CAPSULE: BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR [2008]

DIRECTOR: James Nguyen

FEATURING: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore

PLOT: A “romantic thriller” from writer/director James Nguyen, the film explores the impact of widespread eagle attacks on software salesman Rod (Alan Bagh) and up-and-coming model Nathalie (Whitney Moore), whose romance has just begun to blossom.  It all plays into writer/director Nguyen’s Tippi Hedren fandom.

Still from Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s so bad it’s good, and it’s a real hoot in a theater with an enthusiastic audience, but Birdemic isn’t actually all that weird.  The fusion of workplace drama, eager romance, and disaster movie is well-meaning but heavy-handed, and the strangest (and funniest) thing about the film is seeing grown men and women flailing around in fear of atrociously-animated birds, which end up resembling animated .GIFs.

COMMENTS: With production values worthy of a commercial for your local grocery store and a script riddled with non sequiturs, the story of our boring-as-hell heroes unfolds quite slowly.  Yes, it’s true that environmental degradation from humans has caused the area bird population to exact a feathery and surprisingly explosive revenge, but before the carnage hits the audience is treated to a large amount of Rod and Nathalie’s work-related endeavors and tepid early dates.  Luckily, their stilted performances and poorly-written conversations are enough to keep anyone laughing merrily along until the anticipated birdpocalypse, at which point the fun continues when they team up with a gun-crazy neighbor and two particularly useless children.

As a movie itself, Birdemic is just awful: the dialogue and acting are equally amateur and laughably awkward.  The script is poorly structured, thematically very blunt, and often nonsensical.  The effects are the lowest of the low, amounting to bird attackers that resemble animated .gif’s from 1997 and adorably tiny explosions popping up out of nowhere.  The score is suspiciously repetitive, there’s a host of randomly-appearing characters who serve little purpose in the story, the visual quality and camera work are noticeably sub-par… there’s quite a long list of negative elements.

Of course, it’s all those things and more that make Birdemic a wholly satisfying film-going experience.  The (presumably) unintended comedy of the characters and script are so engaging that the addition of horribly CG-ed birds flapping their way around real-life objects just heighten an already-entertaining movie.  There’s something terribly endearing about the whole affair, from Rod’s delayed reactions and extended shots of people driving, to uncoordinated camera movements, completely un-erotic sex scenes, and the most unrealistic forest fire I’ve ever seen.

It may be one of the worst movies ever made, but definitely in the most enjoyable way possible.  Plus it’s got an environmentalist message, so that’s heartening.  And an anti-bird message.  Screw those guys, you know?

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“But no matter how many f***ed up viral videos we’ve collectively seen or how desensitized we’ve become to high weirdness, the rowdy New York midnight premiere of writer-director James Nguyen’s self-proclaimed ‘romantic thriller’ Birdemic: Shock and Terror proves that there’s room—alongside Ed Wood’s entire oeuvre—for one more in the pantheon of beloved trash-terpieces.”–Aaron Hill, The Village Voice (contemporaneous)

NOTE: This review is also published in a slightly different form at Film Forager.

3 thoughts on “CAPSULE: BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR [2008]”

  1. This sounds delicious, I wonder why I haven’t come across it yet. Is this in the cinemas in the states? Sadly cinema audiences are frequently more reserved over here, something my missus is always complaining about. Where is the film set? I’m wondering because of the London bus behind the ambulatory bird food in the still?

  2. Kat: It’s set in San Francisco, California but if I remember correctly that bus was some sort of novelty tour bus they run into along the way. The film has been screening sporadically in American theaters for a while, sort of like The Room. I’m sure it’ll get a DVD release eventually but I’m not sure what the plans are. I hope you get a chance to see it soon!

  3. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the DVD release ever since I heard of this project months ago, and I’m tremendously jealous of Alex for getting to see it during its legendary initial run!

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