There are enough serial killer movies out there making a kerfuffle of video store shelves everywhere that, after looking both ways of course, I think it’s safe to venture forth and say that over the years, and with the accumulation of titles, a film sub genre has emerged. Most of these movies feature male killers, and more often than not, female characters inhabiting the role of the prey. As the title of the movie in question perhaps intimates, KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person is not one of those films. Rather, KatieBird has more in common with two other recent movies which serve as exceptions to this male killer stereotype, Audition and Monster, simply because all three revolve around a serial murderess that preys exclusively on male victims – in some surprisingly savage and sadistic ways.
KatieBird Wilkens meets with her therapist Dr. Richardson inside a dimly lit apartment. I doubt I need to clarify that Richardson is not a therapist of the physical variety, but even so, their ‘session” does turn quite physical rather quickly. Evidently KatieBird is very familiar with Dr. Richardson’s unorthodox bedside manner however, and seems willing to go along for the ride - so to speak. Regardless of how things may initially appear, it soon becomes abundantly clear that it is actually KatieBird who is in control of the situation, as she takes Dr. Richardson by the throat and leads him kicking and bleeding on a violent and hellish trip down memory lane.
Despite its somewhat silly title, KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person is an excellent example of quality low-budget filmmaking - and no that is not a paradox. This is not to say that it is in anyway flawless, but even so, it exceeds its budgetary constraints, and given its limitations, excels in almost every respect.
Of all the film’s elements, easily the strongest are its visuals. The film’s director/writer/ producer/editor, Justin Paul Ritter, employs an interesting and daring visual approach by using a split screen, multi-paneled image throughout the entire film. Sometimes the image is split in half, horizontally, then vertically - then reduced to thirds, appearing as strips, or blocks, both staggered and symmetrical. Occasionally with its fragmented visuals the film even resembles and attains the quality of a page torn from a comic book. I have no doubt that some viewers will find this element of the movie to be merely distracting or possibly unbearable, and while I didn’t feel that it worked all of the time, I never felt it was confusing or overly gimmicky. Rather, more often than not, it energized the film and heightened the overall viewing experience.
Furthermore, it’s also in accord with the film’s subject matter and actually accentuates it quite well. First time cinematographer Josh Fong does an exceptional job with the cinematography. His compositions are often dynamic, seizing your attention while fully complementing the story and drawing you into the world of the film. The movie’s overall image quality is really quite good. It’s difficult to say if Fong lit this digital movie as one would if shooting on film, or if it was some post production tinkering on the image, (or perhaps some of both) but this digital feature comes closer than most low-budget endeavors to emulating the depth of image tonality and range of visual quality common to film stock.
In terms of its visual merits, KatieBird also features some pretty damn good, old-fashioned effects work. The movie is exceptionally brutal and bloody, featuring two lengthy torture sequences in which KatieBird slices and dices her way towards ecstasy. It should please viewers who like when their television screen drips with blood, while those who are squeamish might want to give KatieBird a wide berth. Anyone who thinks low-budget movies and bad acting are inevitably linked, need not worry in this case. The actors do a fine job with material that is not without its difficulties. The cast features seasoned actors like Helene Udy (My Bloody Valentine, The Dead Zone) as the adult KatieBird, as well as newcomer Taylor M. Dooley who does a splendid job playing KatieBird as a teenager. Suffice it to say, the casting is really good and not the usual weak spot many have grown accustomed to, and wary of, when watching a low-budget movie.
If I have a major complaint however, it is with the film's story. There just simply isn’t enough story to constitute or propel a feature length movie. There is about an hour’s worth of material here, tops, but the film stretches this simple story out over 100 minutes. Consequently, the movie becomes a little thin in places, and despite its kinetic visuals, tends to lag now and again. In addition to this, at times the film and its characters had an offbeat tone that I liked, for the most part, and yet there were instances when the way characters responded to situations seemed artificial and the story began to feel slightly repetitive. Still the good outweighs the bad and KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy person is definitely worth checking out, and certainly recommended to adventurous viewers who like their horror movies bloodstained, extreme and willing to push at the boundaries of cinema.
Heretic Films does KatieBird justice by giving it a nice DVD release. As mentioned, the image looks good, with bright, saturated colors and only a few very minor imperfections. DVD extras include a commentary with the director and stars Helene Udy, Taylor M. Dooley and Lee Perkins, liner notes by the director, trailers for the film, a Heretic promo reel, and some DVD Easter Eggs. The DVD also has a featurette titled “Movies NOT Excuses” which could have been more aptly titled “Justin Paul Ritter: Certifiable Crazy Person.” I appreciate the director’s passion and go-getter attitude, but he comes off a bit like a crazed Tony Robbins for film industry wannabes. The last extra is an additional disc that features the film’s somewhat effective (barring the goofy growling) soundtrack.