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Two Horror Films from Sony

Frankenfish (October 17/07)

Frankenfish is undoubtedly as silly and broad as its title might've indicated, and yet there's ultimately little doubt that the film is far more entertaining and flat-out fun than the majority of its similarly-themed direct-to-video brethren. The story follows medical investigator Sam Rivers (Tory Kittles) and biologist Mary Callahan (China Chow) as they're sent to investigate a suspicious death deep within the swamps of Louisiana, where they - along with a number of quirky locals - are subsequently forced to battle genetically-engineered snakeheads. It's an admittedly simple premise that's handled surprisingly well by screenwriters Simon Barrett and Scott Clevenger; the pair enthusiastically embrace the various cliches of the genre, and the movie is consequently rife with over-the-top kill sequences and satisfyingly broad stock characters (including a crazy survivalist and a panicky jerk!) Director Mark A.Z. Dippe generally keeps things moving at a brisk pace, though there's unfortunately no overlooking the relatively sluggish third act (as the number of potential victims starts to dwindle, so does the viewer's interest). The end result is a movie that, although far from innovative (ie this is basically just Tremors on houseboats), does succeed on its own terms, and that's really all that one can ask out of a ultra low-budget horror effort.

out of

Kaw (October 18/07)

A riff on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, Kaw is generally not quite as bad as one might've imagined - though the film is ultimately undone by the inclusion of at least one needless subplot and a pace that's almost glacial in its execution. Sean Patrick Flanery stars as Wayne, a small-town Sheriff who's just one day away from relocating to the big city when his community finds itself under attack by thousands of vicious ravens. Along with the help of several residents - including a grizzled bus driver (Stephen McHattie) and the local doctor (Rod Taylor) - Wayne sets out to stop the birds' bloody reign of terror by any means necessary. Director Sheldon Wilson (working from Benjamin Sztajnkrycer's screenplay) effectively steers clear of Hitchcock's well-worn territory, though the movie does contain more than a few references to Hitch's 1963 chiller - with Taylor's mere presence obviously the most overt example of this (one consequently can't help but lament the lack of a tongue-in-cheek line for his character, ie "there's something awfully familiar about all this!") The better-than-expected performances and surprisingly seamless special effects are appreciated, undoubtedly, but it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the deliberateness with which Wilson has infused the proceedings. Add to that a perplexing subplot involving some Mennonite farmers (admittedly, this stuff does eventually tie into the central storyline by explaining the birds' behavior), and you've got a horror flick that certainly has its moments yet can't quite hold the viewer's interest for the duration of its running time.

out of

About the DVDs: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents both films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Frankenfish comes up empty in terms of extras, Kaw contains a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with Rod Taylor. Both discs feature a whole host of bonus trailers for other Sony releases.
© David Nusair