dead birds | alex turner | simon barrett | henry thomas | patrick fugit | nicki aycox | thriller | western | united states | ritual | demon | demons | monster | creature | michael shannon | muse watson | mark boone junior | isaiah washington | ghost | ghosts | haunted house
Film: Dead Birds
Director: Alex Turner
Writer: Simon Barrett
Starring: Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit and Nicki Aycox
This was a movie I'll be honest about, I had never heard of until it appeared on the Podcast Under the Stairs' Summer Series for the 2000s. This movie has a good cast and I was shocked by that when I saw it. Aside from what I heard on the episode, I came into this blind and was intrigued where this would go. The synopsis is a group of Confederate soldiers hold up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank and find themselves at the mercy of supernatural forces.
We start this off learning that we're in 1862 and the town of Fairhope, Alabama. A unit of Confederate soldiers goes into the bank where they speak with the manager. They're putting a couple bags of gold into a safe. Before they can, they get attacked by another group of rogue soldiers of the Confederacy. The gold is stolen and they flee the town.
The group is led by William (Henry Thomas). With him is his brother of Sam (Patrick Fugit), a nurse that is William's love interest of Annabelle (Nicki Aycox) and 3 other guys. One is a former slave in Todd (Isaiah Washington). The other two are Clyde (Michael Shannon) and Joseph (Mark Boone Junior). They're heading for a plantation house that William and Annabelle heard about from a dying Confederate soldier. Their goal is to flee to Mexico with the gold and split it evenly.
They come to a cornfield and in the distance is the place they're seeking for refuge. They kill an odd, scary looking creature that none of them has seen before. They also come upon a scarecrow mounted on a cross. Despite these things, the group holds up in the abandoned house.
It might not be as empty as they think. Annabelle thinks she sees a creepy boy and no one believes her but Sam. He was wounded in the robbery and he's seeing things as well. It might be hallucinations due to his wound being infected. There is also no honor amongst thieves as Clyde along with Joseph would like to take more than their share of the gold if able. A storm rolls in that makes their escape even more difficult. The more they look into the history of the house, the more terrifying things become as well.
That's where I'm going to leave my recap as that fills you in with what this movie is about without spoiling things. I will state this movie doesn't have the deepest story, but it is doing some good things. It was interesting to see Simon Barrett's name as the writer here since I'm a fan of more of his later films for sure.
Where I want to start here is that I love this being a period piece. I know setting this in the past was to help not need to worry about technology. Making it be in the south, with Confederate soldiers is an interesting move and it also limits the time for weapons they have. Seeing the creature they kill, I can see them being spooked but not terrified like they are. The world had a lot more mysteries back then and this house is in the middle of nowhere. It also allows the built in racism of Clyde and even Joseph when it comes to Todd as well.
Another thing that I like it is set in the south is that I'm assuming even though this is in Alabama, we aren't too far from New Orleans. This movie does have some things with rituals and the entities we are seeing later are demons of a sort. I'm a bit of a sucker for that and we get some things revealed there. This plantation also had slaves. That shouldn't come as a shock, so there is the thought as they're seeing things that voodoo could also be at play here. The movie never explicitly comes out to say the religion the ritual that was done comes from, but I also don't think we need that force fed to us either. We got enough for me.
Where I want to shift to would be the effects, since I was talking about the rituals. We only get flashes of what was done to cause the horrors and the curse to be on this house. I will give credit to the cinematography there for that. The practical effects we get look good. That would include the blood and there's even a flayed person. This movie does rely quite a bit on CGI though. That did hurt the movie for me as the movie goes; we get more and more of it. Some of it is fine, but there's quite a bit that stood out as not being good. It did take me out of it if I'm going to be honest since it didn't really hold up.
Moving away from that, I'll go to the acting. I thought that Thomas was solid as our lead here. He seems like a good guy for being a thief. It might have worked a bit better if he was from the north and stealing with these Confederates. Not having it doesn't bother me though either. Fugit was solid as well. What I like is that for a majority of his time on screen, we get to see him progressively getting worse and worse due his wound. He was solid with showing that deterioration. Aycox is an interesting actress. I've seen her in a couple of movies. None are that great unfortunately. She is attractive, but pretty wooden to be honest. Also her character motivations during the climax confuse me as well. Shannon, Boone and Washington are all solid for their limited roles. Muse Watson I did like as the father of the family that was living in this home. The rest of the cast did round this out for what was needed.
In conclusion here, this isn't a great movie. It does take the creature feature though and do something a bit different with it with the time period it is set. I was on board there and thought that the acting to go along with it was pretty good. The movie doesn't have the most complex story and the CGI doesn't really work for me. What practical effects we got worked as did the soundtrack to help make things a bit creepier when needed. I did enjoy this movie for what it is and would say that overall it is above average movie still. It isn't ground breaking, but enjoyable for sure.
My Rating: 6 out of 10