HitchcOctober is being celebrated both at French Toast Sunday and Life vs Film, plus it's Horror month pretty much everywhere online, so it seemed right to fuse the two together and pick one of my favourite scenes from one of Alfred Hitchcock's horror movies. I'm not taking the low-hanging fruit of Psycho's shower scene, I'm instead opting for 1963's The Birds, and again, I'm not taking the obvious birds-gathering-on-the-climbing-frame scene, or even one of the big bombastic set pieces, instead I'm going for the moment the film takes a sudden lurch into horror.
|Lafar Posters via JoBlo
Before this point in the film, the small San Francisco fishing town of Bodega Bay has suffered a few inexplicable attacks from feathered fiends - a lone seagull clawed at the head of our heroine Melanie (Tippi Hedren), another flies into a closed door, a flock of seagulls set about a children's birthday party and a swarm of sparrows wreaked havoc in the lounge via its chimney, but nothing serious has occurred other than a little scarring - both physically and mentally. However, when Lydia (Jessica Tandy) goes to visit a fellow farmer to discuss the odd behaviour of the town's birds, we discover the true peril these people are in store for.
That's right, he's dead. And not just dead, he's had the eyes pecked out of his head. There are deep red pools where his eyes used to be, and it's ruddy terrifying. It isn't helped by the film's complete lack of score, making Lydia's slow approach down the corridor seemingly take all the longer, as there's almost no sound whatsoever. Similarly, she looks around the room in silent confusion, noticing the extreme disarray and littering of bird corpses, one of which apparently bled to death whilst impaled in a window. This is the point where we realise that a bird attack, which previously sounded more comical than actually fatal, could in fact be incredibly dangerous and life threatening, and every attack that comes after this point comes with its serious consequences, but it all starts here.
Lydia's silent, gasping fleeing from the scene looks a little odd, but was an homage to Edward Munch's The Scream. I'm grateful that we don't actually see the attack take place - if there's one thing I can't watch, it's eye trauma - but I think not showing it makes it all the more powerful anyway, especially in the jump-scare value of the moment Lydia sees the body, as the camera zooms in on his face not once but twice. It's an image I won't soon forget.
What's your favorite scene from The Birds?