23 November 2017 | Ben-Hibburd
The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds Review.
Long considered lost in the annals of cinematic history, a 35mm print of this Southern Gothic tale was discovered recently in a New York theatre. The film has since been restored and finally shown to audiences with the help of Mubi and film director Nicolas Winding Refn. This film is a classic case of a myth being built up so much that it doesn't quite live up to the reputation. The film is a passion project from star, writer, director, and editor Bert Williams. Williams plays an undercover cop called Johnson whose cover gets blown whilst trying to infiltrate a gang of violent moonshiners.
As he evades the gang through the murky swamps of the deep South, he finds himself washed on a small island. On this small island there's a dilapidated hotel with three somewhat off-kilter inhabitants. Johnson decides to stay at the hotel whilst the heat dies down, except strange occurrences keep happening to make him believe that he's not quite as safe as he thinks he is.
The film clearly draws a-lot of influence from past genre classics, most notably Psycho and Night of the Hunter. The film has an incredibly creepy atmosphere, alongside a couple of scenes with genuinely disturbing imagery. Unfortunately there's not much more to the film then that. The characters in this film aren't well defined or given much characterisation. The biggest issue I had was that the overall story felt dull, and it's not until the final twenty minutes when the plot starts moving that film becomes intriguing.
The film had a lack of urgency in the script and started to meander midway through. Due to the bland, uninteresting characters (and at times pretty bad acting), this film felt like a missed opportunity as the filler in between the interesting plot developments was poorly developed. The film would've made for a fantastic thirty minute short, but instead it's stretched out even with a short run-time of eighty one minutes. It's a shame because the film has some really great moments but not enough to sustain a feature film. In the end it's a film worth seeking out if you have Mubi for the rarity alone. However what you'll get is a B-movie mash up of Psycho and Night of the Hunter intersected with strikingly original moments that'll make you think this could've been a really great film.