From the title alone I really wanted The Thing That Ate the Birds to be a good short horror. Thankfully, this eleven minute film from Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair (who co-directed Bill) mostly hit the spot, fitting in some striking images, as well as a subplot into this mini movie.
Grace (Rebecca Palmer) has nearly reached the end of her tether with her gamekeeper husband, Abel's (Eoin Slattery) drinking problem. Meanwhile, he is out on the moors, trying to discover just what is killing all his grouse.
My plot summary makes this sound terrible, it really wasn't. Starting off with no end of headless birds discovered on his land, Abel along with a young farmhand, Jake (Lewis Mackinnon) encounter a creature really quite early. Usually showing less is more, but the tense way this scene plays out, with Abel slowly arming his shotgun as the creature stares on was lovely. This tenseness again is used to great effect later in the short when a character slowly walks towards a blood smeared door. The design of the creature was good enough that it didn't look out of place, and it was a brave move to have it appear in daylight, even if it was obscured.
It isn't usual for short films to have a subplot, and so I enjoyed the one shown here, even if it was the less developed of the two. While it seems all the horror that goes on does actually happen, it was easy to see it as an analogy for Abel's drinking problem, especially for one moment when the creature appears by the man's side, making me think of the saying 'a devil on your shoulder'. To say too much more would ruin the fun, needless to say it seemed obvious that the early action in the short wasn't the end of the horror, so there was anticipation for more to follow.
With a suspenseful soundtrack, lots of slow tension, and a chilling final shot, there wasn't much here that wasn't done right. It might have felt slightly obvious where this would end up but that's a small complaint with a film of this quality. The Thing That Ate the Birds can be seen on Alter's YouTube channel, and I would definitely recommend a watch.