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KatieBird* Certifiable Crazy Person - Heretic Films Print E-mail
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Written by T.W. Anderson   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

"KatieBird" DVD - Severed Cinema

Directed by: Justin Paul Ritter
Written by: Justin Paul Ritter
Produced by: Justin Paul Ritter
Cinematography by: Joshua Fong
Edited by: Justin Paul Ritter
Special Effects by: Michael Measimer, Misa Aikawa
Music by: Daniel Iannantuono
Cast: Helen Udy, Taylor M. Dooley, Nicole Jarvis, Todd Gordon, Jun Hee Lee, Lee Perkins
Year: 2005
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 100 minutes


Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Distributor: Heretic Films
Official Website: www.katiebirdthemovie.com

http://severed-cinema.com/images/horizon.jpg

Ever since Peter Lorre whistled his way in to infamy in Fritz Lang’s seminal opus “M”, the world has held a collective breath and clutched a pounding heart as serial killer cinema has invaded our homes, our lives and our minds.  Over the past several years, with the success of “Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven”, the serial killer film has been working overtime to move from niche genre to mainstream staple.  But, just as the world felt a little safer around the likes of Hannibal Lecter and John Doe, a new breed of film was taking shape – the female serial killer film. 

Charlize Theron brought esteemed recognition to the sub-genre with her Oscar wining portrayal of true-life murder Aileen Wuornos, but Academy approval has done little to push the lady-killers out from the shadows of cinematic obscurity.  Still, the past decade has produced some notable psycho’s, including Debbie Rochon’s brilliant performance as uber-wacko Jane Toppan in Jon Keeyes’ “American Nightmare” (an interesting side note, Rochon’s character was named after a late 19th century nurse who is purported to have killed over 70 of her patients, in what may be the first reported case of an actual female serial killer on record). Now as the genre has begun to sneak its bloody fingertips from around the cinematic corner, Director Justin Paul Ritter has brought forth a new filmic icon to rival even the most insane of all celluloid stalkers – Friends and family members, run for your lives, “KatieBird” is coming.

Ritter’s film opens as our heroine (Helen Udy) and her lover, psychiatrist Dr. Richardson (Todd Gordon), have returned to her apartment for an evening tryst.  Soon, KatieBird has Dr. Richardson chained to the bed for a night that he will never forget.  Once our bad-ass beauty has her beau under lock and key, she begins to relay the strange journey that leads her from bright eyed child to wild eyed maniac with a penchant for torture. As KatieBird’s story unfolds, it mirrors itself in the every escalating torment of the good doctor.

The heart, or perhaps throat, of “KatieBird” lies in Helen Udy, and Taylor M. Dooley’s tour de force performances as both the adult and teen embodiments of KatieBird Wilkins.  Udy’s characterization of the adult KatieBird brings a cold manipulation and searingly intense level of psychosis to the screen. That coupled with her unrivaled sexual aggression is sure to leave even the most jaded viewer with significant moments of unease. In fact, I’m hard pressed to recall a more domineering female characterization.  But it’s Dooley’s performance as the teen version of our heroine that is defined by her twisted wonderment, as a lifetime of repressed emotions surface with locomotive speed when she first realizes the power she wields as a torturess.  Dooley’s encapsulation of teen KatieBird may be the more compelling of the two, although that is no slight on Udy’s turn. Dooley is forced to present the KatieBird as not only an emotionally immature young girl, but as a fearsome and wicked predator; a tough task to ask anyone to do, let alone an actress making her feature film debut. In Dooley’s deft hands KatieBird comes off as a fully realized three dimensional figure and her near flawless performance rides the razors edge without ever passing from overt insanity to outrageous camp.  The world may not be prepared for the madness of KatieBird Wilkins but Hollywood better be prepared for the force of nature that is Taylor Dooley.

The direction from first time feature film helmsman Justin Paul Ritter is as crazed as it is calculating. Borrowing from the book of DePalma, Ritter takes the use of split screen to a level not seen since Norman Jewison’s 1968 masterpiece “The Thomas Crown Affair”. What makes the film so disorienting is Ritter’s employment of structured and repetitive editing techniques to deconstruct the psyche of both his characters as well as their situations. The entire film plays out like some scrapbook storyboard illustrating the artful disintegration of a serial killers mind.  In addition to the architectural constructs of the framing, the juxtaposition of strikingly beautiful backdrops -- specifically the orchard sequence -- belie the horror of reality and recollect Terrence Malick’s brilliant and equally unwavering debut film, “Badlands”.  But Ritter’s picture is not derivative; far from it.  In fact it’s one of the most ferociously original films I’ve seen in years. From the dark and ramshackle narrative construction to the glorious cinematography, the film radiates with the passion and insanity of both Justin Paul Ritter and KatieBird Wilkins, exemplifying the best characteristics and the quintessential essence of a truly great independent film.  Ritter has not only created a stunning success, he has crafted an extraordinary calling card for his cast and crew.

"KatieBird" Poster - Severed Cinema

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:

- Movies NOT Excuses –Featurette
- Misa Does Make-Up – The Make-up of “KatieBird
- Liner Notes from Director Justin Paul Ritter
- Audio Commentary by Justin Paul Ritter, Helen Udy, Taylor M. Dooley and Lee Perkins
- Theatrical and Teaser Trailers
- Easter Eggs
- Limited Edition CD Soundtrack

There are two main points of focus when looking over the supplemental materials that Heretic Films has compiled for the DVD release of Justin Paul Ritter’s “KatieBird”. The first addendum is the surprising “Movies NOT Excuses” featurette. Ostensibly a love letter from Ritter to a cast and crew who broke their backs to make a decade-long dream into reality, the featurette is really a cleverly disguised -- well perhaps not so disguised -- manifesto for Ritter’s own filmmaking-life-philosophy, which can simply be summed by saying: if you want to do something get off your ass, turn off the T.V. and go do it. As taken aback as I was by the purpose of this proposal I was equally captured by Ritter’s pure DiY fortitude. I was waiting for an 800 number to pop up on the screen as Ritter preached the gospel of a punk rock filmmaking aesthetic, in fact, after watching Ritter and his crew’s enthusiasm and obsession for microbudget filmmaking, I was ready to give ‘em all my money. Hey gang, where do you want the checks sent?

The other main attraction on the DVD is the audio commentary. Now, for the most part, I think that commentary tracks are like some form of audio porn laid down on DVD’s for rich film school brats to listen to while eating sushi and pounding out horrible drivel that they claim is artsy but is really just pretentious posturing and mock intellectuality. But, Ritter’s commentary is something a little different. It’s still got that same “feel good mentality”, but Ritter’s personality shines through, making the commentary feel more like watching the flick with a couple of film geek buddies and just rapping about the shit on the screen, than a dissertation on the merits of ultra low budget filmmaking. For Udy’s part in the voice over, she seems preoccupied with the technical logistics behind the scenes. Since Udy will be directing her own feature later this year with the forthcoming film Zero Principal, I can see where her intentions and interests lie, but the momentary breaks in conversation to talk about camera setup and lighting design only serve to bust up the jovial and anecdotal atmosphere of the track. Dooley and Perkins, offer some interesting insight into their super dysfunctional father/daughter relationship as well as jawbone and pat each other on the back a few too many times.

Overall the supplemental features are a nice package for a film like “KatieBird”, and considering the miniscule crew -- Ritter notes at one point that they did not even have a still photographer on set, which made for some interesting continuity issues --it is hard to pine for behind the scenes footage. Also, for you fans out there, I’d like to point out that only the first 5,000 copies of the DVD will feature the excellent CD score from composer Daniel Iannantuono, and that addition of his classical meets metal cacophony is well worth a spin or two, so pick up the disc early. Don’t hesitate, make a date with "KatieBird" but don’t forget to bring protection!!!

 

RATING:
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema

 

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

"KatieBird" Screenshot - Severed Cinema

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