Terror Birds (2016)
"They're not extinct"
When Maddy discovers her father has gone missing during a routine birdwatching excursion, she and her college pals trek out into the wilderness to look for him, only to end up in a wealthy scientist's desolate ranch aviary. Here, they encounter a pair of giant terror birds believed to be extinct for centuries but very much alive and very hungry.
Sigh. You know exactly what you wanted with a film called Terror Birds. And you get everything you deserve too. Quite obviously running out of current animals to turn into killers that haven’t already been done to death (sharks, snakes, crocodile and spiders be damned, you’ve had your day), the makers of Terror Birds have trawled back through some dinosaur books to find something they think they could bring to life.
Like the usual dregs lifted straight from the Sy Fy vaults, Terror Birds goes for the cheap and cheerful route, not deviating too far from a generic template that sees teenage characters falling victim to some animalistic peril. Throw in some human villains, because special effects cost too much money to make the birds the only threat, and just let the random plot generator throw out some obvious set pieces. It’s clockwork filmmaking, with no real suspense or tension created as you’ll be able to predict most of the film before it happens, including who dies and when. There’s something reassuring about this, which is why the likes of myself keep returning to these type of films, but there’s also something dreary about sitting through such films when they’re as mundane and thrill-less as Terror Birds. The low budget clichés roll thick and fast here, with the villain of the piece somehow managing to conduct this cutting edge top-level genetic research inside what looks like a barn and with a skeleton staff of around six people, including only one scientist. Swallow the science, accept that these birds exist and just go with the flow is the easiest solution.
The teenage cast tick the relevant boxes to fill their cardboard characters and as per usual in films like this, a couple of lazy lines of dialogue and a brief action of some kind at the start of the film is all we really get to know what type of stock characters they’ll be. The bitchy girlfriend tells us all we need to know about her as the first time we see her in the film, she’s sat glued to her mobile and complains about the lack of reception. The lesbian sidekick has a few ‘I’m comfortable with my sexuality’ type jokes at the expense of the bitchy girlfriend. The straight good guy greets the heroine of the story politely and courteously as they have crushes on each other so it’s obvious what is going to happen come the end. It’s eye-rolling material but is mercifully brief and they get to the kill zone quicker than I’d expected.
It shouldn’t need saying that the CGI birds look really ropey, apparently restricted to the same few frames of animation over and over again. But, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, they don’t look as bad as I was expecting them to be! Maybe my expectations have been lowered so much over the years that I’m now tolerating half-assed animations. Credit to the designers who have given the birds something of a unique look, sort of a cross between a turkey and a velociraptor. But once they start doing their thing and whittling down the cast, it’s obvious that this could have been any killer animal and the results would be the same. The birds bite off heads, something that grows increasingly tiresome in these type of films the more I see it, and gouge away with their claws for the kill. There’s a decent amount of kills spread evenly throughout but with the gore being mainly CGI too, it’s just more of the same old, same old that you’ll have seen before.
Greg Evigan and Leslie Easterbrook are the only real names in the cast, with Easterbrook (of Police Academy and more recently a slew of Rob Zombie films fame) popping up for a brief extended cameo. Evigan hams it up as the bad guy but it’s a generic role which doesn’t need any real stretching of talents. And as I’ve already mentioned, the younger cast members are just as interchangeable as their stereotyped characters and none of them leave an impression upon the audience.
Terror Birds is not the worst example of its genre but something I wouldn’t particularly recommend in a hurry. Once the fleeting freshness of seeing killer prehistoric birds has worn off, the film reverts to its prescribed Sy Fy creature feature type – once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Director(s): Sean Cain
Writer(s): Jake Helgren
Actor(s): Jessica Lee Keller, Lindsey Sporrer, Greg Evigan, Leslie Easterbrook, Dillon Cavitt, Evan Miller
Duration: 87 mins