Franchise Fuckery: Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987)

KILLING BIRDS is another late 80s Italians on the run production.  Principal filming was in Thibidaux, Louisiana and cities near and around New Orleans.  An Airborne ranger returns home from Vietnam and finds his wife in bed with another man.  He goes all G.I. Badass on them as he slashes their throats and when his parents turn up he offs them for good measure too only sparing his young son.  As he cleans up the evidence of his massacre he is attacked by one of the birds kept on the back porch and it tears his eye out and blinds him.  Will this intro be important later?  You betcha.  It is an Italian zombie flick after all.

Twenty years later Steve Porter (Timothy Watts), a Loyola University graduate student, is awarded a grant to track down the near, if not completely, extinct green billed woodpecker.   He organizes a team that includes a couple of other biology majors and photographers, a school newspaper reporter Anne (TENEBRE’s Lara Wendel), and Brian the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife officer (Sal Maggiore, Jr.).  Most of his crew is body count, but one worth noting is Mary.  She is played by the pretty Lisa Cumming whose very brief career would end with the following year’s WITCHERY.  Steve receives a map to the rare birds possible location  from local bird expert Dr. Fred Brown (Robert Vaughn)…who happens to be disfigured and blind (you’d have to be blind to not see where this is going…).

The students roll out into the bayou in search of the rare bird.  They quickly lose track of the van and stumble on a corpse in a pick up truck.  The wildlife officer says they need to find somewhere to camp so they don’t end up like that…apparently it happens a lot in Louisiana?  After roaming the bayou for a while Moses and company find the house from the beginning of the film.  It seems to have held up well because the exterior looks no more run down than it did twenty years prior.  This must be what wakes up the zombies because there is no cemetery or anything that usually indicates the living dead.  It also explains why Dr. Brown isn’t rotting in prison…oh…small exposition that is alluded to but not quite totally revealed…Dr. Fred Brown is the vet who went Rambo on his wife and parents.  He must have hid the bodies before the bird nailed him at the beginning.  After a couple of the usual, unexplained hallucinations by who passes as the protagonist and an inexplicable dream sequence by a future victim, the film trundles into zombie attack territory.  The zombies beat on some of the students while others screw up and kill themselves until the last stand in the attic.  Once morning dawns the survivors go downstairs and are greeted by something more unbelievable than a four zombie apocalypse.  The blind assed Robert Vaughn has tapped his way all the way through the fucking bayou to the abandoned and isolated house…what the hell ever works I guess.  To add insult to injury, the eye plucking at the beginning of the movie was the only bird attack in the whole flick too…This thing doesn’t quite deliver what it advertises on any level.  

There is no gut munching in ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS.  There are no zombie bites at all.  There is plenty of torn and cut throats and a self immolation though.  This is another sequel-in-name-only that the Italians were shipping wholesale to mom and pop video stores across the U.S.  In fact, ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH was produced two years after this one.  KILLING BIRDS has one of the more straight forward plots.  Students go into woods to look for bird and zombies come after the students.  Boom.  The rest is just fluff that muddies the plot.  The vet, Steve’s past etc… Even if the fluff were trimmed it would be a batshit crazy Italian doom and gloom movie.

The effects are fairly unimpressive.  The kills have a lot of red but aren’t really that gory.  The zombies are just masks and cobwebs.  The corny back lit fog is a nice touch and the Gothic chorus and bells of the score work well.  Joe D’ Amato acted as both producer and cinematographer.  The Shriek Show DVD has good picture quality and a decent bit of special features.  The interview with Robert Vaughn is fun because he had no idea what the movie was about.  The trailers are for FLESH FOR THE BEAST, BLACK DEMONS, ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE 5 KILLING BIRDS, and a picture gallery.

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