‘Birder’ Review: New Queer Erotic Thriller Bares It All


Navigating consent and evolving sexual tastes in the bedroom, while a necessary part of life, is so often ignored in cinema. Unless someone is being assaulted (or on the verge of being assaulted), consent is all but ignored, as well as the reality of sexual desire. But, in their film Birder, director Nate Dushku and writer Amnon Lourie, craft a stunning erotic thriller unafraid of portraying queer reality while also creating a fascinating and chilling sociopath.

Birder follows Kristian (Michael Emery), an attractive young bird watcher who knows just what to say. He travels to Locus Cove, a clothing-optional campground where queers flock to sunbathe, fuck, swim, and relax. In other words, it’s a safe space where queerness is embraced and celebrated. But then, Kristian arrives, stripped of his clothes but still wearing a mask as he infiltrates this small queer community.

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He quickly becomes the talk of the campground, a new guy with a great body and a sweet smile. Everyone wants a taste, and he’s ready to share the love. That love is rough, appearing first as kinky roleplay (dirty talk, asking to be called daddy) and breathe play, including choking, which his lovers enthusiastically enjoy. Word spreads about Kristian’s skills in the sleeping bag as kink is openly and proudly discussed, which is refreshing in an increasingly puritanical world, especially when it comes to queer sex.

But just as consent and kink are skillfully navigated, Kristian shatters that trust with shocking acts of violence that make such a tranquil space feel instantly dirty and no longer a safe haven. As Birder progresses and more secrets are revealed, Kristian’s mask slips as he reveals the sociopathic monster underneath.

Emery steals the show as Kristian, creating a charming chameleon who shifts his personality, interests, and even his past depending on the audience. Even when he pretends to be warm, Emery still makes Kristian feel distant, an unknowable person who wears identities like costumes. He’s both warm and cold, sweet and disgusting, a queer villain that contains multitudes.

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Supporting Emery is a stunning cast that interacts as if they’re all old friends. Birder is steeped in casual intimacy, which makes Kristian’s behavior all the more violating. These people love one another, perhaps not romantically, but as friends and occasional lovers. They drape themselves on each other, gently kiss as a greeting, and bare their bodies with utmost comfort. This feels like a real community, shattered by random violence against queer bodies.

And, to be perfectly honest, Birder is sexy. First and foremost, everyone is nude, with male and female frontal nudity alike. Butts abound as men devour Kristian with their eyes. And Kristian devours them right back in each sex scene, which start as exciting and quickly veer into danger. Each sexual encounter is different, with Kristian never showing his hand when it comes to his true desire. It’s erotic and terrifying, all in the same breath.

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On the flip side, when it comes to violence, Birder is almost too restrained. I understand the goal of subverting expectations of exploitative violence paired with queer sex to keep this from becoming a story about punishing gay men. But at the same time, the kills are repetitive and feel like an afterthought rather than important setpieces. Again, perhaps this was Dushku and Lourie’s goal, which engages an important conversation of expectations of brutal violence with sex of any kind. 

Ultimately, Birder is one of 2024’s indie hidden gems that deserves love for how daring the entire team was in crafting a smart, devious erotic thriller navigating kink, sex, intimacy, and identity. This film is the perfect example of why queer filmmakers should be trusted with queer narratives; a deep love and care about a subject often leads to genuine and nuanced storytelling. 



Birder is one of 2024’s indie hidden gems.


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