The Horror of Horror

Last night I stayed up late watching Hitchcock’s The Birds. It was an interesting evening. I was pretty skeptical about it, thinking the film would be corny and not that scary. Haha….after the movie I had a moment of panic as I was pulling the blinds down on my windows, like “ahhhhhh….the birds are going to peck through the glass while I’m sleeping…help….!” but I did manage to calm down. I’m going to first describe the movie negatively, 1) the movie was not an old, corny film with bad effects and 2) the movie was not one of these modern, predictable action films.

Note: The reason I have so much to say is because I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie while I was trying to go to sleep, so instead of panicking and getting creeped out, I tried to analyze and dissect it….make it more like a movie than real life.

So, it was actually a very well-done movie. In one sense, it was quite old-fashioned. The women were ladies and the men were gentlemen. Although the lead woman was “spunky” and independent, it was the man friend of her’s who protected the family against the birds, he was the defender and the leader. I liked that. I hate those modern films with super-smart girls in super-short shorts and super-small shirts tagging along with the dimwit male through African jungles and and all that…come on, people don’t wear shorts out in the jungle (I keep waiting for her to get a snakebite, but it never happens). Anyways, while I wasn’t immensely fond of the clothing fashions in the movie, the women had class and self-respect, and this showed through what they wore. Actually, through the entire 2 hour movie, I think the lead woman (Melanie) wore the same outfit. She may had been wearing something different at the very beginning, but when she went to visit her man friend in a isolated village on the coast of California, she only took a nightgown and so wore the same outfit through the whole ordeal. I admired Melanie’s ability to walk through sand dunes, fight off blood-thirsty birds, and do a variety of things…all in high-heel shoes.

Warning: If you haven’t seen The Birds, but plan to, and you don’t want me to spoil the ending, don’t keep reading.

And I was quite surprised by the ending. At first I thought that “his” mother was behind it (him being Mitch, the friend that the Melanie came to visit) as she wasn’t exactly friendly to Melanie. Then I thought it might be Annie, Mitch’s former girlfriend who couldn’t stand his aloof mother. Then I thought maybe Hitchcock was some crazy environmentalist and was trying to make a statement about the cruelty of keeping birds caged up. You see, Melanie brought Mitch’s little sister 2 lovebirds from San Francisco, and after she came to town (with the birds) all the trouble started. I thought maybe they would inadvertently release the 2 birds and the millions of other angry birds would leave them alone.

However, nothing happened. There was no ending, in the proper sense. They emerged from their boarded-up house to a bleak scene of birds covering everything. The roof, the ground, the trees, everything was covered with them. Mitch managed to get his mother, sister, and Melanie (who had suffered a severe bird attack) into the car and they slowly drove away. That was it. “The End.” And then I realized that is the horror of horror. Hitchcock could have comforted us by giving some reason for the vicious attacks. But that would have taken away the horror.

In other words…in economics, there must be three conditions for action to occur.

1) You must have dissatisfaction with the current situation.

2) You must have an idea of how to change your situation.

3) You must have hope that your idea will actually work.

And you see, only the 1st condition was present in the movie. They had no idea how to placate the birds. They had no idea what was causing it, and so could do nothing. It is like someone who feels hunger pains but doesn’t know that hunger is causing it. They are in a terrible situation because they can’t do anything to stop the pain since the cause is unknown.

The Birds seemed to be a mutated form of what the existentialists called “angst.” You have this horrible, gnawing fear but it isn’t directed at anything or anything.  You don’t know what is causing it, and so you can’t do anything. I think that Hitchcock was quite brilliant in this regard.

I also found his style quite interesting. He uses no background music at all. There are only a few sounds picked out of the background so you can identify the scene. For instance, when Melanie is getting out of the elevator, there’s no sound of her heels on the floor, no background noises from other people, just the sound of the elevator door closing. The same goes for much of the movie. One scene was quite interesting, where Melanie is driving her convertible to Mitch’s house (2 hours up the coast from San Francisco) with the 2 lovebirds in a cage beside her. From similar movie scenes, it is typical to have some sort of background music going because there’s no dialogue, and really not any other sounds. Or she start talking to the birds, just to have something going on. But Hitchcock doesn’t do anything. There are some distant shots of her car, some closer ones where you can see her face, and a few times he switches the view to the lovebirds sitting there so silently.

I really to get on with my life now, so I won’t say anymore. Just thought I would share my thoughts on this “charming” movie…it is perfect to watch right before you go to bed…not. 🙂

2 Comments

  1. There’s a raccoon that lives in my attic and he’ll come in and scratch around a bit right above my bedroom. And I have a squeaky front door that moves around with the wind. It adds to the mood when I watch scary movies.

  2. As a child I saw this movie. I saw a couple clips of this movie in 3D when at Disney World about 17 years ago….that was a bit frightening…seeing the birds fly right at me and overhead. Alison, not understanding 3D, was swatting at them and started to get upset so we had to remove her glasses. Glad you enjoy the movie …at least in part.

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