director Alfred Hitchcock
Two years ago, I was going to watch The Birds with my kids. I was put off of it after watching Poltergeist (1982) with them just prior, still currently the most scary movie in the kids’ minds. Back then, they were 9 and 7 respectively. Right call or wrong call? Moot point.
The kids began becoming interested in seeing it again recently. And after we watched Jaws (1975), it seemed like a good match for a “when animals attack” mini film series. This coming weekend is Tremors (1990). While Felix isn’t particularly into horror films, he’s increasingly curious about things that he hears about like The Birds. It’s a local film, on top of everything else.
In 2011, I hadn’t seen The Birds in years. This time, it’s only been a couple of years.
The film is shot without a musical accompaniment. All music is diegetic, either played on the piano by a character or sung by the children. There are some scratchy sort of ambiguous noises that are non-diegetic at one point, but part of the film’s aesthetic of fright is based on naturalism. And that’s why it’s still eerie. If you’ve ever seen a particularly large flock of birds anywhere, it can certainly be disquieting.
What I enjoyed the most was the scene in which Tippi Hedren is outside the schoolhouse in Bodega Bay, waiting for the children to finish (they’re singing). She sits on a bench in front of a playground structure and lights a cigarette. While the children’s song continues, Hitchcock cuts between the smoking Hedren and the playground structure, which attracts more crows each cut. The final one being an immense amount of them.
When that final cut happened, Felix jumped. Which was really cool because in most films such a cut would be accompanied by a loud boom of instruments to emphasize the impact. It was interesting in particular because while watching Jaws, I asked Clara if she was scared and she said that she was only scared when the music started in. I noted this to them as we watched, which they also found very interesting.
They both really liked both films. Felix felt that Jaws was perhaps a lot more predictable. Still, they are a kind of interesting study in strategy of scares. Nature gone bad.