DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: KAW

Friday 26 October 2007


Kaw (2007) dir. Sheldon Wilson
Starring: Sean Patrick Flannery, Kristin Booth, Stephen McHattie, Rod Taylor

Guest Review by Greg Klymkiw

Have you ever seen a motion picture that reminds you of how little you know? Have you ever seen a motion picture that teaches you things you never knew? Have you ever seen a motion picture that makes you glad you never watch television?

“Kaw” is just such a motion picture.

Recently released on DVD, “Kaw” proved to be quite a revelation to this viewer.

First of all, I wondered why I had never heard of it before since I see virtually every genre picture that is released in the movie theatres. How could I have possibly missed a motion picture about a sleepy farming community that is under attack by flocks of crows afflicted with mad-cow disease? This sounds like the sort of picture I live for.

Crows? Afflicted with mad-cow disease? Pecking people to death?

Let me be first in line, please.

Alas, such a motion picture did not open theatrically, and I was forced to experience it for the first time on DVD.

Why, you ask? Well, as it turns out, “Kaw” is not one of your run-of-the-mill straight-to-video feature films. It apparently premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. As I live in Canada, I do not get the Sci-Fi Channel. Even if Canada did get the Sci-Fi Channel (or if this movie aired on Canada’s own Space or TMN), I still would not have seen it since I have not had cable television since 1983 and have no intention of getting it ever again.

In any event, the first thing I learned is that people still make movies for television.

Isn’t that interesting?

The second thing I learned was that Sean Patrick Flannery who plays the stalwart small-town cop attempting to save his fellow townsfolk from the mad-cow-afflicted crows has made many movies for television. This explains why he was not familiar to me. The same thing happened a few years ago when I was watching the pallid American remake of “The Grudge” and wondered why I could not figure who the mousy, uncharismatic leading lady was. I eventually found out she was the star of the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” which I had never seen before because I do not watch television and I had managed to successfully repress her appearances in the pathetic theatrical motion pictures she actually was in.

The third thing I learned was that I should be proud of my Canadian nationality since it appears that “Kaw” was made in Canada with many Canadian actors, some Canadian producers and with money from the Canadian government. For some reason I saw an American flag flying in the small town the movie is set in, but that’s okay because I soon realized it was probably some small town in Southern Ontario and that it looked a lot prettier than many small towns in America.

The fourth thing I learned from watching this movie was that Rod Taylor is still alive and he’s a terrific actor who deserves much better than being wasted in thankless roles like this one, a kindly small-town doctor. Taylor, as many of you know, was a big star in the late 50s and early 60s and most notably was the square-jawed leading man in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, a film that “Kaw” pathetically attempts to homage.

“Kaw” is not terrible. If you had absolutely nothing to do, you probably would not feel like you wasted 90 minutes. It clips along reasonably, it does feature Rod Taylor (and the eminently watchable character actor Stephen McHattie), it is not without some decent special effects and it is relatively bereft of awful dialogue. This, however, is what makes a movie like this even more depressing. I actually kept wishing it would be awful, so at least it would have been fun. Instead, it was straight-ahead, humourless and maddeningly competent.

This sort of competence does not necessarily make for entertaining movies. I mean, come on, this is about crows with mad-cow disease for God’s sake! Can we lighten up a little folks and have some fun?

Watching this movie kept me thinking about some of the fabulous creature features of the 70s and 80s from people like Corman, Dante and (I kid you not) John Sayles. Movies like “Piranha” and “Alligator” had a delightful trash sensibility and tons of humour mixed with the gore. I even thought about movies like “Frogs” and “Grizzly” which also had pulp sensibilities. I thought about “The Birds” and “Jaws” – both “A” pictures to be sure, but full of virtuosity and humour.

And then I thought about “Kaw” and the humourless competence that rules every frame.

The DVD release of “Kaw” features a variety of extra features, but the best one is an interview with Rod Taylor who is gracious, funny and full of wonderful anecdotes. Alas, he does get to talk about “Kaw” and mentions that he took the role because, unlike Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, the mad peckers had a reason for killing people. My heart sank. He was too gracious to admit he took this piece of garbage for the paycheque and came up with some lame excuse. Rod, darling, one of many things that makes “The Birds” so creepy, so chilling and so scary is that there is NO reason for the birds to kill.

“Kaw” gives us a moronic reason. Some repressed Hutterites with fake beards do not report that their livestock have mad-cow disease and the crows start to feast on the disease-ridden bodies, which, in turn, drive them insane.

Now if you’re going to have a mind-numbingly stupid reason behind the carnage, please have the good taste to make a pulpy, funny, completely whacked movie instead of something that is merely competent.

The fifth and most important thing I learned watching “Kaw” was this – if “Kaw” is the sort of thing made for television on a regular basis, I’m sure glad I don’t have cable.

Buy "Kaw" here:Kaw

Buy "The Birds" Here: The Birds (Collector's Edition)

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