A discomforting film that feels like a lump in your throat, Birdeater is relentless in its ability to disarm and disturb.

Written and directed by Jack Clark and Jim Weir, it is a well-crafted thriller that ups the pressure in what should be a relaxing and celebratory weekend, turning it on its head. 

To put the plot simply: a soon-to-be bride joins her husband on his bachelor party retreat in the Australian outback. However, Birdeater is anything but simple. While there, Irene (Shabana Azeez) lets some truths about her relationship with Louie (Mackenzie Fearnley) out. It speaks to some dark and toxic issues that spark a conversation throughout the group that culminates with devastating results. While Louie is never shown as violent there’s a sinister sense to him, and the palpable tension within the group is captured with sharp intent that’ll make you squirm. He’s the embodiment of toxic masculinity and there’s a terrifying unveiling of their unhealthy relationship that plays out in the most awkward of social settings. 

source: SXSW Film Festival

The film is most definitely a horror, but it’s the internal kind that simmers rather than burns. The ease in which coercion and abuse exist within the relationship (which seems sweet at the onset) is chilling. Its style and techniques are confident and it raises thought-provoking questions. As the weekend unfolds into measurable chaos, some effectiveness loses steam. This is undoubtedly a slow burn, but the degree of its unraveling will test some audience’s attention. The isolation further adds to the inability to escape, a perceptible sort of anxiety. 

It’s a bold idea for a movie and it mostly works, creating tension and unease with easy strokes. It examines some challenging topics while still being able to subvert audience expectations. A skill that speaks to a seasoned directing team, but as a debut feature Birdeater tests and tortures, and doesn’t waver. There’s admiration for its intent and the performances, especially that of Shabana Azeez, that show significant skill. It winds you around its nimble finger, ensuring you see it through to its shocking end. 

Birdeater utilizes the veneer of a gentle evil, its strength balanced by a compelling narrative and a keen sense of how to deliver spine-tingling trepidation.

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