Directed by Ozlem Altingoz | Review by Moumita Deb
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]xisting far above the low standards set by the archetypical modern horror films, Birth stirs up its audience in the most old-fashioned way. The most terrifying moments are the quiet moments, when the camera moves slowly and you’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what might scare you, not jumping up in the air, because a character popped up out of nowhere and the musical score included a surprise singer. The case itself is fascinating, and the film is shot from a skeptical point of view, where a family with no belief in or affinity with the supernatural world is forced to deal with something very sinister. They try and address it in a normal way, immediately making their characters more relatable, and so we’re with them when they try and sort things out. There’s a surprising amount of restraint and maturity in dealing with the subject matter. At times it has difficulty distinguishing itself from other genre classics such as Poltergeist and The Exorcist. But familiarity aside, Birth is exactly the kind of movie that other horror films should aspire to. Creepy, suspenseful and full of characters we actually care about, it delivers its scares in the best and most effective way.
It takes a skilled director who is seasoned specifically in the horror and thriller genre to craft such an effectively terrifying supernatural story with such poise and nuance that the scares relentlessly deliver and fill the viewer with indeterminable dread, and for that, Birth considerably exceeds with flying colors.
Depression soars to terrifying new heights in this suspenseful thriller that revolves around the controversial theme that not every baby is a miracle from God. A deal can be made with a demon – a soul for a soul. This is a brilliantly woven plot about a man who struggles to save his family from an unspeakable evil. Birth centers on his harrowing ordeal, as his once tranquil home is suddenly transformed into an inescapable house of horrors, the brave man vows to protect his defenseless wife from an evil they could never imagine.
It’s intense, mainly due to the fact that you have a real rooting interest in your victims. They’re naïve babies who are crying out loud. No one wants to see them harmed in any way. Another main factor is the acting, particularly from the two leads.
Isabel as Mom is nothing short of terrifying. Her facial expressions are the real deal and that, more than anything else, gives her the ability to make you wonder what she could possibly do next. I wouldn’t call it a scary movie, per se, but it features an unsettling and creepy vibe throughout nonetheless. Some scenes are very effective since they hint to extreme violence without becoming overly graphic. There’s definitely a skulk factor running throughout the film. The movie offers all the Catholic mysticism you expect from an exorcism flick.
Overall, you get some solid jump scares, intense family drama, atmospheric creepiness and the requisite preternatural intensity of possession.
With great performances from the cast to a compelling story, this movie takes the time to build up the dread and scariness throughout.
Much to our satisfaction, filmmaker defies the done-to-death horror movie clichés that have so far caused most people to disregard the genre. There are no cheap thrills, no over-the-top sound effects, no annoying camera angles (found footage style), overindulgence in gore or visual grossness and no aping horror’s cult classics.
Ozlem does not succumb to sensationalizing the story either. It’s the subtle and steady build-up of suspense and psychological tension, coupled with sudden spine-chilling scares and dramatic silences that make you go numb with fear. Above all, other than demons, evil spirits, ghosts and darkness, the film has a soul, where you feel for the characters, which very few horror films manage to achieve.
Performances are understated, yet effective and enact with utmost conviction. Serrano’s performance as a vulnerable Amy is noteworthy. Director artfully pulls all the right strings to create an atmosphere so tense and unnerving that if evil spirits feed on your fear, so does the film.
It’s a cliché to call the house a character in the film, but it will suffice to say the production design is impeccable enough to render every nook and cranny both homely and dangerous. The vivid cinematography is particularly worthy of mention, painting haunting Gothic textures on both interiors and exteriors, and rendering the difficult moments with a terrible beauty that only emphasizes their ugliness. The slow reveal that there are different spirits with different agendas at work in the house is masterfully handled, and even the lurch into screaming exorcist territory feels like a natural crescendo rather than an onslaught of overwrought effects.
Moumita is a Kolkata based independent filmmaker and film critic. She holds a post- graduation degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. Reading novels of a wide range of authors of all genres from classic to contemporary has always been Moumita’s passion and calling. She also takes a strong liking in playing the Spanish guitar & has participated in quite a few concerts. Moumita has done her certification course in Cinematography, Video Editing and Filmmaking.