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Don't they ever stop migrating? – Annie Hayworth
I'm enjoying the "no genre films on the big screen" time that I have now of late. Right now, for some reason, older movies are more fun to watch than the new stuff for me. This week, I decided to tackle a flick I hadn't seen in eons and that's Hitchcock's classic THE BIRDS (based on Daphne Du Maurier short story of the same name). The movie used to put the freak in my Kool-Aid when I was a wee lad and I was curious to see how I would digest it now that I'm a dingbat adult. Here's how it went down and came out!
I loved THE BIRDS in all of its edgy, sporadically dated and positively frightening glory. This was a brave picture, especially for back then and it was unquestionably ahead of its time. Looking at it today, it is so apparent how much influence it has had on the horror conventions that were and are still used within the horror films that followed it. For example; it is THE BIRDS that gave Ben the idea of boarding up the doors and windows in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And I doubt JAWS and JURASSIC PARK would’ve existed without it. I have to respect a film that sports that kind of weight on levels only my imaginary girlfriends “Honey Rider, Pussy Galore and Xenia Onatopp” can understand.
Same went for how the film basically wound up sparking up a sub genre all by itself, making way for good, bad or ugly opuses like: FROGS, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, THE SWARM and all of the other 70's "nature gives mankind an enema" parties. On its own, THE BIRDS stood out of the fold as an ingenious piece of genre celluloid. Hitch kept to his “set up – uppercut – audience to the mat” PSYCHO narrative M.O. here via having half of the film be about one thing (Melanie and Mitch teasing each other) to then back-hand us mercilessly by having the affair be about something TOTALLY DIFFERENT and definitely much more f*cked up than its initial half. What followed was an exercise in dread filled mood and brilliantly put together horror set pieces. Straight up, visceral sequences like the “birds gradually hitting the outside jungle-gym”, "birds trying to get inside the house", the "cellar mishap" or the “phone booth fiasco” blew me away in their artistry. Their build-up, execution and mammoth payoffs made sure to whoop me silly. And all charged with visual flair at that! Yup, they didn't call the dude The Master for nothing!
Moreover, any flick that bypasses your standard orchestral score in favor of varied sounds to back up its visuals has to be esteemed, especially when it winds up working so damn well. The collection of bird screeches and wing flapping did wonders here, making the film much scarier than it should’ve been. The sense of claustrophobia was elevated big time! Add to that a clever lack of a concrete explanation as to the madness and a haunting "ambiguous” ending that floored me and you get quite the keeper. Talk about leading your audience by the nose to then leave them with a sense of unease. Ballsy!
Any negatives to spew out? Some. I didn't really feel enough "good loving" between Melanie and Mitch to justify her driving up for an hour and half just to play a childish joke on him. Didn't buy it. I could’ve done without the OVERLONG phone calls and trite dialogue bits that slowly went nowhere as well. Furthermore, the dated special effects did have a "giggle inducing" reaction on me a couple times. Namely the scene where the "non-scared" kids are running in the foreground with birds all up in there. Half of the kids looked like they were holding in smiles and worst of all, I swear they were running on treadmills (upon research after my viewing, I found out that they were indeed running on a treadmills). So I laughed my ass off which was not the intent.
On the whole though; THE BIRDS is a film to be reckoned with in terms of what it shot for, what it pulled off and how much of it shaped horror filmmaking as we know it today. PLUCK IT AND THANK ME LATER WITH SOME KFC!
Read my review of the crappy THE BIRDS 2 HERE