance, it’s up to the director to pull one of the sneakiest moves I’ve seen to provide the token nudity. Female lead Michelle Johnson is cute and you’d be shocked to see that she’s only too eager to get her kit off and take a full frontal shown for the camera – only she didn’t exactly get naked for the film and Cardona has used a body double to provide the nudity (of whom we never see above neck level to keep the secret safe). Co-star Christopher Atkins must have wondered what the hell he’d done to fall off the radar so badly having starred in The Blue Lagoon in 1980. Together Atkins and Johnson are pretty terrible in the roles, not helped by a script which has them saying some idiotic things and a cast of Hispanics who are dubbed to the heavens.

 

Birds of Prey is a z-grade rip-off where pigeons rip people’s eyes out and doves menacingly organise themselves to destroy man. Clearly the blame lies squarely at the feet of the director: Hitchcock turned birds into a terrifying force of destruction that we’d never really considered a threat before. Here, Cardona Jr (who also brought us the equally-as-dire Jaws rip-off Tintorera) just makes them look dim-witted and laughable.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Flu Birds (2008)

Flu Birds (2008)

If They Fly You Die

A group of juvenile offenders on a rehabilitation camping trip are terrorised by a flock of birds which have been mutated by some sort of disease. The disease can be passed on to humans – if their victims survive long enough!

 

Remember that big bird flu scare a couple of years ago? Yeah me neither. I guess someone was paying attention to the news though and was scared to death at the thought of being infected with avian flu because here we have a horror film about avian flu, only a couple of years too late. I thought the idea of cashing on something real was to get it made whilst it was still in the public eye? Nowadays we have got to worry more about swine flu (only a matter of time before we have a killer pigs flick…oh wait).

Besides, who would be as stupid and gullible enough to give this sort of story the green light? Oh that’s right, my friends at The Sci-Fi Channel and their single-studio quest to release the most monster-on-the-loose flicks ever. If you’ve seen any films from them or even read my other reviews for their output, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of their work even though it’s right down my genre alley. They have made one or two decent flicks but the majority out and out suck. Will Flu Birds be any different?

Bottom line: no! I’ll give the film a bit of credit to begin with as it gets straight to the point within the opening few minutes as the ‘birds’ are on screen almost from the get-go by dispatching a pair of hunters in the woods. But the film dispenses with any story, characters or logic by doing so. The teenage offenders group is just a dire way to get people into the woods. My eyes rolled when the offenders are all defined by their crimes including one being a prostitute and one being a computer hacker who got into the FBI’s systems. I don’t see why their crimes should be relevant to anything but defining their character without further dialogue – for instance, you know the prostitute is a slut and thus when she removes her top later in the film, it’s expected. The only character of note here is played by Sarah Butler who is not only cute but at least gives her ‘final girl’ character some common sense and reason.

On the opposite side to that we have Jonathon Trent really pushing the wrong buttons as the ‘I don’t care about anyone except me’ jackass who lasts way too long in the film. Lance Guest is in here too and I’m guessing he’s the token ‘star name’ that these films have to put on the front cover (but star name is pushing it). He’s looking pretty fat nowadays and I’m guessing he needs the work after Jaws, The Revenge killed his career. But he doesn’t do much except drive around in a jeep so its easy money. Rounding off the cast is the usual array of Eastern European actors with really dodgy accents. I’ve stressed this in the past but I HATE having the supporting cast being local actors who can’t speak English very well and sound like they are trying to win an Oscar. Just keep them to non-speaking parts please!

Flu Birds is such a misleading title too as the crow-looking feathered freak on the front cover looks nothing like the pterodactyl-like monstrosities on display here. They are a mixture of CGI and puppetry (and even looking like guys in rubber suits at times) and to be honest, they don’t look that bad. I’ll at least give the film some props for using something ‘real’ and creating the puppets. I don’t get quite how they have been mutated into these pterodactyls but at least they’re hungry, if somewhat stupid. They are well fed throughout the film but aren’t used nearly as much as they should have been. The deaths are pretty gory which is a big plus and entrails and intestines are regularly pulled out by their sharp claws and peaks.

Bizarrely, Flu Birds runs almost like two separate films for the bulk of the running time. Obviously there’s the plot about the offenders being attacked in the woods and trying to escape and survive. But then there’s also a 28 Days Later-like story about the flu breaking out in a hospital and it having to be quarantined. The two run side-by-side for little purpose other than to show the audience that these birds can kill you in two ways: rip you apart or give you some disease. It would have been better had the infected people turn into zombies or something but they just die slowly and horribly which means a lot of scenes of nurses and doctors and dodgy government officials running around trying to cover everything up without starting a panic. I think this part of the film is just to bulk up the running time. The two plots eventually come together at the end when the government wants to destroy the birds and the teenagers must get out of the woods before it’s too late. But unfortunately for them, it’s way too late in the running time to make a difference.

 

Flu Birds is yet another terrible entry into the never-ending slew of Sci-Fi Channel releases. It had odd moments of entertainment and I like seeing ‘real’ monsters as opposed to CGI. But when the story is this weak, the acting is this poor and the whole piece smacks of desperately trying to cash in on a real-life flu scare, then the only thing to do with this flu outbreak is contain it – do not spread this film to your friends whatever you do!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Kaw (2007)

Kaw (2007)

Don’t look up

Sheriff Wayne has only one more day left on the job before moving to the city for a better life with his wife. But his last day is going to be anything but typical. His town comes under attack from a flock of blood-thirsty ravens, preying on the townsfolk and causing widespread panic.

 

Taking its cue from Hitchcock’s classic The Birds, Kaw is proof that you shouldn’t just dismiss a film as a rip-off, cash-in or feeble reworking of an older film. Kaw is hardly number one when it comes to originality but I was pleasantly surprised with the proceedings. You don’t get too many ‘birds run amok’ films, lest we forget the abomination that was The Birds II: Land’s End. So it’s not like it’s an overworked sub-genre. However when the film leading the genre charge is Hitchcock’s previously stated classic, then it’s hard to try anything new without drawing the obvious criticisms.

On its own, Kaw works as an average horror-thriller. Birds aren’t exactly the scariest thing on this planet but if you’ve ever looked at those ravens or crows, then you’ll come to the same conclusion I do – they are evil. Why do they need to be as jet black, have massive claws and gigantic beaks that could swallow small field mice whole? The ravens here have been feeding off dead cows which had mad cow disease. So the ravens themselves are infected. At least it beats genetically engineered birds for a change. Attacking in flocks, the ravens pose more of a threat in numbers. It always made me wonder why the humans in these films always go down so easily when being attacked by a big flock of birds. It’s not like they’re grossly overpowering. The attack scenes aren’t too bad and there are plenty of them throughout the film. There isn’t a huge amount of blood with the majority being confined to grisly shots of dead bodies with their eyes pecked out. CGI is kept to a minimum so most of the birds are real – always nice to see! And above all the setting is just what the film needs – some town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by open fields and woods. You wouldn’t want something like this happening in New York or London.

Even the human side of the film, so often the downfall of this type of flick, is good. Sean Patrick Flannery doesn’t exactly stand out as the sheriff but he’s the kind of ‘everyman’ hero that a film like this needs, not some super-invincible character who leaps around to save the day. In a supporting role, Stephen McHattie is one of those actors you always see but can never name him or any other film he’s been in. I guess that’s what IMDB is for. Rod Taylor, star of The Birds, makes a small appearance in the film as the local doctor. The guy might have been seventy-seven when filming but I’m sorry to say he hasn’t aged as well as the likes of Clint Eastwood and Christopher Lee have. I would have liked to see some sort of in-joke or throwaway gag involving Taylor’s character and his previous escapades with birds but the film was played out straight so there was no chance of that.

 

Kaw is a pretty decent horror-thriller which, despite its blatant pillaging of The Birds, manages to conjure up a few tricks here and there. It’s nothing flash but gets the job done. In a day where I dread putting the next ‘monster on the loose’ flick into my DVD player, it’s refreshing to find one that doesn’t completely suck. I guess that’s a compliment but given how many appalling films I’ve seen lately, Kaw is like a breath of fresh air! Competently acted, competently directed and competently….er…just competent overall!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆