Wednesday, March 21, 2007
KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person (2005)
Imagine that at 16 years old you find out your father is a serial killer. Your father has been torturing and killing people in the red shed in the backyard since before you were born. Now, imagine that instead of screaming your head off and running, you follow in your daddy’s footsteps to kidnap, maim, torture and kill…this is the premise of KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person.
After her daddy’s funeral, KatieBird (Helene Udy) and her shrink/lover (Todd Gordon) return to her dimly lit apartment. KatieBird is distraught over her father’s death, and wants only the undivided attention of the Doctor. She wants to explain to him her close, loving relationship with her father, and the secret they both shared. Her therapist thinks he’s heard it all before and wants her to just let it all go. He knows that her father was a serial killer and that it profoundly affected KatieBird, but he believes she can move on and put it behind her. He is bashed over the head with a vase, chained up to the bed, repeatedly raped and slowly tortured as KatieBird forces him to listen.
Young KatieBird (Nicole Jarvis) grows up with just her father (Lee Perkins), who won’t let her go near a certain red shed until he deems her ready. Father and daughter share a loving relationship, the father being patient with KatieBird while KatieBird abides by his rules. When KatieBird (Taylor M. Dooley) hits the teen years, she is heartbroken over a boy she is crushing on when he goes out with someone else. With this realization that the world can be a cruel place, Daddy decides she is ready to begin her education in serial killing. He lets her enter the shed and she sees what he’s been up to all these years. Filled with wonderment, KatieBird continues the family legacy of killing by quickly learning the ropes from her father. Her first victim is Kevin, the boy who shunned her for another girl. KatieBird lures him into an orchard with the promise of a little hanky panky. She stalks him before jumping out completely naked, trusty hammer in hand. After making him strip, bashing him in the knee with the hammer and otherwise humiliating the boy, KatieBird has Daddy help her take Kevin back to the red shed. Daddy gives her a whole chest of goodies to experiment with – the claw hammer, a saw, a pair of pliers and a handy little dentistry device that keeps a mouth wide open. A whole lotta teeth-pullin’ goes down, as well as a good use of a saw. Through the process of her first kill, KatieBird also discovers the pleasures of pain. In present day, KatieBird is continuing her sadomasochistic preferences for killing on the Doctor as she explains to him her beginnings as a serial killer.
A psychological look into the origins of a serial killer, KatieBird tells an original, intense story but I still have mixed feelings about the film. On one hand, it is original, stylish, well-acted and directed and is disturbing and unsettling. On the other hand, I believe it has been over-hyped, has a story that is stretched far too thin, needs better editing, better pacing and has an overpowering and annoying soundtrack.
As for the good, KatieBird definitely proves that women can be just as scary as men in the role of the villain. I love seeing horror movies in which a woman character defies the damsel-in-distress stereotype. We need more serial killer movies like this that show women can be just as vicious, crazy, calm and horrifying as men can be. KatieBird loves the power over her male victims and forces them to have sex, burns them with cigarettes, mutilates them and tries to find the truth they are hiding from.
The three females that play KatieBird in three different stages in life do a fantastic job, with special mention going to Taylor Dooley, who plays the teen KatieBird. Her expressive range of emotion portrays the blossoming killer perfectly. Dooley gives KatieBird awe, curiosity and a sense of wonderment at killing that gave me the chills! Lee Perkins, who plays the father, was also very impressive. The sense of calm and purpose that he evoked made me both fear and like the guy!
One thing I must mention is the style of the film, where each scene is fragmented by frames. I found this to be pretty stylish and a good metaphor for the mental collapse and splintering of KatieBird’s psyche, but because it is used throughout the entire movie it does get a little annoying and loses impact. Many people find the frames downright distracting, but they did not ruin the entire movie for me and actual infused more flair into the film.
The cinematography is also worth mentioning for its stylishness and beauty. The horror of the scene in the orchard is beset by the beautiful fall foliage in the background. Alternately, the red shed is lit with harsh fluorescent lighting, giving everything a dark, grim feeling. The adult KatieBird’s apartment is dark and dingy, also giving it a foreboding feeling. The torture scenes are shot in close-up, focusing on the terror of the individual and on the pleasure of KatieBird. The cinematography reflects the film’s unsettling atmosphere.
Now, for the bad…the film has a pretty shaky start, which left me wondering when the actual horror would start. The first thirty minutes felt like forever to me and were extremely slowly pacing. Some other parts of the film have pretty shoddy pacing as well, and I felt some scenes needed to be trimmed down.
The story itself seemed stretched thin over the 100 minute run-time. There just wasn’t enough there to fill the time, so many scenes seem unnecessarily long. I really wish they had shown more of KatieBird’s teenage years, but perhaps that will come with the possible sequel.
The real caveat that almost ruined the film for me was the score! Every scene contains the intrusive and in many places inappropriate score. It is overkill and overpowers too much of the dialogue. A movie’s score or soundtrack should complement it, not drown it in a mess of weird growling and metallic sounds. It really took away from the atmosphere, something which music is supposed to heighten!
Though KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person has its flaws, it still had me glued to the screen. There is no denying that it packs a wallop and is one of the most disturbing, vicious and unnerving films I’ve seen. It gives me hope that more women will be cast in ballsy roles like the character KatieBird.
Available on Amazon!