Walking alone in a city shouldn’t be an adrenaline-inducing experience. Taking public transport by oneself shouldn’t be a fraught choice. For women it can be though, and Shelly Lauman’s Birdie taps into that universal fear and confronts its viewers with a scenario many will find too relatable for comfort. An intense exploration of the unseen horrors that in fact happen in plain sight, Birdie follows a woman in an underground train station as she enters a gut-clenching game of cat and mouse with a stranger. The film’s striking approach to psychological horror turns the gendered violence of the male gaze into a jump scaring monster, dramatizing an experience that no-one should have to feel, but everyone should learn to understand. Lauman’s work raises questions not just about how one should have reacted to the situation, but how toxic the male gaze can be without lifting a finger or saying a word. In many ways, the two men on skateboards became villains by sheer imagination and it challenges the audience to decide if she was really threatened or not.

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