Dead Birds Alex Turner

The Wild Wild West isn't the norm for a horror film setting, but first-time director Turner and writer Simon Barrett have come up with a nice horror/western hybrid to make their little flick an extraordinary one. Set in the Deep South, Dead Birds follows six outlaws on the run after they rob a bank (in a wonderfully shot, gratuitously violent sequence). After grabbing the loot and riding off, they find themselves upon a giant abandoned mansion, which they seek for shelter. However, things are not what they seem in this empty house and as the night wears on each person begins to have visions of the grisly and torturous murders that occurred there in the past. While the film takes its time to build the gripping moments, you have to give respect to Turner for allowing the viewer to sense that there is definitely something sinister lurking around them without resorting to cheap thrills. Shot on a measly budget of one-and-a-half-million in a mere 21 days, Dead Birds is a highly effective and creepy film that opts not to give closure,and even decides to leave many of the ghastly occurrences unexplained, to much confusing delight. The DVD includes "Making Dead Birds," a behind-the-scenes featurette that gives insight into everything it took to make this indie flick on a modest budget with such an established cast (Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Isaiah Washington) and the leftover set from Tim Burton's Big Fish. It also has some eye-opening moments, like how a number of inmates helped on set as part of a prison program, an elder cast member fainted from dehydration and another cast member was nearly trampled by a horse. Turner's commentary pales in comparison to the cast and crew's, largely because he's on that one as well, but surrounded by others to help give it more depth. Why this film wasn't given more of a chance is puzzling, but this DVD is evidence that Turner made a highly intelligent and genuinely spooky film. (Sony/Columbia)