Houses of Horror #1: The Birds (1963)

There are four famous horror films in Tracey Snelling's 'The Last House on The Left' art installation. Each day this week I'll feature one in a short video clip, and provide brief commentary on the related film.

Miniature version of the house from The Birds (1963). Not the romantic place I've ever seen...
Miniature version of the house from The Birds (1963). Not the romantic place I've ever seen...
Miniature version of the house from The Birds (1963). Not the most romantic place I’ve ever seen…

“Cover your faces! Cover your eyes!”

Recall the most iconic horror films in modern times, and chances are you’ll envision a spooky house or building.

In The Shining (1980), who could ever forget the Overlook Hotel, every bit the equal of Jack Nicolson’s maniacal character Jack Torrance.

Mia Farrow didn’t exactly appreciate having a coven of witches as neighbors in her creepy apartment in Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

And in Psycho (1960), perhaps the most famous horror film of all time, Norman and mother could be heard having arguments in a looming home overlooking the Bates Motel.

Being a fan of the genre, when I heard artist Tracey Snelling’s latest installation was a homage to horror films and the houses that we so fondly (or frighteningly) remember so well, I grabbed my camera and dashed off to take a look. What I discovered was the scariest neighborhood of all time. Tracey has taken iconic houses, and created miniature versions. Form afar, across the airy gallery at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, it looks like a slice of everyday Americana. Get closer, though, and something doesn’t seem right. Oh, maybe it’s the walls of blood, the birds pecking a family’s eyeballs out, or incessant wailing that provide tiny clues.

I thought I’d have some fun with this. It’s simply too good to pass up for a horror fiend like me.

There are four famous horror films in Tracey’s “The Last House on The Left” art installation. Each day this week I’ll feature one in a short video clip, and provide brief commentary on the related film. On Friday, I’ll reveal the artist herself, and publish the interview I recorded last week.

House of Horror #1: The Birds (1963)

Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen The Birds, then you might want to skip my commentary, and instead go watch the classic horror film.

The thing I most remember about Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is the ending. It’s bleak. Unresolved. And ties absolutely nothing at all into a neat ribbon. I can imagine the crowds leaving theaters in the early 60’s, scratching their heads. Hitch had done it again. Unlike Psycho (1960), which would be his top grossing film, this one didn’t have an epilogue. It seemed that Bodega Bay, and possibly the entire country, was under a siege for which there was no logical–and certainly no historical–response.

SEE: Jessalyn Gilsig, from ‘Glee’ to ‘Vikings’ and ‘Somewhere Slow’ (Outtakes)

Tippi Hedren is pitch perfect; coy, with buckets of charisma, and style. In a way she was a lost Audrey Hepburn unwittingly caught in a world without Tiffany’s, all-night binges, and impromptu fire escape performances. Who knew that two love birds, literally and figuratively, would find themselves torn to bits, bleeding and struggling for survival when just days earlier they were flirting innocently enough in a San Francisco pet store?

There’s plenty of black humor here too. I can only imagine Alfred Hitchcock chuckling to himself as he filmed the attack of the children’s birthday party. Happy Birthday to you!

San Francisco Bay Area Arts and CultureHouses of Horror Week on Stark Insider

Houses of Horror #1: The Birds (1963)

Houses of Horror #2: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Houses of Horror #3: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Houses of Horror #4: Halloween (1978)

Interview with artist Tracey Snelling

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