Sean Patrick Flennery
Horror / Thriller
Trivia Director Sheldon Wilson’s last film was Shallow Ground.
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21st Aug 07
Small town cop Wayne is turning in his badge and moving to the big city so his fiancé can pursue her career. It's a big step for Wayne, who has lived there all his life and seems uneasy about leaving.
However, the quiet, contemplative last day he had in mind is not to be. A group of ravens begin terrorising the town and violently attacking it's residents. Wayne tries to keep everyone safe whilst his fiancé makes a shocking discovery at the farm of some local religious zealots that could have something to do with why the birds have been attacking the town.
There are some things as a filmmaker that you have to be wary of your audience’s reaction to. For example, if you cast Bruce Willis as New York cop who is "too old for this shit" and has to fight terrorists, your audience are going to think of Die Hard. You do a scene in a shower with a killer, it's going to remind your audience of Psycho.
With this in mind, it seems as though the filmmakers should know that by offering us Kaw, a movie about a flock of killer birds, they're asking to be compared one of the best horror films ever made, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Which is a really terrible idea.
Whilst it's clearly the case that Kaw is not a timeless classic, it's actually not as bad as you might think. It lives firmly within its box and by doing so manages to be entirely watchable. That is, so long as you make it passed the opening credits which feature a score derivative of Hitchcock, surely a mistake given the films concept. In fact, there's nothing about this movie that is particularly original, it's just that it isn't all stolen from Hitchcock as the concept and credits combo may lead you to believe.
There are several things you'll have to forgive of Kaw if you are to enjoy it. As previously mentioned, this is a film that very liberally borrows from other movies. One of the main problems is that it borrows from films that everyone is likely to have seen. Night of the Living Dead, War of the Worlds and even Jeepers Creepers 2 contribute to the film and on each occasion the recreation is much less effective than the original
If you like your horror so bad it's good, then Kaw has plenty to offer you. The score, whilst slickly produced, has only one trick and seems to be playing at all times. You're also likely to enjoy the characters explaining to us that the ravens are scary, which is useful information to know. Similarly, the film can't think of any way to show realistic violence with birds on its modest budget and so we constantly shown birds flying at people followed by a series of quick cuts. When we cut back to the victims they all seem to be suffering from a rather nasty case of bleeding of the hair.
What the movie can't source from other films it takes from cliché, as is the case with the lost couple arguing over the road that is just too small to be put on a map (wouldn't you know it!). However, if you're familiar enough with the genre it's actually quite good fun to see someone wheeling out all of these clichés and stolen stories and not constantly winking at us and telling us it's tongue in cheek. Probably Kaw's biggest strength is that it doesn't get bogged down in being too referential, it just gets on with things.
As well as forgiving Kaw's derivate story, style-free direction, over-the-top score and mediocre cast, you'll also be asked to not notice some rather gaping plot holes. The ravens have gone crazy through eating diseased meat but it also has made them super intelligent since they seem to start the day by only launching revenge attacks against people who have wronged them. Then the evil ravens seem happy to keep attacking through the sound of shot-gun blasts, but the sound of a car horn is terrifying enough to cause a retreat. You may also struggle to understand how a basketball hitting the gear stick on the school bus can cause it to breakdown. You're really likely to gawk, open mouthed in stunned silence, at the part where the ravens seem to have worked out how to throw rocks.
However, if you can bring yourself to see past these things, there is much about this film to enjoy. It seems very aware of its limitations and seems to decide that the best thing to do is keep moving. You're unlikely to get bored during this movie and you may just enjoy it so damn much that you'll not even notice some of the previously mentioned flaws. It's also worth pointing out that whilst in places it goes wrong, for a low budget film the CG is actually pretty passable.
Whilst it may not be intentional, the most interesting thing about Kaw is in the way it handles the issue of "mad cow disease". Giving the explanation that the ravens have eaten infected meat may seem a little silly but it does raise the point of how important properly disposing of infected animals is and the difficulties this can cause a small farm who rely on these animals for their livelihood.
In truth, Kaw isn't a very good film. It gets a lot of important bits very wrong. However, it's unlikely anyone is going to watch Kaw expecting the next Citizen Kane. For a low budget horror film with a poor concept and little originality, it still manages to be entertaining throughout it's run time, something many bigger budget horror films seem to have forgotten recently. It seems that director Sheldon Wilson has just about scraped through with this effort, making a film that is good fun if you don't look too closely but is ultimately forgettable.