Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The MARCH of Death, Day 17: The Birds

What can be said about Hitchcock's The Birds? I mean, for Christ’s sake, it’s about birds! But to be fair, and in all seriousness, in 1963, when giant creature features were everywhere, The Birds was truly frightening. These were not monstrous radioactive mutations, they were not sent from another planet, or awakened after lying dormant under us for centuries. What Hitchcock did (as he did so often) was take the seemingly ordinary or mundane and terrify us with it. This film exemplifies what I have always admired and found so intriguing about him: his ability to scare. What he truly understood is that the most horrific things are those in our environment that cease to behave as we expect them to. The story is a simple one, and it doesn’t need to be otherwise. We find ourselves in San Francisco following Melanie Daniels in her attempt to woo a handsome attorney. Upon arriving in Bodega Bay, it becomes clear that something is not quite right. In particular, the avian population is behaving strangely. Congregating in large flocks and seemingly stalking the townsfolk. As if this isn’t already creepy enough, the birds don’t want to just look, they want to touch. Actually, they want to bite and peck. The splashes of bright red blood and visceral violence are pretty unsettling even today. One can always recall scenes of birds crashing against telephone booth glass, swarming around and into women’s hair, and squawking and squealing their way into attack formation. If Jaws made you afraid to go in the water, then I guess The Birds just made you afraid to go outside. I’d say that’s pretty damn frightening.

The Birds

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren
8/10 Farmhouses ~ Chris Conduit

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