Monday, 11 June 2012

The Birds

"The Birds" (1963, Alfred Hitchcock, Universal Pictures) is a very suspense-filled nature-bites-back horror film.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a young woman of leisure from a rich family. She is goaded by a young lawyer, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a bird shop and, intrigued, goes out to his home town, Bodega Bay, California, to teach him a lesson. She winds up meeting his mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy) and little sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) and decides to hang around as Mitch and she become close.

She is randomly attacked by a seagull while on her boat back from his house, but dismisses this as an odd happenstance. Later that night, another seagull flies face first into the front door, killing itself, but she also dismisses this.

She rents a room with the local school teacher, Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), who also happens to be Mitch's ex, and joins Mitch and his family for dinner.

A series of other bird attacks soon become suspicious, and the town slowly realise that the birds are purposefully attacking them!

Some gorey corpses always interested me in this movie as a child, especially the guy with his eyes pecked out! And the bit with the sparrows and the fireplace is still spooky!

If you have a bird phobia, obviously this film is either not for you, or will give you a good scare, depending on what kind of person you are (for instance zombies give me the grade A creeps, which is why I love watching zombie movies; actually scary!).

Melanie's character is enjoyable as a female protagonist as she doesn't scream mindlessly all the time. She keeps it cool until the end when she finally loses it, and she's actually useful without being written as a man with boobs (see the character of Rayne in the first 'Resident Evil' movie). In fact, the only time I was willing her to scream is the bit in the attic when she does lose her cool; screaming would have been helpful here!

I find this film a little slow to start, but once it begins it keeps up the pace and the slow build up of birds around the houses and school is really, very atmospheric. I also enjoyed the constant, intially unnoticeable, but later very obvious, bird noises throughout the movie. The flocking noises are reminiscent of insects swarming which is very effective.

I like birds, and have a pet parrot called Paulie (yes, honestly that is his name), but I can hands-up admit that when he freaks out and goes for your face it is the scariest thing! I can't imagine what hundreds of angry, panicked birds attacking you would feel like, and I don't think I ever want to know!

The reason for the attacks is never explained and the end of the movie is open with no real conclusion. But rather than feeling cheated, this adds to the charm of the film. A real classic.

[Picture: Universal Pictures]