Dead Birds (DVD) - Dread Central
Connect with us

Reviews

Dead Birds (DVD)

Published

on

Starring Henry Thomas, Nicki Aycox, Patrick Fugit, Michael Shannon, Mark Boone Jr., Isaiah Washington

Directed by Alex Turner


Dirty, gangrene-ridden filmic accounts of the violent conflict between the North and the South, I could see, would bore some to the point of suicide. Not me. If it’s engaging enough and not some backyard reenactment of the Civil War with your neighbor Bob, I’ll jump into the trenches for two or three hours of blood-soaked history. And wouldn’t ya know it, this modestly budgeted period piece from newcomer Alex Turner dishes on the history (we’re in the late-1800s for this one) as well as some heavy gore and otherworldly Lovecraftian heebie-jeebies for a mostly satisfying feast. That is, if you can withstand its unhurried storytelling pace these tales of America’s yesteryear can’t seem to shake (it ain’t no Glory, I’ll say that much).

Turner’s luck as a first-timer is beyond what most fledglings are granted with: a strong cast, a taut – if simple – script and Tim Burton’s thriftiness with the dinero. You see, Turner got to use the “town set” Burton’s production crew had originally built for Big Fish. Too nice to tear down, the block-or-so-long streetscape survived – fortunate for the Dead Birds troupe because the location is used to open the film and it sets a precedent for the rest of the painstaking attention for detail we can plainly see bathed beneath the blood.

This small town I speak of has a new coat of crimson by the time Birds‘ band of criminals ride out in a hail of bullets following a bold bank heist where they make off with four sacks of gold. A trail of bodies is left behind including one poor sap whose head is blown to croutons ala Fulci’s kid cranium-shot in The Beyond. Unfortunately a little boy is picked off in the process by leader-of-the-thieves, William (Thomas). It’s a chunk of karma evil enough to haunt the gang as they arrive at their hide-out: an old plantation house set behind a dried field of corn. It’s here they’re attacked by a toothy creature identified as a “hairless boar” which is quickly dismissed for more pressing issues, hunkering down for the night indoors and protecting the gold. Weird then turns to f*cked up as manifestations begin to reveal the house’s past.

The build-up is a long one and the pay-off is drippy with sacrifice victims but the frights could’ve worked a whole lot better if there were some discernibly likeable characters among the gristly lot. Turner keeps each scene rich with color and every frame creative in the composition department (May production designer, Leslie Keel, and d.p., Steve Yedlin, were on board) even right up to the very end when the story perilously threatens to split at the stitches. However, it remains courageously cryptic, never succumbing to needless exposition. Dead Birds never flinches, takes the genre to a time few have gone before and is, so far, one of 2005’s most welcome entries. And this, again, comes from Silver Nitrate, the company who served us Frankenfish on a skillet last year – another surprising effort that was better than it ought to be. I look forward to their future.

Columbia’s widescreen presentation presents a sharp and atmospheric picture with a uniformly strong sound transfer. An offering of extras usually fit for a more popular (ahem, successful) film are here for the taking – an unusual act for Columbia Tri-Star who is more akin to giving us the cold shoulder in the bonus features department when the movie’s not, say, Spider-Man.

To begin with, a drunken producer welcomes us to the Alabama set in Making Dead Birds (27m 10s), the disc’s main featurette. It’s filled with more laughs than you’d think, all of them stemming from unintentionally humorous on-set incidents, for example, when Turner learns that some of his crew are part of a local inmate reintegration program. They make great electricians, apparently. We also get a peek at some of the alternative creature designs created by Robert Hall’s Almost Human FX. From the Special Features menu press left on your remote and you’ll open the 6m 37s Easter egg entitled Showboat & Boomer, a series of interviews between actors Michael Shannon and Mark Boone Jr. – two of the film’s highlights who are seen here hamming it up and exchanging friendly verbal slams.

An audio commentary with Turner accompanies all five ho-hum deleted scenes. He also flies solo on one of two audio commentaries where he never misses a beat to credit his crew all the while detailing the challenge of cramming in – and being grateful for – the amount of coverage he needed to make a coherent film over the amount of days he had to do it. Similar sentiments are found on the second commentary track with Turner, actor Henry Thomas, actress Nicki Aycox, screenwriter Simon Barrett and composer Peter Lopez.

Columbia has also included trailers for Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, The Grudge and Wake of Death. If you wind up a fan of Birds, like myself, you’ll be thankful for the studio’s generosity. Let’s hope they keep this up.

3 ½ out of 5

Discuss in our forums!

Continue Reading
Comments

Reviews

Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

Published

on

Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

Sending
User Rating 0 (0 votes)
Continue Reading

Reviews

Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan

Published

on

Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

Distributed by Arrow Video


As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

Special Features:

  • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
  • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
  • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Wolf Guy
  • Special Features
2.8

Summary

While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

Sending
User Rating 0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Continue Reading

News

Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

Published

on

Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)
3.0

Summary

Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

Sending
User Rating 1.75 (4 votes)
Continue Reading

Recent Comments

Advertisement

Join the Box of Dread Mailing List

* indicates required

Go Ad Free!

Support Dread Central on Patreon!

Trending

Copyright © 2017 Dread Central Media LLC