The killdeer is a bird said to lure in potential prey by pretending to be injured, an easy target. Riad (Stephen Lobo), the apparently paranoid recluse, misnames the creature a “killbird” while quizzing stranded birder Taylor (Elysia Rotaru). Is Taylor like the killdeer, pretending to be stranded in order to get close to Riad, or is she what she appears, and his unfounded paranoia a dangerous mistake?
Like many in the thriller / horror genres, this film could quite easily be trimmed back into an episode of The Twilight Zone. Still, the very few characters (for the most part, just the two) are very well-acted, and the extremely limited setting (mostly just the cabin) is claustrophobic and unsettling. The tension between the two possible realities is maintained throughout, and never betrayed until the end, which lands as fair and satisfying.
Riad’s brand of paranoia is familiar enough, full of false-flags and 911 conspiracies, but his background lends potential credence to some of it. From the start he seems more than an unhinged proto-Unabomber. Taylor’s quick thinking and resourcefulness could make her an excellent Final Girl, or a trained agent.
The jeopardy of both views is constant and steadily escalated throughout, keeping a simple tale interesting through the end, though both characters are human enough that neither comes across as completely dangerous.
Overall Killbird is a fun thriller with few surprises, but quality acting and direction, and the scenery porn of the Pacific Northwest woods of the setting doesn’t hurt a bit either. It is most fun to watch the film on the surface level and not try to second guess what is “real.”