A band of Confederate deserters hole up in a dilapidated plantation house to wait out a storm before making their escape to Mexico. The house, however, is not as abandoned as they thought.
On the run after a bank robbery, a band of thieves arrive at the abandoned farmhouse where they had planned to rendezvous. Making their way through the cornfields, they discover a scarecrow which turns out to be a long dead crucified man. As a storm moves in, they take refuge in the house and begin to disappear and have strange visions and experiences, uncovering the twisted history of a plantation owner who sacrificed his children and his slaves in a vain effort to bring his dead wife back to life. After the townsfolk kill him for his crimes, the house becomes the home of the evil demons he let into this world in his unholy rites. Driven by greed, the thieves at first stay in the house – refusing the leave their gold behind. When those who remain finally try to escape, it may be too late for their souls.
Period horror pieces are always interesting. It’s much easier to isolate people who don’t have cell phones and aren’t as jaded as the protagonists of modern horror films typically are. The isolation in this tale is palpable as the thieves are on the run, surrounded by a dense cornfield, alone in the dark, in an abandoned farmhouse. The tension mounts and is well paced and even better delivered with strong performances from Henry Thomas and Isaiah Washington. The story comes together slowly and the true sinister nature of the tale only reveals itself in time. From a storytelling perspective, everything works. The “demons” themselves are a bit unsatisfying and the ending is a bit overdone, adding an unnecessary layer to the ending of the tale, though.
Overall, this is a pretty solid old “ghost story”, well paced and well delivered. It’s tense and creepy, but does lack a bit of punch – fans of slashers and high adrenaline type horror films are going to get bored. But if you’re looking for something to watch on a dark and stormy night, “Dead Birds” may be just your calling.