Released in 2007 for the Sci-Fi Channel, Kaw is a horror/sci-fi/thriller written Benjamin Sztajnkrycer and directed by Sheldon Wilson. Wilson has directed a string of made for TV horror films over the last few years. Some say that Kaw can be considered a modernization of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds from 1963. There’s no considering from where I’m standing that’s what it is and it’s a terrible one.
The film follows small town sheriff Wayne (Sean Patrick Flanery) on his last day, before he and his wife Cynthia (Kristin Booth) move to a larger city for her work. The film opens with a farmer getting attacked and killed by a flock of ravens in his barn. Wayne is called to the scene, where he discovers the body. Meanwhile another townsman Clyde (Stephen McHattie) is repairing his school bus before he heads out to pick up the local children. Clyde spots a raven and tries to shoo it away by throwing empty beer cans at it. This prompts the ravens to attack Clyde, who flees to the safety of his shed and re-emerges with a shotgun. After a short fight with the ravens they leave and Clyde continues about his day noticeably shaken. Wayne calls in back up after he gets a call about Clyde his gun. He tracks Clyde down to a local diner where is having his morning breakfast. The two speak and Wayne leaves and investigates Clydes home when isn’t as forthcoming as the sheriff would like. While this is going on Cynthia visits local Mennonite farmers to say goodbye to her friend Grethchen (Megan Park) and learn of the killer birds by eavesdropping. While attempting to make a quick get away after being discovered, she falls down a well onto a rotting dead cow. The town then becomes terrorized by birds, as they attack, kill and consume the towns folk. Clyde’s bus breaks down, but Clyde, Gretchen and a pair of other girls are rescued by the sheriff where they make their way back to the cafe. At the cafe we learn the cows on the Mennonite farm had mad cow disease and transferred the illness to the ravens when they fed on the dead cattle. Now trapped inside Wayne, Cynthia (who was freed from the well), Clyde, Gretchen, her father Jacob (Vladimir Bondarenko), and a others try to survive.
So this movie was bad, even by Sci-Fi channel standards. While it does have a good enough premise to be entertaining the bland and emotionless performance from seventy-five percent of the cast makes it hard to watch. The only actors that seemed to be trying were the Mennonites. Megan Park and Vladimir Bondarenko do a good job portraying their characters with distance from the social norms but still very sympathetic. While the overall portrayal of the Mennonites and their lifestyle seems poorly researched to say the least, that fault falls at the feet of Sztajnkrycer and not the performers. Although Stephen McHattie’s performance was rather enjoyable and did stand out.
Another issue I have is that most of the birds aren’t even ravens. Though they are referred to as ravens multiple times.,they are in fact crows. While I understand why the two would have been used interchangeably from a production standpoint. The least they could have done, use ravens when people point at them and call them ravens. This gripe I will admit is a small one, but I find it irksome none the less.
My main issue with this film is actually Sean Patrick Flanery. As a big fan of his work in the Boondock Saints, I was hoping to see him act with the same level of commitment and passion. But didn’t get that, instead Flanery delivers an incredibly weak performance. As he walks around, delivers his dialogue and fights birds it only felt like he was there for the paycheck. I would have rather seen this film with an unknown actor who would have given more to the role over Flanery’s sub- par work.
Final thoughts, It’s bad. Not the fun kind of bad either, just the normal kind. Kaw never gets its footing as it never delivers anywhere a deep enough story to make it compelling like The Birds which it so desperately wants to be. The film would have functioned better were the ravens attacks never explained like in The Birds. Giving the ravens mad cow is a weak cop-out that left me thoroughly unsatisfied. But the film isn’t devoid of entertainment as the film boasts a decent body count of around nine and some of the minor actors are actually enjoyable, 4/10.