Well, this was going to be a Name-That-Trauma but I got good and lucky using IMDB’s keyword search. And if you’ve ever seen this movie you’ll already know the one I mean when I say that the keywords were “dead bird.”
This was one of those films that would run late, late, LATE at night when I was a kid and 24-hour news and informercials hadn’t yet been invented. I’m talking about programming geared for insomniacs and swing-shift workers. Or kids who were awake way past bedtime. I think back and realize I either stayed up that late a LOT or else my melatonin-deprived brain turned anything I witnessed at 3:15 a.m. into a trauma, because I sure seem to recall a bunch of chilling scenes.
This one, though, probably tops the list. It’s not scary, really, but it sure is horrible. Moral horror, my favorite kind. Here’s the setup:
There are these three teenagers on summer vacation, palling around on the beach for days on end and getting a little too friendly at night for a trio. In the end, this arrangement leads to trouble, but I didn’t stay tuned that long. I was too shocked by a scene in which the boys find the girl with a seagull that they’d found on the beach, wounded. They’d nursed it back to health and were going to let it go that day. It was all very heartwarming as the guys made their way up the beach to meet the girl at their little bird sanctuary.
And when they got there, they found she’d crushed the bird with a stone. The reason? She couldn’t bear to let it go, she loved it too much and knew it would just fly away and never come back. I didn’t know what foreshadowing was at the time, but nowadays that sends up a red flag. I may be a bit fuzzy on the details. I also seem to recall that they DID let the bird go and it got injured again, and THEN she killed it.
The point is, she had a rationalization for her heinous act and explained it without a hint of remorse. And the guys knew she was crazy right then but stayed with her because…well, it wasn’t the healthiest relationship in the first place. And that just messed up my young mind in the worst way. Ever since, folks who find themselves doing the wrong thing for the right reason have creeped me out far more than zombies or homicidal maniacs.
The movie’s title, BTW, is LAST SUMMER. Not an easy title to research, thanks to those I KNOW WHAT YOU DID movies. And the girl with the borderline personality? BARBARA HERSHEY, who was evidently as disturbed by the aviacidal scene as I was.
And yes, it’s on YouTube, so I finally got to see the whole thing. Turns out I was a bit off on the motivation, but it was foreshadowing all right. It’s quite a film that manages to scar you twice, in viewings decades apart.
AUNT JOHN SEZ: Dead bird alert at the 8:09 mark:
“He was just a stupid bird”: