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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » When Black Birds Fly
When Black Birds Fly
MVD Entertainment Group // Unrated // January 15, 2016 // Region 0
List Price: $13.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted February 15, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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When Black Birds Fly:
From the twisted mind of Jimmy ScreamerClauz (of Where The Dead Go To Die fame) comes this more polished and assured full-length animated feature. If you haven't experienced ScreamerClauz's truly disorienting work, this is a good place to start, as this twisted tale comes as a piece, whereas Dead was assembled into feature length from short subjects. If you are familiar, you might be slightly put off by the fact that Black Birds isn't exactly the same full-on horrifying assault on your senses and morality that Dead is. On the other hand, if you're not acquainted with ScreamerClauz's work, be aware that Black Birds is still pretty much a full-on horrifying assault on your senses and morality, just a little bit more slick and mature.

What's more, Black Birds has both a linear plot and a message, which in some ways goes against the filmmakers' motif of vaguely primitive, computerized collage-style animation. The combination marks this as something of a transitional effort, at least to my eyes; from the 'dose and pith the viewer' conceit of Dead, to a more thematic, plot-centric method of story telling. That said, Black Birds still fiercely ravishes you while stomping your brain into a terrifying, scum-soaked chasm in Hades.

In a town called Heaven, a blithely dictatorial leader named Caine calls for total obedience, which works, mostly, until a couple of kids escape the confines of their hometown, for the nightmarish reality beyond its walls. In that other realm they find both new heights of unknown pleasures, and depths of torture and horror. The outside world, or whatever it is, is a pretty nifty place, if you like that sort of thing. At times seeming far more heavenly than Heaven, at other times making even the most fiery Southern Baptist evangelicals' descriptions of Hell seem pretty weak by comparison.

At 106 minutes, the movie takes a little while to get going. Early scenes of 'domestic bliss', or at least what passes as a possible normal family life in Heaven drag a bit, while the actors struggle to find their voice within the plot's confines. Brandon Slagle, J.D. Brown, Ruby LaRocca, Devanny Pinn and others eventually meet the material head on, but start out sounding a little bit like actors on a sit-com. Such niceties disappear completely when the kids reach the other side, eat the forbidden fruit, and get to know the 'Evil One', a Baphomet-like nightmare who truly has such sights to show them.

The main draw of a ScreamerClauz movie is to see forbidden sights filtered through a K-Hole and doused with liberal doses of DMT. On this count, Black Birds is an unqualified triumph. ScreamerClauz creates Heaven in searing black and white, as if viewers had just stepped from a darkened room into a 120-degree day. The Other Side of the wall comes to life in intensely bright colors, including blood and vomit and what seems like the world smashed into an ocean of Skittles and cranked to eleven. The Evil One comes in the form of a nude woman with a head that's a globe of eyeballs crowned with gnarled goat horns. She whispers secrets of pure sex and violence, stuff you'd never be able to see in a live-action film, and frankly, stuff you'd never want to see. But here it is for you, and you're gonna like it!

When Black Birds Fly; grotesque, hypnotic, and sometimes hysterical, represents Jimmy ScreamerClauz's truly unique, singular vision. It will shock you deeply while wrapping you in its warm, blood-slick psychedelic embrace. Deviant sexuality, ultra-violence, nightmare imagery, and a message: with When Black Birds Fly, ScreamerClauz has cemented his place as the Gaspar Noe of neo-primitive animation, and that's a damn fine place to be. Be warned, this is for mature audiences only, but if you like having your soul shredded on a cheese grater, it is very Highly Recommended.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, When Black Birds Fly looks stellar. (I suppose that's a bird pun.) Colors are keyed up to the hilt and well saturated. It is (again) a truly ravishing visual palette. Black levels are deep, while maintaining detail clarity. Details in other instances are sharp and represent true fidelity towards this style of animation. No mastering problems or digital defects are noted.

Sound:
Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio is also quite nice. ScreamerClauz always presents a hypnotic audio experience, and this is no exception. Music and dialog are mixed well and free of distortion or damage. Dimensionality is limited somewhat, but is used well within the stereo field, and the dynamic range is wide.

Extras:
ScreamerClauz and MVD Visual pack this disk with a nice complement of extras, including a Commentary Track with the director, producer/musician M. Dot Strange, and more. It's simply a great track with tons of information and fun to be had. 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes can be watched separately, or inserted into the movie as you watch it. These are in various stages of completion, and one can tell their inclusion in the final edit would have made the movie way too long, but they are interesting to view nonetheless. Cool Reversible Cover Art is an option, as are numerous Propaganda Galleries, and Trailers for other edgy MVD releases are yours to peruse. A 15-minute Behind The Scenes Voice Acting Featurette is pretty fun, but the best fun is yet to come.

If in the review above it seems I am implying that ScreamerClauz soft-pedaled his unique vision, you get a bunch of extra short subjects to use as a benchmark. While some of these shorts are pretty damn funny, (the Action Figure Shorts wherein a couple of dudes sort-of play with modified Barbie dolls who slaughter each other in gouts of blood) the others start at unconscionable and get worse from there. We wouldn't want it any other way. You get the "Affection" Animated Short which deals with aberrant sexuality and proves that no-one else out there can invoke H.P. Lovecraft with the uncanny authority of ScreamerClauz. The Butcher's Harem "Clinical Sodomy" Banned Music Video earns its stripes (if I remember correctly) with fun scenes of someone defecating on a pig-headed baby while dismembering it, for example, and all in highly stylized animated form, so as to not completely destroy your mind. A "Mutwa" Music Video and the Reality Bleed Through Re-mix Short finish things off. No mistake, these extra shorts are hardcore ScreamerClauz, for dedicated fans only, and so disturbing/disorienting that during each one I literally had to ask myself if I really wanted to watch any more. I call that a win.

Final Thoughts:
When Black Birds Fly; grotesque, hypnotic, and sometimes hysterical, represents Jimmy ScreamerClauz's truly unique, singular vision. It will shock you deeply while wrapping you in its warm, blood-slick psychedelic embrace. Deviant sexuality, ultra-violence, nightmare imagery, and a message: with When Black Birds Fly, ScreamerClauz has cemented his place as the Gaspar Noe of neo-primitive animation, and that's a damn fine place to be. Be warned, this is for mature audiences only, but if you like having your soul shredded on a cheese grater, it is very Highly Recommended.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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