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Kaw (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/23/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/20/2007

Unless you just haven't been paying attention, you may have noticed that Hollywood loves remakes. The past few years have seen updated versions of many older movies arriving in theaters. But, there's an off-shoot of this trend. Sometimes we get movies which aren't remakes per se, but have that same feel. These movies aren't officially re-doing a movie, but they are definitely similar. A good example of this is Kaw, which was clearly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Kaw is set in a small, rural America town. Wayne (Sean Patrick Flanery), the local sheriff, has just woken up to his last day on the job, as he is set to move out of town. He's called to investigate the unusual death of a farmer. Arriving on the scene, Wayne finds that the farmer is covered in small scratches. Meanwhile, local bus driver Clyde (Stephen McHattie) notes an unusual number of large black birds congregating around his bus, and when he shoots one, dozens fly at him and he's barely able to scramble inside of his vehicle. A couple find a corpse in a truck and their car is suddenly covered in black birds. Wayne begins to receive these reports, and at first, he doesn't know what to make of them. But, when he sees that the local cafe is being assaulted by a flock of ravens, he knows that something terrible is about to happen.

Kaw is an odd movie. It can't be considered a straight remake of The Birds, but it certainly owes a lot to that film. And yet, it also has a very modern twist. One thing is for sure: this is a bad movie.

There are three central problems with Kaw. First of all, there is very little in the way of suspense. Again, this isn't a remake of The Birds, but going with that train of thought, Hitchcock's film was a textbook piece on suspense. Who can forget the scene in which the birds gather on the jungle-gym behind Tippi Hedren? That is a classic. Or the finale, where the survivors are walking through the gathered birds? Kaw has a few scenes where we see the birds gathering and I assume that is supposed to be some tension, but there isn't. The birds either attack too quickly, ruining any suspense, or they don't attack at all. Either way, the movie doesn't try to pull the audience in.

Which brings me to my second point: there isn't very much action in Kaw. There are a few attack scenes and that's it. The rest of the film is comprised of scenes in which characters who are either unlikable or underwritten stand around and talk. I knew very little about the people in this movie, other than the fact that I didn't like any of them. And the subplot with the Mennonite family (What is this, Deadly Blessing?) is just confusing.

Kaw's biggest mistake comes in the portrayal of the birds themselves. I hate to bring up The Birds again, but that film succeeded on the premise that otherwise benign creatures were attacking humans. That idea is scary. Kaw opens with a bird attack scene and from there on out, we think, "These birds are @#$holes!", instead of ever getting the feeling that otherwise docile animals had turned on humans.

I don't think anything will ever stop the "animals running amok" sub-genre of horror movies, as they keep arriving on video store shelves. And it's understandable why a filmmaker would choose birds, because no one wants to have an animal swoop down on them from above and begin pecking at their face. But, Kaw starts out badly and never picks up any steam as the movie presents one random scene after another. The film's plot twist is interesting, but it comes too late and this movie never takes flight.

Kaw flies onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a made-for-TV movie, the image look pretty good. The picture is sharp and clear, showing very little grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, but the image is somewhat dark at times. I noted some mid video noise in some scenes, but otherwise, the transfer is stable. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are OK, but the track shows some bravado during the bird attack sequences, as their "kawing" fills the rear speakers. A couple of "jump" scenes get some assistance from the subwoofer.

The Kaw DVD contains two bonus features. Director Sheldon Wilson conducts an "Interview with Rod Taylor" (22 minutes) where the veteran actor talks about his career. "The Making of Kaw" (24 minutes) offers on-set comments from the fillmakers and cast and many clips from the movie. There is also a look at the animal trainers working with the birds and the visual FX.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long