Wednesday, 25 September 2013

KAW - Review By Greg Klymkiw - A loathsome CANADIAN genre film that has absolutely no right to exist because it's so depressingly mediocre and doesn't even deserve the hallowed gifts of such lower ratings on my critical chart like "One Pubic Hair" or "The Turd Behind Harry's".

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

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Kaw proved to be quite a revelation. Why had I never heard of it before? 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. I mean, really. 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 because, as it turns out, Kaw apparently premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel (or, as it is now known in its idiotic re-branded form, Syfy). As I live in Canada, I do not get Syfy. Even if Canada DID get it (or if this movie aired on Canada’s own Space or TMN), I would still 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, it seems that people still make movies for television. In fact, some actors appear almost exclusively in this medium. Sean Patrick Flannery (otherwise known as Sean Who?) plays the stalwart small-town cop attempting to save his fellow townsfolk from the mad-cow-afflicted crows in Kaw. He has, apparently, 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 loathsome manifestations in the few pathetic theatrical motion pictures she actually did appear in.

What I know for sure is that I can be proud to be Canadian since Kaw was made in Canada with many Canadian actors, some Canadian producers and with money from the gouvernement du Canada. Though I saw an American flag flying in the small town the movie is set in, I became even more instilled with pride because I realized it was probably some small town in Southern Ontario and that it looked a lot prettier than many small towns in America.

with a Hutterite responsible
for Mad-Cow Disease which
crows eat and subsequently get
peckish (as it were)
for human flesh.
This sounds a whole lot better
than it actually is!
One happy accident that occurred whilst watching this movie was discovering 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 as the square-jawed leading man in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, a film that Kaw pathetically attempts to homage.

Kaw is not terrible. Well, it is, BUT, if you had absolutely nothing to do and found yourself semi-brain-dead in front of a television set, you probably wouldn't feel like you had wasted 90 minutes of your life. You might discover the movie clipped along reasonably, featured Rod Taylor (and the eminently watchable character actor Stephen McHattie) - if your semi-brain-dead state allowed you to recognize them - that it's not without some decent special effects (aimed specifically at you, the semi-brain-dead viewer) and finally, that it's relatively bereft of awful dialogue and instead includes a checklist of perfunctory dialogue. This all, however, is what makes a movie like this even more depressing. I actually kept wishing it would be jaw-droppingly awful, so at least it would have been fun. Instead, it was straight-ahead, humourless and maddeningly borderline competent.

This sort of competence (especially of the borderline variety) 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 Roger Corman, Joe Dante and (I kid you not) John Sayles. Movies like Piranha (not the stupid 3-D remake) and Alligator had a delightful trash sensibility and tons of humour mixed with the gore. I even thought about movies like Frogs (from the late, great Canadian TV director George McCowan, who also directed the classic Canadian hockey picture Face Off) and William T. Girdler's Grizzly, an American cellar-dwelling indie from the 70s which was also imbued with 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's forced to talk about Kaw and mentions that he took the role because, unlike Hitchcock’s The Birds, the mad peckers here had a reason for killing people. My heart sank. Taylor 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, however, gives us a moronic reason. Some repressed Hutterites with fake beards (which should be funny, but is not here) don't report that their livestock have mad-cow disease and the crows start to feast on the disease-ridden bodies, which, in turn, drive all of 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 (and I repeat - borderline competent).

Finally, perhaps the 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.