Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1985)

Fred Brown comes home from the Vietnam war, finds his wife in bed with a new lover, and goes wild, killing her and both of his parents. As he cleans off his knife, a falcon tears out his left eye and blinds him in the other before he says goodbye to the son he’s spared. Also: it’s the same house from The Beyond!

That’s just the beginning of this film, a movie that I can’t even begin to piece together. Most importantly, I question why Robert Vaughn would have signed on for it. Did he need money this badly?

But don’t get me wrong. This is a 1980’s Filmirage movie with controversy at the heart of who created it. That means that no matter what, I’m going to love it.

There are three different people who could have directed this movie.

Aristide Massaccesi, who you probably would know best as Joe D’Amoto. Most of the crew members believe that he was the director. In an interview in the book Spaghetti Nightmares, he said, “It seemed to me that the most sensible thing was to give the job of directing the dialogues to Michele Soavi’s assistant, Claudio Lattanzi, while I took care of the special effects scenes. In the end, I let Lattanzi sign as the director.” He was also the cinematographer of this movie under his alias Fred Sloniscko, Jr.

Claudio Lattanzi, who assisted Soavi on his documentary film Dario Argento’s World of Horror and was an assistant on his film Stage Fright. D’Amoto, who also produced the latter, offered Lattanzi a chance to direct Killing Birds when Soavi turned down the film as he was about to make The Church with Argento.

The controversy doesn’t stop there, as even who wrote this movie is under suspicion.

Over Christmas of 1986, Claudio Lattanzi wrote a story called Il Cancello Obsoleto about a record producer who invites a rock band to a deserted house to record a tune, without knowing that Nazi soldiers are buried there. This sounds like a combination of Sodoma’s Ghost — which wouldn’t come out until 1988 — and 1989’s Paganini Horror.

D’Amoto asked him to replace the rock band and the Nazis with killer birds, wanting to call the movie Talons. However, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi claim that the movie was based on their script Artigli, which means…Talons.

The truth is probably that D’Amoto didn’t want his name in too many places, so he just did what he always did — just about everything and either gave people credit or used one of his many names to cover the rest.


Twenty years later, a small group of college seniors, Steve Porter, Mary (Leslie Cumming, Witchery), Paul, Anne (Tara Wendel, who is also in Ghosthouse and Tenebre), Rob, Jennifer (Lin Gathright, who is also in D’Amoto’s Eleven Days, Eleven Nights, Part 2) and a local cop, Brian, are looking for the green billed woodpecker, a rare species which went extinct four years after this movie.

Fred Brown, that man who went wild on his family, gives them plenty of info and they use his old home as a base, but find nthing but a rotting corpse. But then all sorts of even stranger things — odder than a corpse in a truck — happen.

That’s when the kids start dying left and right, like a zombie beating Jennifer to death, Brian being burnt to death, Mary getting killed by a zombie, Rob getting choked by getting his necklace caught in a generator and another zombie getting Paul.

It turns out that Steve is Brown’s son from all those years ago and the dad tells them that the zombies only killed those who were afraid of them. Well, yeah. They’re zombies. Finally, he tells them to leave and we hear him scream. That’s the end!

Charitably, this film is a mess yet I loved nearly every single frame of it. It’s pointless and confusing and even its titles don’t line up, because it’s called Killing Birds–Zombi 5 in Italy and Zombie Flesheaters 4 in the UK.

God bless you, Joe D’Amoto.

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