KatieBird *Certifiable Crazy Person DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD Released by Heretic Films
What's got you so upset, KatieBird? – Merl "Daddy" Wilkins
Written and directed by Justin Paul Ritter
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 100 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on February 28th, 2006
Helen Udy as KatieBird
Taylor M. Dooley as Teen KatieBird
Nicole Jarvis as Young KatieBird
Todd Gordon as Dr. Richardson
Jun Hee Lee as Kevin
Lee Perkins as Merl "Daddy" Wilkins
KatieBird grew up in your average household. Mother not around, father a serial killer. She took her first victim at about 16.
Sure, that may be a bit dysfunctional, but who reading doesn’t have a little dysfunction in their own family?
And aside from the seemingly sexual gratification she gets from cutting herself, and the burning need to cut others, she’s perfectly normal, perfectly healthy.
KatieBird *Certifiable Crazy Person finds KatieBird telling her childhood story to her doctor, who damn well better listen to what she has to say.
Because he has no other choice.
On the surface, KatieBird has an awesome premise. Serial killer movies are a dime a dozen, but female serial killer movies are fewer and farther between. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two that are really, really solid movies: Monster and The Bad Seed. And Seed is arguable because the female involved is a child, so it could go into its own category.
KatieBird introduces Taylor M. Dooley as teen KatieBird, and, for her first role (and a major part, at that), Dooley nails it. There are times in a movie that defines an actor’s performance, and in Dooley’s case, it was when she dragged the clawed end of a hammer across her belly and got a look of almost sexual pleasure on her face. It was chilling and effective. It’s rare to see someone so comfortable behind the camera their first time out.
Lee Perkins (Fangoria: Blood Drive), as Merl Wilkins, is just as good as KatieBird’s serial killing pappy. His role is an underplayed one, but perfect in its subtlety. He’s not flamboyant, he’s not loud, he’s a man with a quiet rage inside him — just under the surface. He’s creepy, he’s sick and, scariest of all, he’s somewhat likeable.
Helen Udy (Pin, My Bloody Valentine) is also impressive as the older KatieBird. Her performance perfectly complements Dooley’s because where young KatieBird was innocent and naive to the world before her, Udy’s KatieBird is a woman who has seen, and done, some unmentionable things, and it has taken its toll on her mind — or what’s left of it.
The special effects are rock solid. The makeup effects for Dr. Richardson (Todd Gordon – Speed) were very impressive, and there are a couple of tooth extraction scenes that will make you rethink your next dental visit.
That said, after watching KatieBird, I can still only think of two female serial killer movies that are really, really solid.
So what kills it?
The goddamn editing.
There’s a thing Brian De Palma does in just about every one of his movies. Paneling. One of the most well recognized examples of this is the end of Carrie, when all hell is breaking loose at prom, and the film is split into panels so you can not only see Carrie in her blood-drenched glory, but also the high school students trampling each other to get out of the burning gymnasium.
Now, imagine watching an entire movie that is paneled.
It just doesn’t work.
I’m sure in the mind of director Justin Paul Ritter, he was doing something unique and different, something standout. And, yes, he succeeded. In its way, it is different and standout. And distracting. And annoying. And irritating. And so on.
Understandably, there will be people that will like it. Hell, the symbolism fans will love it, as it can be discussed ad nauseam. But even so, there is a reason why more movies aren’t edited like this. Because it doesn’t work.
And that’s a damn shame, because everything else does.
Video and Audio:
The 16:9 widescreen presentation is adequate. There are some signs of digital compression, but they are easily overlooked because there are some scenes, such as one that takes place in an orchard, that are absolutely beautiful and vibrant.
KatieBird’s 2.0 soundtrack sounds free and clear from any distortions. There are times when the score comes dangerously close to overtaking the dialogue, but I never found myself reaching for the remote.
- “Movies NOT Excuses” Exclusive Featurette
- “Misa Does Make-Up” – Mini-Featurette on the Make-Up of KatieBird
- Commentary by Director Justin Paul Ritter and stars Helene Udy, Taylor M. Dooley and Lee Perkins
- Theatrical and Teaser Trailers
- Trailers for Previous Heretic Releases
- DVD Easter Eggs
The “Movies NOT Excuses” featurette is a 15 minute love-fest more or less centering around Ritter. Skip it.
“Misa Does Make-Up” is a short two minutes, and, while it teaches nothing, it was a fun little watch.
The commentary is quite good and goes into not just technical aspects of the film, but a lot of behind-the-scenes tidbits. Well worth a listen.
In addition to the KatieBird trailer and teaser, there are trailers for Red Cockroaches, Last Exit, Sacred Flesh, Cold Blood, I'll Bury You Tomorrow and London Voodoo.
The Easter eggs are relatively easy to find (just hit left or right on your DVD remote on about any static menu), and they consist of various short interviews with people involved with the making of the film. The best one is with Ritter as, at one point, he discusses his feelings on gore in horror movies. Considering some of the scenes in KatieBird, it’s interesting to hear Ritter say he’s not much of a gorehound.
Also included in this special edition is the score for the movie on a separate CD.
KatieBird had a lot going for it. The story is an untapped one, the script is good, the acting is solid across the board and, shot-wise, it’s a great-looking movie. But in striving to create something different, its wings are clipped.
The acting (as well as everything else but the editing) saves KatieBird from a lower grade.
In both the commentary and the documentary, there are talks of a sequel. If Ritter can restrain from the paneling, he may have one hell of a film on his hands.
We’ll have to wait and see.