Appellate Judge Tom Becker was in the garden, hanging up some clothes, when along came a blackbird that pecked off his...never mind. Nevermore.
Evermore, Pa., is the kind of rural town that makes Mayberry look like the prototype for Metropolis; where everyone has always known everyone else, and, we suspect, inbreeding is an intramural sport; where thereâs a sheriff but no police force; where the town drunk is employed as the school-bus driver; where everyone eats at "Betty's," which is owned and operated by…Betty; where the doctor is 100 years old and known only as…"Doc"; where dour Mennonites, speaking with a hybrid German/Swedish accent, raise cattle and reluctantly intermingle with the "English"; and where a gaggle of canny-yet-crazed ravens can really muck up the works by knocking down a couple of telephone poles because no one seems to have heard of cell phones.
Yes, The Ravens Is Coming to Evermore (Nevermore!), on the very day that Sheriff Wayne (Sean Patrick Flanery, The Grass Harp) is taking his citified bride (Kristin Booth, The Company) and moving away, so's she can get a job as a Professor of Cultural Anthropology.
Unfortunately, the plague of CGI ravens derails his plans. These birds are everywhere, swooping down on people passing through, townsfolk, and other ordinary Joes just like you and me. What's got these little peckers in such an uproar that they're feasting on these strange and gentle country folk and practically deafening us with their screechy cries of Kaw?
Well, I'd tell you, but that would deprive you of experiencing a denouement so jaw-droppingly stupefying that you actually have to mull over its badness.
Kaw is an awfully silly movie, but it's fun silly. The point of this film is to show bird attacks, and the characters do everything short of covering themselves in worms to facilitate those attacks. There are some real ravens and lots and lots of CGI ravens, and some of the attacks are pretty well done. You can figure out who's going to die when you meet the characters—trying to fend off 50,000 ravens with a double-barrel shotgun is pretty much a ticket to failure—but there are a couple of surprises.
With Rodan as an exception, it's impossible to talk about a killer bird movie without referencing the original: Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 vision, The Birds. While the off-the-perch explanation in Kaw makes it "different" from Hitchcock's famous no-reason-given ending, this film more than tips its hat to the Master. The camera spends a lot of time focusing on the battered gas pumps outside Betty's diner; there's a whole lot of business involving school children (not as many as in The Birds, but I'm guessing the budget didn't permit it); and the grizzled "Doc" is played by none other than Rod Taylor, who starred in The Birds opposite Tippi Hedren.
Even though this is a film that premiered on television, and Kaw is more than a little goofy, Sony gives us quite a good package. We get a really nice, clear widescreen image, especially notable in that so much of this film involves black birds attacking people in the middle of the night. The 5.1 Surround audio is very good; the birds sound quite menacing, and the ambient noises are well tracked.
We also get a couple of unexpectedly good extras. First, we learn about the "Making of…Kaw," with some awfully serious insights from producer Gordon Yang. Just as I was thinking how ridiculous this movie was, Yang comes along and says that it actually would have been ridiculous a few years ago, but now, it's a statement of the times, what with avian flu and all that. There's also something charming about actors with blood effects all over their faces offering tribute to co-star Rod Taylor.
But this is a movie about disgruntled birds, and the true stars of this featurette are the ravens themselves and their handlers, a trio of merry Czechoslovakians. Apparently, as far as birds go, ravens are pretty high on the IQ scale, and the Czech Republic is a veritable avian think tank for the oily, black squawkers, because that's where the producers had to go to find eleven ravens with the looks, personality, and training to star in their film.
The best extra by far is a 22-minute interview with Rod Taylor. A solid actor who never reached the heights of fame as, say, Rock Hudson, Taylor had a varied career as both a leading man and, later, a character actor. His stories of working with the notoriously actor-unfriendly Hitchcock are hilarious. This is a wonderful little gem of an extra.
While Kaw is not fit to polish the wings of its predecessor, it's got a so-bad-it's-good script and enough flying hi-jinks to keep it from becoming boring. It's a goofy, guilty pleasure, and with the Rod Taylor interview, it's at least worth a rental.
Sony, you took these bird droppings and still came out smelling like a rose.
Guilty of making me laugh when I shouldn't.
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Scales of Justice
• The Making of Kaw (24:00)
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