Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-02-28 04:25

Written and Directed by: James Nguyen
Starring: Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"It's the human species that needs to quit playing cowboy with nature. We must act more like astronauts, spacemen taking care of Spaceship Earth."

With The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock did for the killer bird genre what Spielberg did for my beloved killer shark genre when he made Jaws: he effectively ruined it for everyone else by pretty much making the best one possible. The only difference is that there havenít been nearly as many poor rip-offs in its wake; there have been a few notable (or not) efforts like the half-appropriately-titled Zombie 5: Killing Birds and even a made-for-tv sequel to Hitchcockís film, but for the most part, film-makers have wisely avoided taking to the skies. James Nguyen cannot be counted among the wise, as he took his love for The Birds too far when he decided to unleash Birdemic upon the world. Though itís only a couple of years old, its poor quality has already become notorious enough to have crowds flocking to it in hopes of seeing the latest cinematic train wreck wrought by the horror genre.

Rod is a hot shot software salesman whose life is taking a major upswing. The company heís working for has been bought out, allowing him to exercise his stock options and become a millionaire. About the same time, he bumps into an old crush from his high school, Nathalie, who has become a fashion model. The two hit it off well before the unspeakable happens: killer birds inexplicably descend upon their town and randomly start blowing stuff up and killing people. The two lovebirds have to hit the road with some other survivors in the hopes ofÖwell, Iím not sure what their hopes are. The plan just seems to include driving to nowhere in particular and shooting the birds out of the sky.

Nguyen refers to Birdemic as a ďromantic thrillerĒ; most sensible people would indeed call it ďtrain wreck cinema." Here at OTH, we call movies in this spirit Mozzarella Madness. It doesnít quite reach those heights (lows?) due to being quite dull for most of its running time, but itís certainly a film that owes more to Ed Wood than it does Hitchcock. Itís a truly awful experience that deserves pretty much everything thatís been said about it, including the fact that it still only manages to be watchable if youíre disposed towards watching absolute crap. Though I believe Nguyenís effort to be genuine, it certainly plays as a film thatís only noteworthy because itís so bad. Iím sure it wasnít his intention to land on the ďBest Worst MoviesĒ list, but this is destined to be the filmís fate.

It shouldnít make its way to the very top of said list though, because, really, for about half of its running time, itís just plain bad because nothing really happens. Itís here we see the romantic half of this ďromantic thriller,Ē and itís a painfully awkward one to watch. Rod and Nathalieís courtship is marked by terrible dialogue and woeful acting. Itís not just wooden--itís as if it was carved out of the biggest, sturdiest redwood tree in the forest. Fear not, though--when the action does ramp up, things donít get much better, as our two heroes just aimlessly wander from place to place and meet random people (kind of like The Littlest Hobo). Among these characters are an ornithologist and a literal tree hugger, each of whom blame the killer bird plague on global warming; in fact, thereís a staunch and not at all subtle anti-global warming message thatís almost charming in its efforts to bring some kind of method to this madness.

Oh yeah, thereís also that business about the killer birds, and the attacks will indeed slay you with their ineptness. The birds themselves are brought to life with some laughable visual effects; these graphical sprites just sort of hover about and seem to only have 2 or 3 canned animations. Watching the actors shoot them out of the sky is almost akin to watching someone play Duck Hunt if it were re-imagined with late-90s, Playstation era graphics. This is indicative of the filmís shoddy production as a whole, as there are other similarly poor effects (check out the cartoonish gun sparks that ensure you that there are indeed bullets being fired from them). The editing and sound donít fare much better, as the film is barely put together in competent fashion and the dialogue often drops in and out, depending on whether or not ADR was even applied. Letís just say it wonít surprise you to know that Nguyen has never had any formal film-making training.

Fans of stuff like Troll 2 and Plan 9 From Outer Space will certainly welcome this with open arms, as it certainly is terrible and will be a cult classic in such circles. Severin Films, known to horror fans mostly for delivering a horde of Euro-horror the past few years, snapped up the distribution rights, presumably so everyone can easily see just how bad it is. In what has to be one of the most ironic releases of all time, theyíve even put the film out on Blu-ray; itís a disc thatís far from reference quality (appropriate given that the film itself is far from any kind of quality). Iím sure itís the best this film can possibly look and sound, given the 1080p transfer and DTS-MA soundtrack, but itís kind of like trying to bleed blood from a stone. Thereís no lack of special features however, as thereís deleted scenes, a ďBirdemic Experience TourĒ feature, an interview with Nguyen, trailers, other EPK materials, and two audio commentaries that features Nguyen, Bagh, and Moore. Severin certainly has proven that no film is beneath their high standards with this release, which recently hit store shelves and rental services. Only the most devout fans of trash will need to swoop in and grab it for their collections; for most people, the best cure for Birdemic is to just Rent it!

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