BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR – DVD review

There’s no reason for the first half of “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” to exist, and not much more for the second half, but it does have a cool scene right in the middle and a catchy theme song. So it’s got that going for it.

Whether or not writer-director James Nguyen was directly inspired by the cult success of Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece-of-crap “The Room” (2003), there’s no doubt that he intentionally set out to make the worst movie he possibly could, with his eyes on the prize of a slice of the midnight market. It appears he has succeeded. “Birdemic,” perhaps because it lacks the backing of celebrities like Alec Baldwin, has yet to replicate the suck-cess of Wiseau’s film, but it has surely turned a profit after playing in dozens of theaters in the States and abroad last year.

Nguyen has indisputably made a terrible movie, eschewing elitist qualities like competence and watchability with the dedication of a true visionary. The plot: Rod (Alan Bagh) is a software engineer who falls in love with fashion model Nathalie (Whitney Moore). Their burgeoning romance takes up most of the first 45 minutes of the film, and Nguyen’s primary achievement is in making it feel like at least three hours. They take a vacation in a seaside resort in California and spend a passionate night together in a motel. Then swarms of eagles attack the town, killing everyone in pecking range.

“Birdemic” works every angle to appeal to hip young crowds who enjoy the feeling of superiority engendered by watching a truly awful movie. Perhaps its most noteworthy quality is its stunningly bad sound mixing and editing. No attempt is made to match sound between shots. In a conversation, one person might speak with the sound of a river bubbling in the background while the reverse shot on the other speaker will have no background sound at all. Awkward silences and abrupt audio transitions abound. It’s cute for ten minutes (let’s make it five), unbearable over an entire film.

Somewhat more amusing are the intentionally atrocious special effects which involve a couple of eagles on sticks or whatever, hovering motionless as they squawk and claw or beak their victims to death. Said clawing doesn’t involve the eagles actually moving – it just happens. Nguyen doesn’t bother to put the logic in logistics either. Characters suddenly find themselves holding machine guns, which fire an infinite number of bullets until the plot requires them to run out. The eagles also explode whenever they divebomb a target, perhaps a nod to the combustibility of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

The film is designed to be immune to criticism. It’s “meant to be like that” no matter how bad “that” is. But as a prefabbed effort to create a “best worst movie,” it is too calculated to be charming. Bad acting? Check. Lousy editing? Check. Wretched FX? Check. Awkward pacing? Check. Painful dialogue? Check. More to the point, it’s far too generic in its embrace of all that is rotten. With virtually no memorable quotes or signature sequences, the film offers few opportunities for the rituals that accompany communal viewings of films like “The Room” or even “Troll 2.” Pretty much all “Birdemic” has going for it is an amusing coat-hanger sequence, and Nguyen milks that for all it’s worth, appearing before audiences with hanger in hand to promote the film. The rest is so non-descript, it doesn’t even work as a drinking game for the desperate and/or deviant.

The DVD promotes an appearance by Tippi Hendren (by which I assume they mean Tippi Hedren), but she only appears in “archive footage” (which I must admit I missed – I’ll guess she appeared in a TV clip in the background at some point.) Amazingly, Hedren appeared for real in a previous Nguyen film. Perhaps we are witnessing the emergence of a new director-actress pairing for the ages.

If you’re still curious for some reason, “Birdemic” is relatively tame in the gore department (a few dead bodies with pecked-out eyeballs is the worst of it) and the brief sex scene is purely PG.

VIDEO

The film is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. I don’t think it really matters what it looks like, but I’m sure the transfer captures the film in all its glory.

AUDIO

The DVD is presented with both Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. There are snippets of dialogue that are barely audible, but that’s attributable to the film’s production “values” rather than the DVD audio mix. I doubt anyone will care. No subtitles are provided.

EXTRAS

The film is accompanied by two commentary tracks, one with writer-director James Nguyen, and a separate one with actors Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore.

There are two Deleted Scenes, a combined 2 minutes running time.

“Birdemic Experience Tour” (12 min.) is a featurette following Nguyen and some cast members to various screenings of the film throughout the U.S. and even in Europe. However dubious Nguyen’s qualities as an artiste may be, he is undeniably a relentless and charismatic self-promoter.

“James Nguyen ‘Movie Close Up'” (27 min.) is an episode of the public access show “Movie Close-Up” in which Nguyen is interviewed by host Bonnie Steiger. The film was still in production at the time. Steiger has subsequently written in very unpleasant terms about her interactions with Nguyen.

The disc also includes trailers for each of the two aforementioned featurettes, as well as a Teaser and Theatrical Trailer for “Birdemic” and a 3-minute “Electronic Press Kit” which is really just another trailer.

FILM VALUE

“Birdemic 2: The Resurrection 3D” is currently in production.

Reply