Apr 15 2011

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

With a film like this, why even try? Unrateable.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror has become something of a modern day legend over the last two years.  As a recent submission into the pantheon of so-bad-its-rad films like The Room and Troll 2, Birdemic has made its way through the minds of movie geeks everywhere by way of bizarre online trailers and compilations.  Earlier this year, Birdemic was released on DVD and Blu-ray to packs of curious nerds who could finally answer the question: How bad is Birdemic?

Yes, Birdemic is terrible, but is it the right kind of terrible?  Bad films come in all shapes and sizes, and for as many as there are out there ((don’t)see: Sucker Punch), it takes a very particular brand of bad to be fully enjoyed in spite of- and because of- itself.  Birdemic is baffling and bizarre enough to fit those criteria, and although it is not quite bad/good enough to take on The Room, it is fit enough for the MST3K silhouette in all of us.

Marketed as a “romantic thriller,” Birdemic takes place in a small, coastal town in Northern California where software salesman Rod (Alan Bagh) reunites with Nathalie (Whitney Moore), an old high school classmate and apparent model (Nathalie shoots her spreads at a non-descript Rite Aid-esque location; I’m not sure what to make of that).  Just as Rod’s career and relationship with Nathalie reaches the next level, birds begin to mercilessly attack the city for no perceivable reason.

The bird effects have already become the stuff of YouTube legend, and for good reason: they are unbelievably awful.  All the birds are computer generated and look like screensaver icons from the pre-i days of Apple.  However, the birds’ appearance pales in comparison to the way they move.  Virtually every movement is impossible; they rotate a full 360 degrees, dart across the screen like computer cursors, and some of the birds seem to be set at fixed points of the picture, so when the camera moves in any way, certain birds move along with the camera, staying in the place in relation to the camera lens.  Best of all though: they explode.  No, really, the birds fly into buildings and blow up, like nature’s own kamikaze pilots.

Some may believe Birdemic to be a one trick pony, that the awkward birds are all the film has going for it, but the birds only serve as the film’s hook.  The characters and non-bird related subplots provide just as much laughter and befuddlement, particularly the environmental message that shows up at various points in the film.  Early in the film, a few characters are discussing the benefits of buying a Prius after seeing An Inconvenient Truth.  Later, the main characters come across a scientist standing in a field, and then a character known as “Tree hugger,” who both blame mankind’s treatment of the planet as the reason behind the birds’ behavior.

The acting does not help the poor dialogue, ludicrous story or the “Go Green!” plea in the film.  The acting is about as wooden as wood can get, and each character delivers their lines as though they are reading them for the first time; everything sounds stiff, stilted and entirely disconnected from the events of the film.  Appropriately enough, the sound periodically drops throughout the whole of the film, which adds to the characters’ disconnection from the plot, as well as the audiences’ idiosyncratic experience towards the film as a whole.

There is a scene that is slowly becoming popular, and was even shown in an episode of The Soup a few months back that sums up the films’ disassociation with itself: the “boardroom scene.”  In it, Rod and his co-workers are assembled and told that they succeeded in making “a part of a billion dollars,” a term so deliberately vague that it may prove that Birdemic’s auteur James Nguyen doesn’t know what words or syntax are.  This announcement is followed by two minutes of non-stop, self-congratulatory applause accompanied by a continuous pan around the room.  The vacant, smiling faces of the actors and disjointed editing provide such an off-kilter stamp on the scene that it will make one ask, “Seriously though, we’re watching real movie, right?”

Watching Birdemic is similar to watching Manos: The Hands of Fate for the first time: people will not believe what they are seeing and openly question whether or not the movie is real, or some kind of post-modern, avant garde art experiment that is meant to blow peoples’ minds.  I don’t give Nguyen that much credit, but it is something of an accidental marvel that a film so nonsensical and bizarre came together in the first place and found an audience who love a good roast.  Birdemic is no Room, but it is too bizarre to pass up.  Rent it and call some friends; you’ve got movie sign.

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