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.