That's all small-town sheriff, Wayne (Sean Patrick Flanery) has left before moving away to a better life with his wife Cynthia (Kristin Booth). But what starts as a typical day, soon turns into a deadly battle for survival. The bustling community of Middletown comes under attack by a conspiracy of ravens. Oskar, a local farmer, is soon discovered to be hiding some unnatural developments from the townsfolk, which has lead to the deadly assault. Now the town must struggle to survive. Wayne and Doc try to protect the town but to no avail. The truth behind the dark forces needs to be uncovered if the last of the survivors have any hope of making it through the night.
Middletown, a small Salem-like location in the sleety cold shadow of winter is excellently conveyed – full of tiny, welcoming local shops and diners and a community tainted by an increasing onslaught of vengeful ravens. Essentially, the story is just a series of set-pieces for the well-staged killings to occur, and is no less enjoyable for that. The ravens have fed on the carcasses of cows that have died from mad cow disease (a fact covered up by local Amish farmers in a bid, they hope, to continue their farming) – the results are similar to those in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds (1960)’. CGI provides much of the avian group action, spliced unobtrusively with real birds for close-ups of the growing clusters. The effects never lapse into the cartoon-like spectacle some CGI is guilty of, although the attacks in greater numbers is less successfully visualised than the less ambitious charges.
The residents and their lives are intelligently scripted (very rarely lapsing into the illogical behaviour often employed by characters to further the tension) and very well played throughout. Sheldon Wilson’s direction keeps things interesting – visually, many scenes are strikingly framed by the black-feathered birds as they gather. Only the weather hampers the production – clearly, this is filmed during fluctuating snow storms; as such, show and frost is more prevalent in some scenes than others, sometimes in a very short timeframe.
As the death-toll mounts, there is a convincing sense of growing loss of control over the epidemic, and all deaths are accompanied by the flapping of black, oily wings. Well established characters die, providing an emotional jolt. Perhaps the idea of incensed ravens hurling rocks through the windows of a bus load of people is a step too far, although in fairness, the idea sounds more ridiculous than it actually appears.
I always try to enter into these wonderful horror films with little or no preconceptions. This occasionally leads to watching a series of clunkers, but some unknown gems too. ‘Kaw’ doesn’t attempt to change the face of horror, but it ticks all the right boxes and provides a highly cohesive and enjoyable whole.