The road from troubled girl, to certifiable insane psychotic killer is not an easy one, and it’s a declaration Katie Bird can attest to. “Katie Bird” is not particularly a perfect film, but when it hits the mark it’s quite possibly one of the more steadily disturbing horror entries that really did entertain and fascinate me. After her father’s funeral, she and her psychiatrist, lovers and all, have a fight and eventually make up, but Bird then suddenly goes over the edge and ties him up. Through small interludes of torture, Bird finally gives her therapist the brunt of her love for killing and sadomasochism. Many times, a film can basically come off as contrived when exploring what leads to the inevitable birth of a serial killer, and Bird is not a sympathetic character who was pushed in to this.
Much like a rite of passage, Katie’s father initiates his daughter in to murder, and Katie doesn’t seem to mind. Helene Udy gives a very morbid performance as Katie, and really seems to revel in unfolding this character in all her demented psychosis. Though, she seems relatively one-dimensional from the first half, Udy’s raw acting and Ritter’s writing make her in to more of an individual who, in her own way, loves to use torture as a form of bonding where she can be let loose in her own sick dimensions. Bird’s transformation from a girl to a killer is fascinating as her dad teaches her about murder, the rationalization behind murdering someone and the fate of her mother which was previously hidden. Bird loves to kill, and we witness that from beginning to end as she insists on torturing her victims almost endlessly and then gets off on it.
Taylor Dooley gives the stand out performance as teenage Katie where she finally reveals her true colors and we’re presented with more linear explanations of Bird’s mind as we get to see why she’s sexual thrilled by the torture, and why she thinks of murder, and torture as bonding with her mates. For the first half of Ritter’s film, it’s nonsensical. And not pleasingly nonsensical, but utterly nonsensical in both its premise, and in its events leading up to the actual story. I couldn’t understand the dialogue, the character motivations, nor could I really get what Bird’s intentions were. Ritter doesn’t really seem to have a handle on the story or the characters and never fully lays out the groundwork where we can understand what’s happening. Not until the middle did I really understand what was happening.
And in the end, “Katie Bird” really just felt like a “Monster” rehash, with Udy channeling Sheri Moon in “House of 1,000 Corpses” as Baby Firefly-lite. One of the weak points of “Katie Bird” is Perkins whose performance is way over the top as her father who is most times wooden and then when he reaches an emotional peak is just laughably unconvincing. Ritter’s direction is utterly top-notch as he captures the sheer insanity behind the story with multi-panel direction that constantly jumps back and forth from three or four panels, to six, and then two large ones. Brian DePalma was a director who used these techniques to instill a sense of tension and fear, and Ritter perfectly takes that technique and makes it his own. The directing is without a doubt very stylish bringing the audience in to the utterly scattered mindset of Bird, and immediately brought me in to the story.
While “Bird” does start off slow, it picks up by the middle with an disturbing and demented portrait and glimpse in to her fascination with torture. The gore and blood goes every which way as she ties up her lover and shows him how she makes love to her loved ones. “Bird” is a very sick tale of this killer and features some of the most grueling torture scenes I’ve ever witnessed that rely less on show boating and more on the flinching torture that involves dental cavities. I was cringing and squirming, and “Katie Bird” in all its morbid devices kept me watching. Despite a nonsensical first half, and a slightly derivative storyline, “Katie Bird” is a very good, and demented story of a serial killer who kills because she just enjoys it so damn much. With convincing performances and excellent direction, this is a horror film to look out for.