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DVD Review: KatieBird – Certifiable Crazy Person

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What do all serial killers have in common? All serial killers have to be partly insane, which is exactly what the character KatieBird (Helene Udy) and the movie KatieBird are. The movie tells the story of KatieBird and how she grows up to be a serial killer. KatieBird tells her story to Dr. Richardson (Todd Gordon), who has no choice but to listen since she’s tied him up in chains. As a little girl (played by Nicole Jarvis), she is wrought with curiosity about her dad’s (Lee Perkins) dealings inside the family barn. As a teenager (played by Taylor M. Dooley), her dad brings her into his world of gruesome murder. As an adult, she’s already mastered her dad’s methods of murder and applies them on a regular basis.

Written and directed by Justin Paul Ritter, he seems to be a huge fan of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall because of his use of the split screen. From the start of the film, Ritter depicts KatieBird as insane from the start. Using the split screen, we are shown her distorted and schizophrenic view of the world. In one sense, her dad is always in the mind, telling her what to do. She’s lost her own sense of reality and can only see the world through his eyes, which is conveyed through the aspect ratio’s frequent reconfiguring on screen. It’s never a full screen, which gives you a sense of her isolation caused by her insanity.

As an experimental film, Ritter’s direction works because he wants us to see the world as KatieBird does. The problem is that his direction is all we get to help us see the world through her. The film uses the suspense trick of never showing the violence directly, almost always depicted in reaction and never explicit. This makes sense, but for a film that plays on its gruesomeness it never is totally gruesome. I realize that KatieBird is a super low-budget movie and special effects like stabbing and such are expensive to do, but the effect of a killer torturing and murdering his victim is subdued when you don’t actually show it. There is a scene where KatieBird kills her victim in the worst possible way, although infection and blood loss should have affected him a lot more quickly.

KatieBird is not a wholly sympathetic character because she embodies so many “insane person” qualities like masochism and sex addiction. She ties up Dr. Richardson and makes him either cut her or have sex with her. If she’s not satisfied, then she pulls out one of his teeth. It’s a very convoluted situation and, in a way corresponds with KatieBird’s insanity, but she comes off as more demonic than manic. At least being manic doesn’t give you a sense of having some otherworldly presence and non-accountability.

From the start, KatieBird is slow and deliberate in trying to create tension as it is revealed how KatieBird becomes the way that she is. But it remains slow, never speeding up and never becoming the thriller that it could have been. KatieBird tries to be the psychological portrait that Silence Of The Lambs is without the Buffalo Bill storyline. The difference, well there are a lot, is that KatieBird isn’t half as interesting as Hannibal Lector is. KatieBird was born and raised to be a serial killer. Her life has already been decided for her and there is no intrigue in her making choices. Her dad used a hammer to torture so she does too. Her dad pulled his victim’s teeth out so she does too. By the end, going to the dentist didn’t seem all that scary.

Special Features:

There is a 15-minute “Movies NOT Excuses” featurette hosted by Justin Paul Ritter. The featurette has interviews with the film’s cast and crew. Also is a short two-minute “Misa Does Make-Up” mini-featurette that shows her applying make-up on one of the actors.

There is a feature-length commentary by the Ritter, Udy, Dooley and Ritter. Also included are the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers as well as trailers for other Heretic Films releases.

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