There are the classics of bad cinema – PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, THE ROBOT MONSTER, THE GIANT CLAW – and the contemporary examples – BATTLEFIELD EARTH, HOWARD THE DUCK, TROLL 2, and everything by Uwe Boll.
And then there is BIRDEMIC SHOCK AND TERROR…
The art of making a bad film is akin to paving the road to hell: it starts out with the best intentions and leads us to perdition, due to hubris or delusion or lack of talent or, ideally, all three. The auteurs of these “masterpieces” are mostly oblivious to the horror that they have unleashed, totally lacking the insight or objectivity to look beyond their own ego and their crazed desire to become the next Spielberg.
No Spielberg here, or even Ed Wood, BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR ‘s director James Nguyen stands alone in creating the perfect storm of badness. While most other bad movies have some redeeming features – a good soundtrack, cinematography, tight editing or a passable performance by an actor, his film has none of these.
BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is unrelentingly bad in every aspect. The audio mix is horrible with sound cutting in and out constantly and dialogue that is often unintelligible. The cameraman can barely keep things in frame and constantly uses crane shots and dolly moves just to remind us he is there. Not to mention the pointless pans across restaurant walls and empty vistas. The editing is beyond sloppy, with shots clipped before they are over and others left pointlessly long.
The music is an odd mix of library tracks that are totally out of sync with the action on the screen; sounding at times like the score of a 1950’s social hygiene film and at other times like a 1970’s porno film. The “terrifying” special effects are clip art animations of flocks of birds which appear to be on an endless loop. Some effects, such as a forest fire, actually end before the action on the screen does.
Imagine our excitement as our heroes fight off a bird attack with coat hangers – which has to be the most thrilling use of a cinematic coat hanger since Faye Dunaway wielded one in MOMMY DEAREST. Or how about one of the heroes constantly firing a machine gun that magically never runs out of ammo? Or the fact that there appears to be an apocalypse going on that has not affected the background traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway? Or a film that doesn’t conclude, it just stops? BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR has all of this and more.
For the first ten minutes of BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR, Nguyen appears to have a fetishist’s obsession with the blue Mustang the hero drives, and drives, and drives, and drives. Of course, this is out of sync with the film’s overall message of global warming. Once the credits have ended and the blue Mustang is safely parked, we finally meet our hero, Rod, who then burns up the next few minutes walking and walking and walking… Of course, after meeting Rod (played by Alan Bagh – in a performance that redefines inept) I began to wish we could go back to Rod driving or walking again, anything to relieve the pain.
Now it doesn’t help that the script by Nguyen is crammed with dialogue so wooden you could fashion an ark from it. Rod, you see, works as a high level salesman in a billion dollar software company, something we instantly believe when we see Rod’s tacky work cubicle. Rod is also a lonely guy, hardly surprising once you see him coming on to his love interest Nathalie (played by Whitney Moore). His romantic style is a cross between a stalker and a serial killer, and he couldn’t be any more sinister if he carved a cross into his forehead with a razorblade and invited his best gal out for a night of creepy crawling.
Moore appears to be a more capable actress, though her focus seems to be “get this over with”. The rest of the cast is just as wooden and even more forgettable. There are a couple of doctor types who pop up to warn us of the dire effects of global warming, after the birds go crazy and start pecking eyes out and slashing throats.
BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is half over before the bird action begins, so that we can experience in excruciating detail the budding romance between Rod and Nathalie. Guess which half of the film is more horrifying.
Now, to be fair, this is a bad film, and it shouldn’t be subjected to the standards that you would apply to the latest Hollywood megaplex product – JONAH HEX, anyone? No, a different standard applies here, and the audience knows it. They savour every bad piece of acting and dialogue, plot absurdity, and amateurish camera move.
BIRDEMIC SHOCK AND TERROR has to be seen with an audience, preferably a large one, lubricated on beer and weed. It felt like a flashback to the midnight screenings of my youth, watching THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Or maybe the Toronto audience I saw it with just needed a release after a very strange week of earthquakes, tornados, and G20 rioting in the streets. We needed the hilarious badness of BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR to calm us down and refocus us on what is really important in life: a deliciously bad movie that delivers more laughs than Adam Sandler’s latest.
BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR (2008). Written and directed by James Nguyen. Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Tippi Hedren, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne.