Killing Birds (1987)
By: Dr. Obrero  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Astro (Germany). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD Mono, German DD Mono. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Claudio Lattanzi
Starring: Lara Wendel, Robert Vaughan, Leslie Cumming
AKA: Raptors; Dark Eyes of the Zombie
Italian stalk 'n' slash 'n' dash picture from the heyday of Aristide Massacessi, Claudio Fragasso and Carlo Maria Cordio's el-cheapo horror house, Filmirage Productions. An entertainingly silly flick in the teenkill mould established by such Italian predecessors as Antefatto and American made examples as Cunningham's Friday the 13th, Zito's The Prowler and Gianone's Madman ad nauseum, this even chucks in the dead, and the living dead to keep Fulci devotees happy in it's somewhat 'kitchen sink' approach.

Raptors, to give this it's correct moniker, is pretty basic stuff, though it does contain some graphic kill sequences, and a smattering of iconic genre staples, which include; sex, violence, illogicality, character-stupidity and apparent menace of the 'look out behind you' variety. In truth, this is not a particularly good example of it's type, given it's more widely known title, Killing Birds, by an especially lame framing device. Story opens with a demobbed soldier arriving home at his remote house to find his wife in bed with another man. Not best pleased, he slaughters both, though not before she's revealed a young child, but promptly has his eyes pecked out by some of a multitude of birds-of-prey kept caged on the porch for God knows why. Film then cuts to contemporary times, and a motley group of college friends heading out into the Bayou to study the local birds for reasons best known to themselves and the scriptwriter. After an odd encounter with the now blind Vaughan, they hang around the creepy old house seen in the film's opening for a while, until, out of the blue, ghosts and zombies show up and start killing them, along with the once again gathering birds.

Claudio Lattanzi's film contributes nothing new to any of the genres it steals from, but it does prove a mildly diverting 90-minutes, and with it's entertainingly shameless homage (read blatant rip-off's) from Hitchcock's The Birds and John Carpenter's The Fog, Raptors is nothing, if not small-dumb-fun, right down to it's laugh-out-loud lame climax! Whilst it's poorly acted, with an unknown cast, save Lara Wendel (Ghosthouse, Tenebre) and Robert Vaughan, who will stay that way, ineptly written (aren't they pretty much all??), the direction from Claudio Lattanzi (as "Claude Miliken") is unexpectedly good, nicely shot, quite atmospheric in places, and agreeably scored by Carlo Maria Cordio (Rosso Sangue, Mangiati Vivi and a couple of latter Fulci's), as well as boasting some nice photography amidst the Louisiana locale. For the more bloodthirsty reader, the fx are competent and graphic, if hardly plentiful. All in all, it's another funeral-paced Filmirage project, quite a rare movie, albeit one with enough entertainment to last the 90-odd minute running time and make it worth acquiring.
The DVD itself is nothing special, probably not worth extra money over the standard VHS version. The transfer is relatively clean for the most part, unlike the dirty and grainy disgraces that were Astro's The Grim Reaper/Anthropophagous and Un gatto nel Cervello/Nightmare Concert which seemed to be little more than direct copies of the VHS transfers. However, this appears to have been taken from a censored print, because for several sequences, obviously cut scenes have been reinserted, and these have clearly been culled from an inferior master, probably VHS and undoubtedly NOT an original copy. This has some novelty value, it's interesting to see what was censored, but is distracting, and the inserts are of such poor quality that this reviewer is moved to wonder what exactly is the point. The film is presented fullscreen 1.33:1/4:3 ratio and looks to be an unmated transfer, as no important visual information is lost. Otherwise, this not a particularly bad transfer, not too many marks or scratches, colours look bright and sharp during daylight scenes, though in darker scenes the blacks look washed out and overall the picture lacks fine detail. Shadow delineation is unimpressive, however there is no colour bleed and flesh tones are passable. There is no sign of artifacting, in truth, for a low budget release of an old, low budget movie this is watchable enough, but no more.
There are two sound options, neither exciting; you have to make do with an English or German dubbed mono track, which does the job and no more. Dialogue is clear, ambient sound distinct, but on the whole the aural experience is less than inspiring.
Extra Features
There's not much here to speak of, we get a dialogue-free (presumably theatrical) trailer, that's fairly representative of the film and of the presentation. There's a lame "Slideshow", half a dozen uninteresting pictures forming a thin photo gallery. Finally, there's a Joe D'Amato biography in German, D'Amato (Aristide Massacessi) having been labelled as the director of this film. Menu's are not animated and there is a thin 9 chapter stops.
The Verdict
I like the film, it's a guilty pleasure, so sue me. Astro hasn't done a particularly good job with the transfer, but it seems to this reviewer that that is pretty much par for the course with their releases - it is good at least, to see the film available. This edition will do for now, but I wait in the hope of a better transfer and more extras from someone such as Anchor Bay or Image.
Movie Score
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