9/7/08

Ring Around the Dead Birds



There's one kind of horror that the old Lightning Bug has never been able to get down with, and that's the films that come out of the Asian market or their American remakes. I'm not a fan of The Ring or The Grudge, and even Jessica Alba couldn't get me to watch The Eye if she brought it to me herself on a silver platter while wearing a French maid costume. OK, that's probably not true. I would watch it, but I wouldn't have to like it. When I picked up the box for today's film, what I saw looked like a creepy horror/western, and being a fan of both genres I picked it up. Well I was mistaken on all fronts.

Dead Birds (2005) starring Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Nicki Aycox, and Isaiah Washington. Directed by Alex Turner. 

The movie unfolds in 1863, two years into the Civil War, and William and his band of runaway confederates have turned to bank robbing. They ride into town (the town was actually leftover sets from Tim Burton's Big Fish) and have a shootout while robbing a load of Confederate gold. They manage to escape and ride out for the old Hollister place nearby to shack up before heading out to Mexico. The gang, including escaped slave Todd (Washington), nurse Annabelle (Aycox), Williams brother Sam (Fugit), racist Clyde (Michael Shannon", and the genial Joseph (Mark Boon Jr. who can currently be seen in the excellent new FX show Sons of Anarchy), finally make it to the old plantation. On their way through the fields, they shoot down what looks like a wild hairless boar.

They search though the house, but there's no one there. They hear some creepy noises and find a book in the slave quarters detailing spells to bring people back from the dead. Now this would bother me, but the gang shrug it off and start to relax with a game of cards, or in William and Annabelle's case some "private time". Johnny goes out to stable and feed the horses and thinks he hears a child down the well and tries to help, but instead, in goes Johnny and with him the only character I'd enjoyed so far in this movie. 

The gang split up to go out and find Johnny, but there's no trace of him. While they're gone Annabelle sees a creepy kid under the bed, and as soon as I saw the kid go from sweet little kid to hollow eyed sharp tooth freak, I knew what I had gotten myself into. From there, the whole movie takes a decidedly Asian ghost story turn. Sam has a vision of the previous owner of the house who provides, very helpfully, some plot exposition. Seems Mr. Hollister's wife had died of the consumption and he had taken to dark magic to bring her back. Unfortunately, all he got was a house full of demon kids in return. More spookiness and pathetic attempts at making the audience jump follow, and then a "twist" ending that could not have been more ho-hum. 

This movie disappoints on all fronts.
Number one: It's not a western. Sure people ride horses and wear hats, and it may even be the same time period. However, Alabama is not the West.
Number Two: I hated the grafting of the Asian ghost story into this flick. I had hoped when they found the book in the slave quarters we might be in for some Voodoo goodness.  
Number Three: The acting, camera work, and script were all sub-par.
So skip this one. Tell your friends and neighbors to skip this one. Make sure your pets know that they should skip this one, and if anyone out there actually knows of a good horror/Western hybrid let the Bug know, cause  I'm still waiting to see one. 




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