Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne, Adam Sessa, and five seconds of stock footage of Tippi Hedren from a previous film
Written and directed by James Nguyen, Master of Romantic Thrillers™
Words fail. Language fails. Descriptions fail. If ever there was a movie that had to be seen and heard to be believed, to which only your own eyes and ears can do justice, it would most certainly be Birdemic: Shock and Terror. It should have been subtitled "Shock and Awe" because that is the state it will leave you in.
Everything about this movie is wrong, and that is not an exaggeration. The acting is wrong. The directing is wrong. The screenwriting is wrong. The cinematography is wrong. The color correction is wrong. The sound is wrong. The sound mixing is wrong. The special effects are wrong. Everything is wrong. James Nguyen takes the basic fundamentals of filmmaking and annihilates them over and over again until his avian epic comes to a mindblowing conclusion. Nothing about this movie has been done properly, and keep in mind this is Nguyen's third stab at filmmaking and he was so proud of the finished product he arrived at the Sundance Film Festival touting his "romantic thriller" as a motion picture with value outside of being hailed as this generation's Plan 9 from Outer Space (a comparison I do not consider apt because I dare say Ed Wood's bad movie masterpiece was a more competently composed work of cinema).
Birdemic is simply beyond film criticism. You cannot critique it as you would a normal film. I cannot even in good conscience label Birdemic so bad it's good. It's not good on any possible level. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. But not because it's so bad it's good. Birdemic's only redeeming quality is like that of sideshow spectacle. If PT Barnum were alive today, he would put this movie on display in a traveling carnival of freaks to be gawked at, to inspire mockery, revulsion, and even pity. Let me assure you that everything I am about to tell you is merely a drop in the bucket of what you can expect when you watch Birdemic - and you must watch Birdemic. I viewed it four times over the course of four days, each time exposing a new set of friends, family, and coworkers to it with all of them coming away from the experience delirious for a variety of reasons.
Nor can one spoil a movie like this. I could tell you about how the lead's best friend utters the line "A day without sex is like a day wasted", but print does not do justice to actually hearing the flatness of how the line is delivered or the half-hearted fist-pumping action that accompanies it. I could tell you how the leads take a romantic walk on the beach during which you can barely comprehend a word they are saying drowned out by the deafening roar of the ocean, but that does not compare to witnessing this for yourself and trying to resist the urge to yell "What!?" back at the screen. I could tell you about the one-dimensional flash animation visual effects of killer eagles barely flapping their wings as they hover in place superimposed over moving footage or the kamikaze airplane noises they tend to make as they dive bomb targets and explode into fiery Photoshopped balls of fire or how when how the visuals of the birds getting shot down make you feel like you're playing a light gun video game (if only a snickering dog popped up whenever they missed), but none of that is a substitution for actually bearing witness to these moments yourself.
It's just not the same reading about how frequently shots are out of focus or improperly framed or feature jarring edits mid-sentence or close-ups are edited to feel like jump cuts or reaction shots either have or lack background noise not matching the previous shot or how the handicam sometimes jitters or how the actors are shown standing in place before the action begins or how panning to the right appeared to be Nguyen's favorite cinematography technique and so on and so on. Birdemic can only be seen to be believed and, yes, you owe it to yourself to see it. You will laugh uproariously. You will hurt unequivocally. You will be left dumbstruck. You will be rendered speechless.
Nguyen fancies Birdemic a romantic thriller. That means the first half focuses entirely on the budding romance between environmentally conscious software salesman Rod and Nathalie, a fashion model who does photoshoots at small town one-hour photomats and then gets word that she has been offered the cover of the next Victoria's Secret catalogue.
They meet on the street when Rod recognizes Nathalie. After establishing that they attended high school together, Rod then asks Nathalie where she is from. Shouldn't he already know that if they went to school together? Rod will go on to give Nathalie compliments on her physical beauty that would give any real woman a sense that this guy is creepy stalker material, not boyfriend material. To be fair, that also has as much to do with the horrible acting as it does the horrible screenwriting.
Leading man Alan Bagh may be the single worst actor of all time, and that includes pornography. To stand out head and shoulders as the worst actor in a movie so rife with bad actors (I only use the word "actors" because it is much easier to write than "people that awkwardly and unconvincingly say and do stuff") is an astounding feat.
Lead actress Whitney Moore is easy on the eyes but hard on the ears. She at least sounds like she might have a teeny tiny smidgen of acting ability, or it could just be that when you're performing opposite Alan Bagh, even a corpse could sound lifelike.
If you think their acting is bad, then just wait until you see them dance. You know the old jokes about white people having no rhythm? You have no idea. No one should ever try doing "The Robot" to R&B music.
A boardroom applauds at news that their tech company has been sold for a billion dollars. Everyone claps. Then they stop clapping. Then Nguyen cuts to another section of the table, and they begin clapping again. Their clapping dies down, and Nguyen cuts to more people seated around the table as they begin clapping. Their clapping ceases, and he cuts to another section of the table as they, too, begin clapping. Nguyen is trying to create the impression of prolonged clapping but so incompetently edits the scene that it appears more as if their applause is circling the table like fans at a sporting event doing the wave. A moment just begging for audience participation.
About halfway in is when a flock of eagles go on the attack and spend the remainder of the movie seemingly following Rod and Nathalie, the ex-Marine and his girlfriend they meet up with, and the two children they rescue from the side of the road during another bird attack as everyday motorists unaware they are appearing in a movie casually drive past in the background.
The first encounter has them fighting the birds with coat hangers. I am not making this up. Back-to-back, vigorously swatting at a flock of flash animated birds with motel room metal coat hangers as they desperately seek to make their way to an escape vehicle. Joan Crawford would have kicked ass in this movie.
Constantly being attacked by a flock of birds everywhere you go? They go on a picnic out in the open with no shelter.
"I'm hungry. I was under that car a long time."
A gunman tries to rob of them of their last can of gasoline. After the gunman is dealt with, they proceed to drive off and leave the gas can on the side of the road.
From James Nguyen, the self-professed "master of romantic thrillers."
How many romantic thrillers can lay claim that the bulk of their finale is built around a guy fishing for food, a girl scrounging for seaweed to cook with the fish, and kids whining they'd rather eat Happy Meals? Rod finds a fishing rod in the back of the van, "There's a fishing rod back here. I can go catch us some fish." It was with that lifeless line reading that I began to wonder if Birdemic wasn't really some crackpot movie version of the old Oregon Trail computer game. The boy had previously injured his leg and their transportation had just broken down; only thing missing was for the little girl to die from dysentery.
And then the very end - I couldn't accurately describe it even if I wanted to. An astonishing mix of utter bewilderment and epic staring - the most epic stare-a-thon in the history of cinema. Not even Andy Warhol in his most drugged-up experimental cinema phase would have put together an ending like that of Birdemic. Unreal.
No explanation is ever given as to why the birds attack. All we know is that global warming is in some way, some form, somehow responsible. How do we know this? Because darn near everything in Birdemic in some way, some form, somehow ties into global warming. An Inconvenient Truth is less preachy about global warming than Birdemic. This film even includes a scene in which characters go on a double-date to see Al Gore's documentary, declare it a great film afterwards, and make vows to switch to more environmentally friendly vehicles. Rod even starts a green tech company. An ornithologist they happen upon, the only person who provides any inkling as to why the birds have gone berserk - I was not aware that global warming was responsible for bird flu and SARS and by being responsible for the loss of krill in the ocean could cause eagles to regress to their prehistoric predatory behavior. This scientist ends his speech declaring that man is the true monster for trashing the planet. Later they meet a hippie treehugger living in a treehouse in the forest; his hilarious diatribe incoherently rambles about the glory of the California Redwoods and how tragic it is that global warming is killing them off by causing the proliferation of the destructive bark beetle. Then they all get run off by the growl of a mountain lion - a loud grumbling growl that sounds more like it would be coming out of the mouth of Sasquatch or possibly Frankenstein's monster. A pity it wasn't Frankenstein because he could have walked onto the screen, waved his arm disapprovingly, and grunted out "Global warming baaaaaaaaaaad!"
Nguyen also tosses in some anti-war propaganda with a near sex scene staged in front of a bedroom wall decorated only with a piece of white cardboard paper and the URL for a pacifist website. He also makes a heck of a statement by having that ex-Marine explain the reason he left the military was because he could no longer take all the senseless killing in Iraq, also perfectly explaining why he now travels around with a loaded machine gun and multiple handguns in his van.
So as with every other aspect of his magnum opus, even Nguyen's sincere attempts at making political statements lead us down the road to cinematic hell.
You know whom I really feel sorry for in the wake of Birdemic? Troll 2. Here that wretched excuse of a movie has been waging a campaign to be hailed the new best worst movie ever made, and right as it was beginning to gain some respect for its astonishing badness, along comes Birdemic: Shock and Terror to blow it out of the water. The bar is now so low I cannot fathom anything ever unseating it. If something does, God help us. God help us all.
5 out of 5 exploding eagles!