This review is part of the Horror’s “Worst” Films: Tasteless Entertainment or Endurance Test? series.
Horror’s “Worst” Films – Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)
James Nguyen, despite having no formal film training and a budget of less than $10,000, was inspired to make Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008) after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Filmed on weekends in Half Moon Bay, California, the story depicts two lovers, Rod (Alan Bagh) and Nathalie (Whitney Moore), as they try to survive while their town is being attacked by terribly rendered, unrealistic CGI birds – which explode. In 2009 Nguyen drove to the Sundance Film Festival to promote the film and hand out flyers, driving a van which was decorated with stuffed birds and which had written upon it, misspelled, “BIDEMIC.COM” and “WHY DID THE EAGLES AND VULTURES ATTACKED?”. It paid off, garnering the film attention for its special brand of awfulness, and soon Birdemic was getting a legitimate release and became a cult phenomena among discerning connoisseurs of bad films.
Birdemic is certainly of a feather with its foul-film predecessors, which becomes immediately apparent with the seemingly endless driving scenes which serve no narrative purpose (we even get to see gas being pumped and traffic – with Dutch angles). The film even stops so we can watch a live musical performance, like in 1988’s Hobgoblins. The acting is nearly as wooden as the trees in which the characters sometimes hide, not helped by Nguyen’s heavy-handed environmentalist dialogue and his habit of having characters enter scenes with the sole purpose of expounding monologues about the destruction of nature. Similarly, his depiction of business is almost endearing in its child-like presentation, as Rod makes a million-dollar deal in his undefined career and Nathalie, who models at the local One-Hour Photo, is chosen by Victoria’s Secret, all within the film’s first fifteen minutes. Really, for the first 45 minutes nothing much happens, but viewers will be left glued to the screen in awe of the ineptitude, especially as montages and scenes with no narrative purpose seem to go on forever. Viewers beware, however, to not watch it too loudly, as the wildly varying pitch of the background noises will likely drive you mad.
Watching Birdemic, you get the impression that Nguyen knew some of the words of cinema but none of its language. The cast has been pretty open about their difficulty in working with him, but one has to allow some admiration for the clear determination he had in completing something for which he obviously had no talent. If only we were all so passionate. All things considered, viewers will be dumbfounded while watching the film, but they will not be bored, making Birdemic a textbook example of tasteless entertainment.