Story: It’s 1863 and the Civil War is raging on. In Fairhope, Alabama, a group of Confederate deserters along with a Confederate nurse and a runaway slave rob the local bank of a shipment of gold and head off for Mexico. They are forced to stop for the night at an abandoned plantation a fellow Confederate told one of the deserters about when both were in a field hospital. From the moment the group sets foot on the property, strange creatures appear, noises are heard in the house and one by one, members of the party start to disappear.
The Film Itself: The first film for director Alex Turner, “Dead Birds” can best be summed up in a few word: foreboding, Lovecraftian, menacing. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who also shot Tobe Hooper’s remake of “Toolbox Murders”, cleverly lights the abandoned plantation house, located near Mobile, Alabama, so that throughout the film, lanterns are the only source of light for the actors. And he also gives the film a slight sepia tone, like an old daguerreotype. Composer and sound designer Peter Lopez creates one of the most disturbing soundtracks I have heard in a recent horror movie – it really has to been experienced. I don’t know how to describe it other than it really gets under your skin. Turner, working on a budget of about $1 million dollars, managed to assemble an amazing cast consisting of Henry “ET” Thomas, Nicki “Jeepers Creepers 2” Aycox, Patrick “Almost Famous” Fugit, Isaiah “Grey’s Anatomy” Washington, Mark Boone Junior, Michael Shannon and Muse Watson. While not particularly gory, other than the opening scene in the bank, there are some genuine scares and the creatures, created by Rob Hall of Almost Human, are horrific. When “Dead Birds” was released in March of 2005, many viewers didn’t understand Simon Barrett’s story with its cyclical nature and Lovecraftian undertones so director Turner asked me to pull together “A Field Guide to ‘Dead Birds’ which should still be available at http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_3871.html. This is one of the very few horror movies set during the Civil War which is only one of the unique things about it but it definitely wouldn’t have worked if it had been set during modern times. And cornfields and scarecrows are scary! I don’t care what anyone says!
Special Features: Director commentary, director, writer and cast commentary, “Making of ‘Dead Birds'” featurette, deleted scenes with director commentary, bonus previews. – Elaine