Zombi 5 (1988) (aka Killing Birds)


After starting this not-really-a-series with two of the greatest zombie movies of all time (“Dawn Of The Dead” and “Zombie Flesh Eaters”, they’ve very kindly saved the worst for last. It features maybe the biggest star to have sullied his name as part of the franchise – Robert Vaughn, and a very early example of computer porn; but sadly these two things aren’t enough to stop you wanting a bird to pluck your eyes out so you never have to see it again.


We start off with a flashback, to Vietnam days (although they don’t make an effort to change any clothes or hairstyles or anything like that). A guy who has quite the collection of birds comes home from the war and finds his wife in bed with another man. By the way, if this happened to me, I like to think I’d have the nous to just pick a shirt out of the closet, give some small talk about the weather and just walk out again (before phoning a solicitor, of course). But our unseen gent doesn’t have the desire for really dumb jokes that I do, so he kills them both with the same throat-cutting effect, which the producers must have paid for a job lot of because about half the people who die in this die in an identical way. He then kills the couple who are about to visit his house, including throwing a knife at a guy and having it bury itself up to the hilt in his skull – he’s a strong guy! Or this movie is dumb! He rescues the couple’s baby, and is just finishing cleaning up all the evidence of the slaughter when a couple of birds decide, for absolutely no reason, to tear his eyes out.


Present day! After we see eyeless fella hand over the babies to the hospital authorities way back when, the only two questions are:

  1. Which central character is going to end up being that kid?


  1. What part is the blind guy going to play in proceedings?


Now, there is an answer to both these questions, but it’s so utterly irrelevant to what might kindly be called the plot that I’m genuinely surprised they even bothered. We are then obliged to sit through an interminable “meet the meat” section, where a student receives a letter saying his grant application for an expedition to find the silver-beaked woodpecker has been approved, and assembles the team that’ll be going along. Best Friend, His Girlfriend, Computer Guy, Bookish Girl, Reporter (also main guy’s ex-girlfriend), and Van Driver. Now, I thought “this is a weird bunch to send on an expedition”, but it turns out it’s just a trip to the wilds of Louisiana, and given Main Guy is weird an LSU t-shirt, it’s not that far either. Not sure I’d call that an expedition, you guys! Reporter finds out the location of the last guy to see the special bird, and it turns out to be Blind Guy, aka Robert Vaughn, aka the guy who did all the murdering at the beginning. He points them in the right direction, and off they go.


While dull and stupid up to this point, it at least makes sense, of a sort. Then, there’s a scene where, a few minutes after leaving Blind Guy’s house, they happen upon the truck and the dead body of the guy from the beginning, half-hidden in the woods. He’s looking a bit rough, but if he’d actually been left in the Louisiana wilderness, he’d have been a skeleton in months, much less…15 years? But even this pales in comparison to their decision to just press on with their bird-watching trip and not go and phone the damned authorities! They deserve to die, for all being idiots, is what I’m saying. Bonus idiocy points are awarded for them having precisely zero items of equipment with which to observe or record birds, unless you count Computer Guy and his computer, which is a 1988 laptop so about as useful as you’d expect.


A few of the characters, including Main Guy, have sort of dream sequence / flashbacks, which give them no useful information and serve no purpose whatsoever. Kudos to you if you’re noticing the theme in this review! They find a house, which is the house that Blind Guy lived in before (he evidently moved down the road after slaughtering his wife, her lover and a couple of other guys), and decide to make that a base camp, although they never really leave.

Zombie 5 Killing Birds 6

The one fun thing in this movie is the gay subtext, which is almost too blatant to be called subtext. Van Driver and Computer Guy are always doing stuff together and seeming really happy about it, there’s a shot which is composed in such a way that it looks like Computer’s Guy’s head is in Van Driver’s crotch, and when Van Driver suggests he would quite like to have sex with Bookish Girl, Computer Guy looks super hurt and says “I thought she wasn’t your type”. Sorry, Computer Guy! Although you get the last laugh, because Van Driver dies on fire a few minutes later. Thinking about it, there’s a scene where Best Friend is off exploring the house, and His Girlfriend tags along. He shoves her back, and says “you’d better go with the others”, you know, while he goes off into the dark with a few guys – this is the day after he half-heartedly attempts to have sex with her before just giving up and going to sleep.


Now, if you took part in higher education, think back to your time there. Do you think any of your tutors would have signed off on / paid for a trip out into the wilderness, where you do zero preparation, have zero equipment and absolutely no idea where you’re going? Can you imagine the insurance costs for the “just let them go wherever the hell they like” plan? This is a serious trip, too, which will apparently take the place of several of their senior classes. Damn, but this movie makes absolutely no sense.


Zombies turn up at the 55 minute mark. Not only is this worse, in a sense, than those movies where the zombies don’t turn up at all, but no explanation is given as to why the zombies are there. You can perhaps infer that they’re the corpses of the people that Blind Guy killed, but the movie doesn’t tell you that, or indeed anything else. When Blind Guy turns up at the end and says “these are my fault, sorry”, he also says they feed on fear. Now, if we accept that, which is stupid in itself, we can use the preceding hour as evidence, an hour where none of the cast appear particularly fearful – okay, the odd moment, but it’s hardly enough to cause the dead to rise from their graves. Most of the cast die off, based on being absolutely useless and incapable of defending themselves, and then two of them survive just because. That Main Guy is Blind Guy’s…son?…is brushed off with a few lines at the end, and we’re done.


I’ve spent the day trying to figure out why it ended in such a half-assed way, and the best I can come up with is that Robert Vaughn refused to film the ending they’d written for him and wanted some last-act redemption. Nothing feels like it fits together, starting with the title (no-one kills any birds, and birds don’t kill anyone). No explanation for anything is given. The film makes negative amounts of sense, and is d-u-l-l on top.


Some of these problems might be explained by the presence of uncredited director Joe D’Amato. His is a name you’ll see occasionally in exploitation / horror circles, as he produced a staggering amount of work before his death in 1999, including 111 directing credits in the last five years of his life. 111! It’s safe to say D’Amato was a quantity over quality man, and we’ll be meeting him again in…well, movies that have been released as parts 6 and 7 of this non-franchise. I genuinely have no idea how anyone could have watched this and thought it was worth releasing, or that it made the slightest bit of sense.


Rating: thumbs down


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