Released onto DVD as ZOMBIE 5, this 1988 Italian production--which also went, somewhere, under the title RAPTORS--bears no relation, or resemblance, to the films of Lucio Fulci, and most likely used the ruse to pawn the flick onto unsuspecting audiences. (The film predates the supposed ZOMBIE 4--AFTER DEATH--by two years.) Directed by Claudio Lattanzi, hiding under the Americanized pseudonym Claude Milliken, with an assist by Joe D'Amato, KILLING BIRDS appears to be an homage to previous Pastaland horrors, but is too weighed down by clunky incompetence to be anything other than a rehash.
A gaggle of ornithological students researching a rare species of woodpecker travel to Louisiana and end up investigating a haunted house, thanks to a tip from former Vietnam vet Robert Vaughan (light years above the material, even when wearing cheap latex appliances). The site of a previous mass murder, when Vaughan's character discovered his wife in bed with another man, the house contains the zombified bodies of the victims (I think, Lattanzi and company don't make it 100% clear) who operate as generic bloodthirsty automatons. You can guess the rest.
KILLING BIRDS gets underway with a bang, its ten-minute prologue featuring a compact massacre that climaxes with a cheesy gouged eyeball, but soon devolves into the directionless tedium that marred most Filmirage productions. An atrocious troupe of actors doesn't help; many can blame their stilted performances on post-dubbing and the possibility of speaking phonetic English, but it's a killer for a dialogue-heavy piece such as this. The film gets worse as it moves along, degenerating into an "idiot plot" as the characters act in irritatingly stupid ways; there's the guy who continues to hot-wire a car as a zombie slowly--and I mean slowly--creeps upon them, stopping only after one of his friends is dragged through the window and killed. Or how about the nimrod who watches another in the party get sucked into the gears of a generator, not bothering to move until after he's good and dead? And let's not forget the tug of war our hero starts as he tries to rescue his buddy from a zombie's clutches. Although good for a derisive laugh, it isn't until Lattanzi (or was it D'Amato?) rips off the attic scene from ANTHROPOPHAGUS that his apathy is laid bare.
The rural Gothic setting (including the same house from Fulci's THE BEYOND) is often effective, though it seems more like a happy accident than any deliberate attempt on the filmmakers' part and makes the movie's other flaws more prominent. I also wish Lattanzi had done more with its birds of prey, a novel conceit that's used mainly to stage the film's abbreviated, bad-optical-plagued anti-ending.
And one more thing: what in God's name is up with the schmaltzy '70s-style music that's played incessantly over the first act? Egads, it's more horrific than anything in the picture.
(Special thanks to Donna Williams for her assistance with this blog.)