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''The Dark Half'' behind the scenes

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It took more than 4,000 cheeping finches (masquerading as sparrows) to manifest the plague of tiny beating wings in The Dark Half. It also took a flock of special-effects experts — and a gaggle of faux feathered performers.

”George [Romero] wanted a ton of birds. He used the term ‘bird soup,”’ says visual-effects supervisor Kevin Kutchaver. ”But you can’t jam-pack real birds into a set.” So, as SFX project supervisor Zilla Clinton explains, all kinds of winged players were used: ”wacky birds” (like the ones in floral arrangements), ”hammer birds” (bird heads molded over hammers for the pecking shots), ”shadow birds” (real birds shot on high-contrast film at high speed, resulting in eerie shapes), ”Alabama birds” (starlings filmed during a mass migration in that state that darkened the sky), mechanical birds that flap their wings, and about a dozen stuffed birds for close-ups. All contributed to the finished scenes, which took six to eight months to assemble.

Not since, well, The Birds (in 1963) have birds made such a dark flight of screen fancy.