Natural Evil in the Horror Film: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

in The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television
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In this chapter I discuss horror films whose monsters are natural creatures, focusing on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). When a bird or a cat is the villain of a horror film, Noël Carroll’s well-known theory of horror does not apply, since natural creatures cannot be monsters in his view. I have argued that horror films offer unique visions of evil. The Birds resists framing within a modern agent-centred conception of evil. Interpretations (including psychoanalytic ones) go wrong by seeking to account for what happens here in terms of just punishment for repressed, now-released desires. But The Birds offers a more profound vision of cosmic structures that are evil or indifferent. By disrupting our sense of the world’s basic nature, this film creates a powerful sense of dread and horror. The universe may not conform to human plans or expectations, including the hope for rational explanation of dire events.