The Birds and Attack the Block come to different conclusions about outsiders

Outsiders can generally be found at the center of horror movies. Their presence causes a disturbance that sends the community, whether it’s a summer camp, a small town, an apartment, or a neighborhood block, into flux. The values of the outsider gives the horror something to oppress, and the character a core system of belief to uphold. This can be most easily be pointed out in slasher movies where disruption generally follows “The Last Girl” or the virgin. Because she won’t conform to the standards of her sinful friends, she must uphold her pureness against the monster. In the end, if she can maintain her beliefs, she will survive.

Two movies in particular use the disruption of outsiders to their own advantage, one to punish and the other to politicize. The Birds and Attack the Block were made for and in different eras. The former exists at the dawn of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution, the latter in a world rife with gentrification and racial profiling. But while these movies seem completely different externally, at their core, they pit a social outsider against an invasion, allowing them to be punished or vindicated.

Melanie Daniels, the protagonist and lead disruptor of The Birds, is a character defined by her difference. She enters a small town uninvited and begins to weasel her way into the domestic life of a new male suitor, Mitch Brenner. Her appearance causes an upheaval of land and air when everyday birds begin attacking the small town of Bodega Bay. The deeper involved she gets with Mitch, the more destructive the birds become. Melanie causes a brief riff in the natural order of things, namely between Mitch’s relationship to his mother and sister, and the birds represent the calamity it’s causing for dear old mom.

Moses causes a similar disruption in Attack the Block. Set in London, Moses undergoes a series of transformations before realizing his potential. Starting as young street thug, Moses robs a young woman and is later arrested just as a group of hairy beasts from outer space invade earth. The more we learn about Moses, the more we realize what kind of life he has had. The block hasn’t been kind to Moses. Between police and dealers, everyone expects him to grow a certain way and head down a certain path. As they are wont to do, the threat of alien invasion changes his course.

Cause and blame play a big role for these outsiders. In each case, the film’s disruptor is thrown into a problem, which they are either blamed for or blame themselves for. Melanie’s accuser, a local woman, verbally attacks her and places the invasion squarely on her shoulders. Likewise, Moses has a moment of reflection where he realizes that had he not robbed this woman, these creatures would not have attacked his apartment. Neither are actually at fault, though. These external factors play as symbols for their everyday problems. Melanie is just normal woman with unrestrained personality and Moses is just a troubled kid. However, because of the society that surrounds them, they cannot avoid being at the center of controversy.

Ultimately for the outsider, they must either overcome their restrictions or be overtaken by them. For Melanie, Hitchcock punishes her for being a woman and a disruptor in a patriarchal world. By the end of the film, she’s left traumatized by her quest to strike out on her own and sacrifice herself to the birds. Hoping that her offering herself to the birds would end the terror, the birds’ dominance over the film’s final shot suggests that Melanie has not gained anything by the film’s end, except for the respect of Mitch’s mother. Moses has a much more gratifying conclusion. After realizing that his attackers were essentially judging him by his clothes, signifying his role in society, he sheds his skin and uses some of that misplaced ingenuity. As the police escort him away, in another thinly-veiled metaphor, the apartment chants his name as the heroic victor of the block.

Both Melanie and Moses work against the course of the rest of the film. People react to them on sight, because they impose themselves on other people. Melanie willingly breaks into Mitch’s house as a means of flirting, and Moses robs as a means of dominance. However, in the horror movie, one must be able to defend their lifestyle or be punished for it. And depending on how the filmmaker judges of outsiders, their fates can go either way.

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