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Mathew St. Patrick,
In Civil War-era Alabama, a band of outlaws takes refuge at an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank that held a cache of Confederate gold. Led by William, the group includes Sam, Todd, Annabelle, Clyde and Joseph. They intend to flee to Mexico, but nightfall and a thunderstorm force the robbers to remain in place. As the night wears on, each member of the group begins to have visions of the atrocities that occurred within the house. As supernatural forces begin to manifest themselves, the six turn on one another. Written by
Money might be the root of all evil, but this estate gives it a real shake.
In 1863 during the American Civil war a group of outlaws rob a bank in small town in a quick and very bloody shootout. After the successful job they take refuge in a deserted plantation house. Where, they would ride out to Mexico the following morning. But there is something not quite right about this abandon estate, because they start encountering terrifying and strange visions that have something to do with the horrific past of the house.
I remember there being a whole lot of buzz around this film over a year ago. I actually got caught up in it that when I found a copy and I bought it, but sadly I was far from impressed when I finally watched it. I did not hate it, but more so disappointed. So when I was going through my collection looking for something I had not watched for a while, the film definitely caught my eye and I thought who knows maybe I'll have a change of mind. Well, that was most the definitely the case here, although it did not entirely blow me away, but I did a back-flip on my initial thoughts. Watching it late at night also helped me into it even more.
Director Alex Turner's indie flick "Dead Birds" is an slow-burner, period horror story that effectively cooks up an bone jarring atmosphere and some unnerving visuals. It's simple as that - because the film's only real purpose is to raise the hairs on your skin. From Peter Lopez's densely, active to sometimes quite faint score and gloomy and very saturated colour scheme that saps the life right out of the picture. Very depressive and glum fit's the description accurately. It reminded a lot of the ghost films in the last few years, especially the crop that has flooded the Asian market. But while it has that slow and subtle build up of inspiring dread like those particular films, it also gives us some grisly violence and sadism. I found some of the sudden deaths to be rather spine-tingling and the hypnotic cinematography help's the eerie location take shape. The ghosts and demons are damn right freaky and grotesque in detail and make-up. Maybe at times it did go a bit over board in the CGI department and even so with some quick editing, but still the images have a lasting affect.
Simon Barrett's story plays it out rather leisurely by giving you a piece of the puzzle here and there. It drops off many small hints to what's about to come, which makes the plot a little more complex than I initially thought - since it disguises them incredibly well. Some things are left up in the air and never truly expanded on, but I guess that's just the supernatural for ya. But saying that it still follows some conventional patterns like that of individuals cracking under the pressure and doing the mistake of going off alone, a stormy night breaks through and an isolated house that has a tragic history in the middle on nowhere. But the most common one is things that go "boo!" in the night. The way the story is structured you're just waiting for something big to breakout. The characters are by the books with some decent performances by Patrick Fugit, Isaiah Washington, Nicki Aycox and Michael Shannon, though I thought Henry Thomas was rather bland as the leader. The script is so-so, but at least it keeps it rather tight and sticks close to the people than that of heading off into another direction. The film only goes for just over 80 minutes, so it doesn't seem to overly drag. The production is rather lustrous with convincing period detail from the costumes to the backdrop.
I just guess I was expecting far more from it the first time, but second time around got into this foreboding atmospheric presentation, which drills away with its intense chills and unnatural hints.
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