The sequel to the Hitchcock classic is a surprisingly entertaining hidden gem for fans of made for Cable TV horror
The Birds 2: Lands End (1994), which was recently unearthed on Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome is an interesting entry in the made for Cable TV genre. While sequels to masterworks are nothing new for the small screen, in a bold move at the time, the film’s trailer was run in theaters, while the film advertised was exclusively shown on the fledgling (at the time) Showtime. Directed by Rick Rosenthal (Halloween 2) — who later took his name off the film, The Birds 2 stars Brad Johnson and Chelsea Field as Ted and Mary Hocken, who along with their daughters have moved to the sleepy shore town of Gull Island. This change of scenery is made in the hope that Ted can finish his thesis and begin to heal from the death of his son, which haunts him. Tippi Hedren even shows up for a bit part, as a completely unrelated character to the previous film, due to her last minute addition to the cast. While the Hitchcock classic is a near impossible act to follow, Birds 2 tries and is actually surprisingly entertaining in the process.
The Birds 2 plot is essentially a carbon copy of Jaws, but leaning into the Hocken family melodrama instead of the impending dread as Spielberg does, which probably frustrated viewers since the carnage doesn’t ramp up till nearly the 45 minute mark. The first two acts offer few in the way of deaths, but are more focused on the couple’s marital troubles as Mary falls for her much more emotionally stable photographer boss at the local newspaper, while Ted spends the film unraveling at the seams. This is an interesting gender-swap of the woman in peril horror trope we’ve seen probably a billion times before, as Ted connects the dots early on, and is dismissed by the residents of the town — including the mayor who isn’t about to ruin people’s vacations on account of some rumored killer birds (Sound familiar?). He of course downplays Ted’s concerns and hysteria, warning him about spreading panic to the other visitors of Gull Island who help the local economy. This is bizarre given the recent body count that slowly ramps up and in this reality, the first film canonically happened.
The best thing Birds 2 does is it sidesteps even trying to give some sort of semi-plausible explanation to the phenomena in this entry, which is what you usually get in a sequel like this. Don’t forget, Rosenthal was the guy guilty for this exact thing in Halloween 2, by famously making Laurie Strode and Michael Myers siblings thus sending that franchise on that bizarre path. While the film tosses some vagaries out there we thankfully are left still wondering why the birds are attacking man except for the ecological equalization, or pollution, or the evils of man. I was frankly dialed into the melodrama and rode that until the birds started their attack, which was punctuated by some great gore SFX thanks to some of the top tier talent Rosenthal brought with him. The performances all have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall I was fascinated by this attempt at trying to franchise up another one of Hitchcock’s classics, which went much better for Psycho.
The film is presented here in a new scan of the negative and looks crisp, and clear as ever thanks to Vinegar Syndrome. The picture is a bit on the brighter side, but that’s the norm for the made for TV genre. This does however have the pleasant side effect of highlighting some of the scenery and the excellent practical effects work by Jeff Goodwin and his team who deliver the gory goods. This visual presentation is paired with a stereo DTS-HD track and a plethora of extras to deliver some great context to this IP oddity. A nearly hour long doc is included with all the key players aptly titled Don’t Remake Hitchcock Movies, that’s understandably candid as just about everyone who was involved with the film let us know this all played out with enough perspective after the fact. I mean it’s like that old expression about the road to hell being paved with the best intentions, they originally set out to make a much better film that circumstance would allow and they are very quick to let us know now. My favorite extra however, has to be the the commentary track with author of Are You In The House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium, Amanda Reyes, who is thoughtful as she is insightful when discussing this particular genre.
While The Birds is basically untouchable, this film tries its damnedest and shockingly delivers an entertaining and fascinating entry into the animals amok genre thanks to the film’s pedigree. I love that Vinegar Syndrome is releasing these lesser known oddities and giving them a chance to get out there and hopefully find a new audience, while actually taking them seriously rather than looking down on them. I mean The Birds II isn’t a terrible film and it does some interesting things subverting horror gender tropes, but I think the deal breaker is its legacy and that was only amplified by the success of the Psycho series that not only went on for five films, but a TV successful TV series. So we know it can be done, just not this way. The best thing The Birds gave us sequel-wise is its red headed bastard son, the Birdemic series which is definitely a fan favorite.
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