Follow TV Tropes


Film / Dead Birds

Go To

Dead Birds is a 2005 American horror movie starring Henry Thomas, Patrick Fugit, Nicki Aycox, Michael Shannon, Mark Boone Junior, Isaiah Washington, and Muse Watson, that can best be described as Scarecrows in Civil War-era Alabama.

It’s 1863, in Fairhope, Alabama. A gang of robbers massacre a band of Confederate soldiers and bankers, stealing the soldiers’ gold and fleeing for an old farmhouse, belonging to an old acquaintance of one of the robbers. When they arrive, they are attacked by a skinless creature. Inside the house, they start to turn against each other as an otherworldly force makes itself known.

Tropes in this work:

  • Accidental Murder: Probably the only unintentional death in the film is the child William accidentally shoots while the gang is fleeing the town. William even shows remorse over this death.
  • Artifact Title: There is exactly one dead bird in the entire movie, and it’s only ever shown once.
  • Cessation of Existence: Todd encounters a demonic Sam in the field as he’s trying to leave, and evaporates into thin air.
  • Creepy Child: The Hollister children, who have been possessed and bear a horrible visage as a result.
  • Creepy Doll: Clyde finds a ragdoll with stitching that makes it look like the eyes and mouth have been sewn shut. This turns out to be Foreshadowing as Clyde is eventually strung up as a Scary Scarecrow with his eyes and mouth stitched shut.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: A man is strung up on a cross in the field outside the Hollister place. Turns out it's Mr. Hollister himself, who was left there as punishment for the murder of his slaves.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Clyde has his eyes and mouth sewn shut, a burlap sack placed over his head, and is crucified in the field. He loses his head shortly after William and Annabelle discover him, though, effectively putting him out of his misery. Maybe.
  • Dangerous Deserter: The Villain Protagonists are a gang of deserters from the Confederate army who stage a bloody bank hold-up to steal gold to fund their flight to Mexico.
  • Darkest Africa: One of the slaves penned a book containing the ritual that Hollister used to try and bring his wife back from the dead.
  • Deal with the Devil: Hollister made one to try and resurrect his wife, sacrificing his own slaves to some entity from another realm. All it did was turn his children into demons. He lured the robbers out to his house with the intention of killing them.
  • Death of a Child: William accidentally shoots a child while fleeing the bank at the beginning.
  • Demonic Possession: By performing the ritual in the book, Hollister gave passage to something from the other side. It got inside his children, transforming them into monsters, and continues to do so to anyone who dares trespass in the house.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The gang is accompanied by a dog that no one ever addresses as anything other than 'Dog'. (The dog may belong to Todd but this is never made explicit.) The dog is with them up until they arrive at the Old, Dark House, when—being an Evil-Detecting Dog—it vanishes into the cornfield. It returns for the climax.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In a time when black people were deemed as inferior by most white Americans, and Southerners in particular, even they were horrified by Hollister's gruesome sacrifices of his slaves. As punishment, they tied him to a cross in his own field and left him out there to die.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The dog at the end of the film sees William as the skinless, eyeless abomination that attacked the group at the beginning, and starts to bark and then chase him.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The events of the film unfold in approximately 24 hours, with the majority of the action taking place overnight.
  • Eyeless Face: One of the symptoms of the possession.
  • Fate Worse than Death: It’s even in the tagline!
  • Foreshadowing: Clyde finds a doll with a crudely sewn pair of eyes and mouth. Guess what happens to him?
  • Flaying Alive: Hollister skins one of his slaves alive as part of the ritual to summon the demons.
  • Gold Fever: Both Clyde and William are obsessed with the stolen gold. Clyde is willing to kill the rest of the gang to take it. William refuses to leave the obviously haunted house until he recovers the gold.
  • Gorn: In the first few minutes, no less! The bank massacre is nothing short of brutal and violent, and the movie just gets more gruesome from there, albeit infrequently.
  • Here We Go Again!: After shooting Creature!William, one of the soldiers gets the brilliant idea to go to that big, foreboding house in the midst. Which means more victims for Hollister.
  • A House Divided: A gang holes up in an abandoned farmhouse to lay low and divide the loot. Tensions in the gang are already running high, and when unexplainable events push the outlaws deeper into paranoia, it becomes a question of whether they will kill each other before the other horrors in the house come for them
  • Human Sacrifice: The ritual that Hollister performed to try and reach his wife requires the brutal torture and murder of an unknown number of victims.
  • Human-to-Werewolf Footprints: Todd finds foots in blood that change from human to strange animal, as evidence of the children turning into Silent Hill-style abominations.
  • Jerkass: Clyde. He's the only member of the group who is openly racist, disrespectfully calling Todd "boy" to his face, and making it clear that he resents William for trying to ensure he receives the same share as the rest of the group.
  • Lost in the Maize: The farm house is surrounded by a field full of dead corn plants. The climax takes place with characters hopelessly lost in the field down a downpour.
  • Mind Screw: Lots and lots. What's with the creature that attacked the gang? Why did Todd just evaporate when he saw Sam? Why do the soldiers who shot Willam see him as that same creature?
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Anyone who ends up possessed gets these, along with an Eyeless Face.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: Clyde winds up being transformed into a Scary Scarecrow: hoist up on a frame in the cornfield with his eyes and mouth stitched shot.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: William displays subtle remorse for accidentally shooting a child while fleeing the bank. Nothing ever really comes of it, though.
  • Necromantic: Hollister has tortured and killed many of his own slaves in an attempt to revive his late wife. It doesn't work out the way he hoped.
  • Nightmare Face: See the cover art. That's what happens when you get possessed, apparently.
  • No Honour Among Thieves: Joseph and Clyde plan to murder the rest of the gang and keep the gold for themselves.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Joseph is dragged down a well by an unseen possessed child, and, afterwards, is only shown wandering around once. We never see his face again.
  • Old, Dark House: The Hollister house is a sprawling abandoned farmhouse in the middle of dead confield, and the scene of unspeakble evil that has forever tainted the property.
  • Only Sane Man: Todd. While he initially shares this with William — who acts as somewhat of a Reasonable Authority Figure at first — and possibly Sam, he is the least susceptible to blind materialism once he realizes why they were brought to the house in the first place.
  • Our Demons Are Different: If that’s even the right term for them. They’re brought into our world by means of gruesome Human Sacrifice, and whoever is possessed receives a Nightmare Face, with a mouthful of sharp teeth and a lack of eyes.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The reason there's a man on a cross out front. Hollister's neighbors, horrified and disgusted by his mass murder of his slaves, stormed his farm and crucified him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: William, at least when the group first got to the house. He was going to divide the gold up so everyone would get the same share. Subverted in the end when he decides to take the gold for himself once Todd and Annabelle opt out.
  • Recycled In SPACE: Has more or less the same premise as Scarecrows, but is set in The American Civil War and uses quite a bit more exposition on the house's history.
  • Savage South/Weird West: Set in Alabama, where there's gory bank robberies, haunted houses, slavery, human sacrifice, black magic, necromancy, demonic possession, monsters from other worlds ...
  • Scary Scarecrow: The gang encounter a very lifelike scarecrow in the cornfield, causing Annabel to shriek. It is later trevealed that the scarecrow is actually Hollister; strung up as punishment for his crimes. Later, Clyde is transformed into a similar scarecrow.
  • Scary Stitches: Clyde finds a creepy ragdoll with stitching that makes it look like the eyes and mouth have been sewn shut. This turns out to be Foreshadowing as Clyde is eventually strung up as a Scary Scarecrow with his eyes and mouth stitched shut.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Todd attempts to take a horse and leave the house once he finds out what went on there. Once he finds them dismembered and eviscerated, he makes a run for it through the field. Too bad he doesn't make it.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: At daybreak, William flees the field, while apparently being chased by a creature resembling the same one that attacked his group earlier. Then he's shot by a Confederate soldier, who examines his corpse, revealing that he wasn't being chased by the creature at all. He was the creature.
  • Slashed Throat: Joseph kills one the sentries at the bank by slitting his throat: the first of a lot of deaths to follow.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Todd and William find one while searching the house. It contains a ritual for raising the dead, which apparently involves the torture and murder of many. Hollister performed this ritual to resurrect his wife, who had fallen ill and died. Instead of getting her back, he let something else in that turned his children into monsters.
  • Undead Child: The Old, Dark House has the ghosts of a young girl and boy, and they just love to give a good Jump Scare.
  • Villain Protagonist: William and his gang. The most important thing to them is fleeing to Mexico with the gold, which they stole from a band of soldiers that they brutally murdered. Even Todd is Not So Above It All, being mostly concerned with just getting out of the house without suffering a Fate Worse than Death, gold be damned.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: We don't really get to know Joseph or Sam much before they're possessed.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Early on, one of the bankers is shot in the head, causing his head to vanish down to the lower jaw.