In Civil War America, a band of confederate outlaws take refuge in an abandoned plantation. Led by William (Henry Thomas), they plan to rob a bank that is temporarily storing a cache of Confederate gold. The rest of the group includes Sam (Patrick Fugit), Todd (Isaiah Washington), Annabelle (Nicki Aycox), Clyde (Michael Shannon) and Joseph (Mark Boone Junior). But when the robbery results in a bloodbath, the six flee the town, aiming for Mexico. Threat of an impending thunderstorm makes the outlaws take shelter at a nearby isolated and presumed deserted plantation house. As the night wears on, each member of the group begins to have visions of the atrocities that occurred within the house. As the fear in the group begins to grow and the supernatural forces in the house start to manifest themselves, the six turn on each other and exact the wrath of the souls trapped alongside them.
This film is full of dark atmosphere which just is what horror is ALL about! I can’t emphasize this enough: atmosphere is crucial to a good horror movie. Dead Birds is probably the best low-budget film I’ve ever seen. Set in Civil War America, this is a very unique setting for horror. I’ve seen it done in “The Killing Box” but it isn’t as good as this. The sets, clothing and objects all look very authentic so that I felt transported back in time. This is part of the horror atmosphere which wouldn’t have been as good in modern times, maybe it’s just me.
In addition to the authentic aspect, it takes place at night during a thunderstorm, in a creepy old plantation house and with a group of greedy confederate outlaws who would kill each other at the drop of a hat. Toss in a bunch of demon/ghost people and you’re in for one hell of a scary ride.
The story is fairly easy to follow but it has a few twists and turns that might confuse some viewers. I think it is good. Most of the confusion arises from a few unexplained scenes (plot holes to some) but none are crucial to the overall story.
The acting is superbly done considering I don’t know any of the cast. Everyone acted like characters of the time period depicted. Pretty evenly acted, no one stands out as good or bad.
The SFX are a little cheesy but not bad by any means. There are some truly frightening scenes which are startling fast so you can’t see the quality of the SFX. Normally this type of shock factor annoys me but not here. The shocks are blended in perfectly and in a dark atmosphere so it works well here. Gore hounds will enjoy the gore and blood but it’s not overdone, not to me anyway. There are some disturbing creatures that might make you look away at times.
Overall, this is a fine low-budget film that feels like a higher budget. If you see negative reviews, ignore them and decide for yourself because I think most horror fans will find something of value here.