It has been several years since I have visited this classic. Long enough that a few of the scenes actually managed to have a surprisingly strong impact for a repeat viewing. I rather adore this film, and while I think parts of it struggle a bit with age, it still holds up overall. I also find it pretty unsettling and terrifying to this day.
Briefly, if you have yet to see it or would like a recap. The Birds follows Melanie, who runs into Mitch in a bird shop. She is attracted to him, but they share an odd exchange with flirting at first only to find he knows her and doesn’t have a high opinion of her. Melanie still decides to track him down, you know in that way that’s sort of sweet in movies, but please don’t try this at home way. She follows him to his weekend home off the coast. As their relationship develops, although with many odd roadblocks, so do the bird attacks.
The movie is rather beautiful (even with some of the more aged effects) and well shot for scenes with a lot of impact to heighten the fear. The horror is exceptionally well done with both suspenseful moments, such as the birds slowly building outside the school, to rather more explosive (heh) scenes. It brings both layers of impact and balances them well. I would say it slants more to the surprise/action side than people might be used to from Hitchcock, but it does not lack for suspense.
I love the core idea, as well. When I think about The Birds, what gets me is how “harmless” birds seem. If you were to ask the average joe what animals scare them, very few (other than if they mention it is because of movies like this) would jump to birds. These also aren’t super-powered, extra-large, or whatever birds. They are fairly normal; there is just so damn many of them. It is really the concept of the slow-moving zombie. On a surface level, you are likely “eh, there are worse things,” but the sheer volume of them is overwhelming and creates a nightmare situation. There is also the fact that being pecked to death seems extremely torturous.
Which leads to the surprising level of violence in this movie. There are several scenes where the effects and gore aren’t as overt, but in those scenes, they largely involve children, which brings an extra level of fear and almost seems to make it feel more violent. Then the movie is also not afraid to be outright with it. The scene where Lydia finds her neighbor violently killed with his eyes pecked out still hits me. Melanie’s scene with the attic birds is horrifying, violent, brutal, and still an incredible moment in horror history.
However, I have a few issues with the way the plot unfolds. The larger plot itself is a bit dated but works well for the movie and the times. I actually rather enjoyed the various character development, and there is a sort of charm to it. There are times, though, where it feels as though the characters are in a moment simply and only to be in danger with questionable reasons as to why they got there. Still, that complaint is not one to sway me that much. Yes, it’s better when the plot is smoother, but honestly, I am willing to deal with a few plot holes or even just moments of weakness for overall entertainment value and to skip unnecessary moments.
Honestly, this movie maintains a lot of what I love about movies from those times while not feeling dated overall. The birds themselves and several key moments hold up and even can stand up next to modern giants. Now, of course, there are also moments where you must just embrace “oh man, this was top of the game in the 60s”, but I think if you are the type to visit classics, you already understand that.
I am so glad I decided to include this movie. If you haven’t seen it and can appreciate classics, please give it a shot. If you have seen it, you might want to consider revisiting it as well.