top of page


The Thing That Ate The Birds

average rating is 3 out of 5


Jason Knight


Posted on:

Dec 17, 2022

Film Reviews
The Thing That Ate The Birds
Directed by:
Dan Gitsham, Sophie Mair
Written by:
Dan Gitsham, Sophie Mair
Eoin Slattery, Rebecca Palmer, Lewis Mackinnon

When you namedrop a classic horror film in your title you create unfairly high expectations. It just comes with the territory. ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’ ups the stakes by naming not one, but two of the greatest horror films of all time - and though not a scratch on the classics, it doesn’t do a disservice to such iconic names.


Of course, the two horror films are John Carpenter’s 1982 science-fiction, stroke supernatural classic ‘The Thing’ and Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful 1963 natural horror ‘The Birds’. ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’ takes the natural horror of ‘The Birds’ and mixes it with some of the goriness and supernatural of ‘The Thing’. Here, the polar setting of ‘The Thing’ is swapped for the picturesque English countryside, though the rolling moors of North Yorkshire still have the same chilling effect, and reinforce the total isolation of the film’s characters as they face an otherworldly threat.


The central character is Abel (Eoin Slattery), a middle-aged gamekeeper, who roams his land with his assistant Jake (Lewis Mackinnon) to establish the cause of the mysterious deaths of several of the estate’s grouse. The birds are left as rotting corpses, which are cut to as the title card plays alongside a score reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s efforts on some of Hitchcock’s greatest thrillers. The ‘thing’ they discover to be the source of the birds’ demise is actually put away relatively quickly, as Abel’s pent-up frustrations release themselves into two quick shotgun blasts at the creature, which looks like a horrifying mashup of Gollum and the orcs in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, and the ‘Walkers’ which inhabit ‘The Walking Dead’.


More pressing matters for Abel revolve around his dissolving marriage situation. He and his wife, Grace (Rebecca Palmer), seem on the brink of separation - it's never properly revealed, but it isn’t hard to guess that she feels neglected by him, and there’s a strong feeling that the isolation of their country home has only weakened their relationship further. He sleeps on the sofa, she pretends to be asleep when he goes up to their bedroom, and he leaves to work without a word. Things come to the fore, upon his return from killing the creature - he’s more distant than ever, and there is a frosty tension in the air, as each would rather launch a dig at the other than work together to solve their problems or say how they truly feel.


The marital conflict is a nice subplot to the creature feature, but it lacks much depth, particularly when the film attempts to weave the two together in a profound way, culminating in a disappointingly predictable (though extremely gruesome) conclusion to an otherwise chilling piece. Writers-directors Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair handle both the camera and the script with competency, and their lens emphasises the distance between Abel and Grace with admirable quality. The actors are similarly at their best when asked to show the bleak state of the marriage, with both Slattery and Palmer having believably tired responses and wan faces.


‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’ is a solid horror film - one which provides short-term scares at the expense of anything meaningful in its far more engaging depiction of a strained marriage. The blood, gore, and supernatural may be the selling point of any horror film, but there’s rarely anything scarier than real life, and ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’ failure to properly exploit that fear to its full potential is ultimately disappointing.

About the Film Critic
Jason Knight
Jason Knight
Short Film
bottom of page