There’s something unusual and special about Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” The film doesn’t provoke fear or terror so much as anxiety. Tension as a low hum that rises until its deafening. This is evident in the final battle between humans and birds, where Melanie and Mitch are yelling at each other in a panic but can’t be heard over the deafening cocophany of birds trying to get into the house. Hitchcock places Mitch’s suspicious mother aside from the family. He shoots from low angles, so we’re always peering up at the ceiling with them. He embraces low light, but rarely utter dark (aside from moments when it’s impact will mean something). And unlike modern movies, which can’t help but reveal villains and spoil a mystery, we’re whisked away and never truly learn who or what caused the birds to attack. M. Night Shyamalan built his career on revealing unfathomable twists and mysteries, but after having finally watched “The Birds,” I’m left wondering what could have been. What if Mr. Shyamalan didn’t give it all away?
These are some twist-less alternate endings:
Reverend Graham Hess and family barely survive an alien incident by holing up in the basement of their farmhouse while rooms upstairs are taken. They realize that a few aliens have gotten into the house’s duct system, but barring that struggle, manage to make it through the night. The real culminating moment is Rory’s eventual asthma attack and their escape from the house. Maybe in this moment Ray Reddy (Shyamalan) redeems himself by driving back to pick them up, rather than leaving for the lake (because he heard the aliens don’t like water). Ray was a vet or doctor, so he would know how to handle the asthma attack. Saving Graham’s son would redeem Ray in some small way from having previously killed the reverand’s wife. And then we can leave the aliens utterly alone. Perhaps the war for humanity’s survival continues across the country, while this small, personal battle has been won. We don’t need to see a full-body alien or it’s bizarre wrist-probiscus, and we sure as hell don’t need to see one die in that drawn out “swing away” sequence. Lastly, we don’t need to see the reverend rediscover his faith, especially after, of all things, an alien invasion.
The families of an 18th-19th century, unnamed Pennsylvania town are hemmed in by the threat of creatures who live outside their borders. Break certain rules and you’re guaranteed a nightly visit by the creatures. Current elders have managed to keep the town operating peacefully for some time, but younger folk spur on an attack by playing a game where they dare each other to cross the monsters’ border. Lucius Hunt is injured during the attack while saving his blind love interest, Ivy Walker. She must return the favour by making an impossible trek to a neighboring town for an herbal medicine that their village doesn’t stock–a flower that only grows in the distant mountains. The monsters will often ignore Ivy because of her disability, but here they track her progress and at times try to stop her. She barely succeeds in her quest, the young man of her affection is revived, but the town remains prisoner of the unknown monsters. Pan slowly away.
The Sixth Sense:
Dr. Malcolm Crowe takes a sharp turn in his career path after a home invader kills his wife. Instead of continuing his highly-paid, much-lauded practice, he chooses solitude and focuses on those who can’t normally afford his services–including the Sear family. The Sear son, Cole, has been seeing strange things. State psychologists recently diagnosed him as a psychitzophrenic, but his mother doesn’t agree. First his paranormal incidents come slowly and few believe Cole. As they ramp up, the trio must survive a harrowing night where all of the ghosts want to reach the boy at once. To stop the attack, Malcolm puts Cole on a stupefying regimen of medications, halting the boy’s ability to channel (rather than saddling him with the eternal job of aiding ghosts so they’ll go away). As a byproduct of this encounter, the good doctor now sees the very same haunting spirits. The final shot is of Malcolm having breakfast and foggy breath escapes his lips. The boy’s journey is over, but now Dr. Crowe carries a burden.
What do you guys think? Are there any other Shyamalan endings you’d change, or are you content with the tweest formula?
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