The first big surprise of Kaw is that though it’s a total rip-off of an Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, Brian De Palma seems to have had nothing to do with it. Weird.
A guy in a tractor backs over a raven, killing it. The other ravens become quite angry and attack him. This is during the opening credit sequence. In The Birds, time is taken to establish the characters, and some of those early sequences are my favorite moments of the film. Kaw doesn’t bother with such extraneous business as character development. Also, forget building suspense. We know now these things just aren’t necessary.
In this small town, Wayne is the chief of police. And this is his last day. We learn this in some annoying exposition presented as dialogue. In that exposition we also learn that his wife is a professor of cultural anthropology (this has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the plot of the film). Wayne gets a call regarding the body of the guy from the opening scene. When he gets to the barn, no one else is there, so it’s unclear who exactly called him. But no matter.
Clyde, who drives a school bus (not to a school or anything, of course – but more on that later), is attacked by some birds after throwing beer cans at one of them. You really can’t blame the birds in this film, as these townspeople all seem like assholes.
The town’s doctor, who is called simply Doc, arrives to check out the body. Quick, name as many films as you can with characters named Doc. The Doc in this film is played by Rod Taylor. Yes, the star of The Birds. His first line in Kaw is, “You know something, I don’t really know.” That could be an answer to, “What are you doing in this stupid movie?”
Well, we also have a diner, which is owned and run by a woman named Betty. The scenes in this diner aren’t nearly as interesting as the diner scenes in The Birds. But perhaps I should stop comparing the two films.
Kaw borrows traditional elements from other horror films. For example, we get some crazy religious people on a farm (like those in Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing). They believe photo albums are evil. They’re supposed to be like the Amish, but we see them driving a car later. So: cameras, bad; cars, good. It’s hard to keep track of the rules.
We also get a man and woman in a car, and guess what – they’re lost. She’s looking at the map; he’s saying they’re not lost. This couple was pulled out of any number of other horror films, and placed in this film only to add to the body count. They’re attacked by birds, and immediately drive off the road. This scene is laughable rather than frightening, and then and of course the car explodes. Somehow the woman survives long enough for Wayne to find her. What’s great about that scene is that he throws her in the back of his truck – not on a seat or anything. And when he gets her to Doc, she dies, perhaps from injuries in the explosion, perhaps from injuries sustained on the ride in Wayne’s truck.
One thing that The Birds has that this movie lacks is a female lead who wears a beautiful fur coat through the first half of the film. The closest we get is Cynthia (Wayne’s wife) wearing a coat with a furry collar. Sorry, it’s just not the same. By the way, to keep Cynthia in the movie, she goes back to the crazy religious people’s farm and hides in the barn. Why? Absolutely no idea. Earlier she wanted to give them a photo album to remember her by, but this time she doesn’t even seem to have the photo album. I definitely prefer the crazy religious guy in The Birds. Everyone kind of laughs at him when he talks about the end of the world, and he’s in the film only briefly. Well, Cynthia runs and falls into a well, where she remains for a good portion of the film.
Back in town, the deputy sees the ravens all lined up on buildings and on the street. He says to Wayne, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” and I couldn’t help but respond, “You haven’t seen The Birds?” Ravens get angry with the deputy when he brings a gun outside. Wayne tells him they don’t like the gun. I have to admit I like these birds more and more.
Okay, back to Clyde and his school bus. In The Birds, we get a scene where a whole classroom of children is attacked by birds. In this film, we get three students on a bus. Three. And they’re not going to school, or coming back from school. They went to a basketball practice or something. I can’t imagine their team poses any threat, what with only three players, and one of them being an Amish girl. Why only three? My guess is that the producers couldn’t afford any extras.
Well, Clyde’s bus breaks down, and it’s suddenly night. Cynthia is still down the well, if you’re wondering. I wasn’t, but the film reminded me anyway. Well, birds start throwing rocks at Clyde’s bus. I’m not kidding. One of the girls shouts, “We’re all going to die!” Sadly, this doesn’t turn out to be the case.
By the way, as in The Birds, this film has a gas pump explosion. But it’s totally stupid. Perhaps even more stupid, however, is the explanation for why the ravens have gone crazy. They have mad cow disease. Yup. There you have it.
Kaw stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Stephen McHattie, Kristin Booth, John Ralston, Michele Duquet, and of course Rod Taylor. It was directed by Sheldon Wilson.