Saturday, 12 January 2008

Zombi 5 - Killing Birds (1987)

One of the very few appearances of zombies in Zombi 5

The astute reader will notice that this movie came out in 1987, a year before Zombi 3 and Zombi 4 were released. The Zombie 5 title was hastily slapped on the film to link it with the Zombi franchise. The original title was simply Killing Birds, as evidenced from the unchanged title graphic. This may lead you to believe that film contains few zombies and a lot of murderous birds. Not so! This film contains very little of either.

This film was directed by incorrigable sleaze-merchant Joe D'Amato, who has never seen a bar of good taste he couldn't slither under. In fact, this film is a rather restrained entry in his oeuvre, and it's probably worse off for it. Not much here in the way of gore (or nudity, but given the actors here, that's probably a good thing). If you like poorly applied "cut-throat" prosthetics, however, you're in for a treat!

The film opens with a flashback of Vietnam vet Fred Brown (Robert Vaughn!) coming home to discover his wife in bed with another man. Well, he must be hearing Charlie in the trees, because he murders her, her lover, her parents and her pet birds before some surviving birds gouge out his eyes. Somehow he manages to explain everything to the cops and give his infant son up for adoption.

Cut to a bunch of 30 year olds in ugly 80s clothes, pretending to be college students. Yellow-slacks-enthusiast Steve (Timothy Watts) is super excited about getting funding for his research project, locating the ivory-billed woodpecker. In fact, he and his ornithology buddies can't stop talking about it. This makes for thrilling cinema.

Joining Steve on his expedition are fellow ornithologist Paul (James Villemaire), his girlfriend Mary (Leslie Cummins), future internet porn mogul Bob (James Sutterfield) and nerdy student Jennifer (Lin Gathright). It must be a slow news week, because the university newspaper is also sending along ace reporter Anne (Lara Wendel). It should be added that this whole scene at the university is scored by some cheesy sax music that makes the movie seem like an 80s teen drama.

They pile into a van driven by Ranger Brian (Sal Maggiore Jr.) and drive out to the Louisiana swamps. First stop, Dr. Fred Brown, now an ornithologist (know thine enemy, I guess). He directs them to the area where the elusive avian was last seen. While on their journey, they discover a rotten old corpse in a truck (way to hide the bodies, Fred) and freak out. I guess they get lost, because pretty soon they're back at the house from the beginning of the film and decide to stay the night. A predictable series of killings follows, culminating in the sudden appearance of Vaughn, who sacrifices himself so the survivors can escape. It is revealed that Steve is Dr. Brown's son, but if you can muster more than a yawn at this point I'd be surprised. Birds amass outside and Vaughn screams. I presume the implication is that the birds killed Vaughn, so the birds do live up to their title in the end, but only barely.

But are there any zombies? Yeah, I think they are supposed to be Vaughn's undead victims. There's only two of them so I guess the other two victims couldn't be bothered returning from the dead. To be fair, two is probably more than enough to take care of these half-wits. In one scene Rob gets his necklace caught in the generator and Paul just sits and watches while Rob gets his fingers shredded in the gears as he's choked to death. Then he goes back upstairs and blames his death on the zombies.

This film really doesn't have any reason to exist. There are barely enough ideas in this film to fill out a 10 minute short. The acting is atrocious and the dialogue, when audible, doesn't even approximate human speech. Nothing makes sense but the film is so boring you can't even be bothered questioning the enormous plot holes. I'm sure they were so desperate for something to make it stand out that linking it to the disastrous Zombi 3 and 4 seemed like a pretty good idea. Fans of zombies and killer birds would be better off watching Zombi 3, as it had more of both.

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