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DVD Review: Birdemic: Shock and Terror
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Birdemic: Shock and Terror
Starring Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Tippi Hedren, Rick Camp
Directed by James Nguyen
Severin Films
DVD | Blu-Ray
Release Date: February 22, 2011

Meet Rod (Alan Bagh). He does something involving software sales, or computers, or something. Damned if I know. What I do know is that he makes beaucoup bucks doing it so and it also provides him with the freedom to pursue his one true passion: solar paneling for houses. One day he has a chance encounter with Nathalie (Whitney Moore), an aspiring lingerie model who just scored a gig with Victoria’s Secret. Success and wealth unites these two crazy, criminally uninteresting kids in a romance for the ages. To celebrate their blossoming love affair they take a trip to a small California town to walk on the beach, enjoy the local festivities, and then fool around in a cheap motel. Then on a pleasant and sunny morning every eagle and vulture from thousands of miles around decides to attack humanity for no reason whatsoever. Our happy couple and other survivors, who you will be begging the movie gods to kill as slowly and as painfully as possible the moment you see them, are forced to fight their way through a flying flock of foul-tempered feathered fowl if they want to stay alive long enough to have their first Tupperware party and see Dane Cook live in concert.

James Nguyen, the Vietnamese-born writer, director, producer, and executive producer of the schlock killer birds flick Birdemic: Shock and Terror, is such a self-styled jackass amateur that he makes Tommy Wiseau, the director of the modern bad movie classic The Room, look like Howard Hawks in comparison.

Nguyen set out to make a film that was from the very beginning intended to be a bad movie so he could sell it to the public as exactly that and then wait for the lemming-like cult movie audiences to line up around the block and the accolades to come rolling in. The self-proclaimed “Master of Romantic Thrillers” (barf) has made a movie that is a unabashed ripoff of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror thriller The Birds only with lousy acting, sloppy editing, crappy music, tin-eared dialogue, and an annoying tendency to shove a poorly thought out ecological message down the viewer’s throat. It also has some of the worst visual effects I have ever seen in a movie, effects that make what you’d find in your typical Saturday night offering on SyFy look like first-rate work from Industrial Light and Magic.

I’ve seen many movies in my lifetime that could be classified as “so bad it’s good,” and most of those movies I love because despite their multitude of glaring flaws they have special qualities that make them endlessly entertaining. I appreciate when a filmmaker sets out to make a movie with their only ambition to make it a good one that people will want to come back to time and again, and more than not they fail miserably. But at least they tried and if their movie ended up a complete mess for whatever reason(s) then those same filmmakers usually don’t have a problem admitting they failed. In the words of Johnny Depp in Ed Wood, “Worst film you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better.” Even the much-loathed Uwe Boll can admit when one of his movies went horribly awry. There’s no shame in admitting you failed; we all make mistakes, but what’s important is that we can learn from them. Edward Wood is routinely referred to as the worst director of all time and while he may have never made a film that could be considered good in the classical sense it’s not like that was his intention. Plus many of his movies are pretty damn fun to watch; either Plan 9 from Outer Space or Bride of the Monster would go great with a dull Saturday evening and a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But a few years ago a little film came along that dared to challenge Wood for his King of Knucklehead Filmmaking crown; it was called The Room, and it was as pitiful an excuse for celluloid as had been seen in years. Only thing is, the movie started acquiring a cult audience thanks to the advent of YouTube and social networking groups that could build strong word of mouth around the movie faster than any expensive advertising campaign (with the exception of that legendary billboard). The Room soon became a 21st century answer to the preeminent cult film of the past four decades, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was all down to the shrewd efforts of its writer, director, and lead actor-the aforementioned Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau had realized that his movie, designed from its inception to be a serious relationship drama, was getting more laughs than tears from his intended audience so he rebranded the movie as a black comedy and The Room‘s popularity began to soar. Now it’s being quoted endlessly, clips from the movie get passed around like baseball cards, and a self-mocking stage version of the show recently debuted to much acclaim.

Wiseau is currently working on a Blu-Ray of The Room and converting the film to 3D. So his campaign to save The Room and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat worked beautifully, but unfortunately Wiseau has spent so much time pretending that he intended for The Room to be a laugh riot from the very beginning that he has sabotaged any hope of ever becoming a serious filmmaker, if such a thing was possible. He now spends his days as this character forged in the fires of the modern cult of celebrity, where being a failure beats being a success just as long as you fail big and you fail in full view of the public. Tommy Wiseau the aspiring filmmaker has become Tommy Wiseau the dead-eyed cartoon character with the impenetrable accent and complete lack of skill as a writer, director, and actor.

But I did not come here to celebrate Tommy Wiseau, I came here to eviscerate James Ngyuen and his accursed film that is undeserved of the recognition that it has over the past few years. Birdemic usually would be the kind of movie that appeals to the psychotronic video store clerk in my aching soul. The trailers promised all kinds of cracked action with computer-generated birds that look about as technologically-advanced as Windows 95 screen savers raining all manners of destruction on the human race. Those parts of the movie are still there but they don’t kick in until 47 minutes in. Until then we are forced to endure some of the most boring, insipid, and pathetic scenes of character interaction this side of a Transformers movie. If the characters in Birdemic were anything to go by then Nguyen has obviously never been out among his fellow mouth-breathers, read a book, or seen another movie that might give him a sense of how to write credible characters and direct actors. He doesn’t even know how to shoot scenery; the movie is full of extended panning shots that look like Nguyen went to film school by spending twenty hours a day on Google Earth. After the bird attacks begin every scene has cars going by in the background like normal. Action scenes where characters pointlessly blast away at the birds with firearms feature CGI that is only slightly more advanced than playing a game of Duck Hunt.

Nguyen’s idea of giving the story some semblance of theme is to shove an obnoxious ecological message down our throats. One character comes out of a screening of Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth stating his desire to buy a hybrid car, and a scientist’s exposition scene (a requisite of every movie in every genre) sounds like one of Gore’s lectures on the environment.

The performances are among the most lethargic I’ve seen in a movie. I’ve seen better acting in a late night informercial. Bagh is the worst excuse for a hero ever; his every line reading suggests a corporate cypher giving a PowerPoint presentation, not courting a gorgeous model or battling flying hordes of killer birds. Moore fares a bit better but her acting still blows. There are a few fleeting moments where it looks like her natural cheery personality is trying to break through the oppressive nature of Nguyen’s production. The great Tippi Hedren (The Birds) is also in the movie apparently (IMDB credits her appearance as “archive footage”) but I couldn’t find her. You’re welcome, Tippi.

Audio/Video

Well for a complete piece of shit Birdemic sure looks and sounds good. The 1.78:1 widescreen presentation looks spit-shined clean and the English 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks give the horrendous dialogue and music a nice aural boost. This isn’t exactly a virtue but technically the DVD works.

Bonus Features

The extras kick off with a pair of audio commentaries, one with Nguyen and the other with Bagh and Moore. The Nguyen track is worth listening to just to hear the grandiose heights of delusion he can reach while talking about the making of Birdemic and its themes. It’s so sweet because the poor guy thinks he made an actual movie. The actors’ track is more conversational and self-deprecating as the two discuss their experience on Birdemic, but I can’t say it’s as fun as the insane living theater of Nguyen’s commentary.

Two deleted scenes are included, one is more of a goofy outtake. Not worth your time. After you watch Birdemic the last thing you’ll probably want to is to watch more of it.

The rest of the extras have one encompassing theme: James Nguyen. Just when I thought I’d had all I could take of the guy he turns up in every goddamn featurette. “Birdemic Experience Tour” (12 minutes) follows Nguyen as he introduces Birdemic at several screenings, carrying a coat hanger with him everywhere he goes (a coat hanger is used as a weapon in the film at one point, ineffectively). Every screening is packed to the gill with yahoos cheering on this holy fool. It’s sad to watch really, even if it’s only for twelve minutes. “James Nguyen on Movie Close-Up” (27 minutes) is an unbearable interview with the director on some low-rent chat show. Moving on….

There are trailers for the Birdemic Experience (2 minutes) and “Moviehead: The James Nguyen Story” (1 minute), the latter an extended cinematic blow job to an guy who would otherwise be knocking over parking meters for money to pay hookers to wax his carrot. Teaser and theatrical trailers for Birdemic and an electronic press kit featurette (3 minutes) round out the extras for the film. Severin has also provided trailers for other films available from them: Gwendoline, BMX Bandits, Psychomania, Screwballs, and Inglorious Bastards. This was the best extra on the disc because I watched these trailers before Birdemic and the whole time I was suffering through the main feature I was wishing I was watching any of those films. Especially Inglorious Bastards. That movie rocks.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is by far one of the worse movies I have ever seen in years, if not in my entire life. Do yourself a big favor and buy or rent something else. There are tons of movies released just this year that outclass Birdemic in every way possible. Watching any one of those would be a better use of your time, even if that movie is Green Lantern.

3 Comments »

  1. hmmmm

    Comment by Anonymous — August 27, 2011 @ 1:21 am

  2. First you don’t know anything about Tommy Wiseau; second maybe you should interview the man; he is a very hard working guy with many of talents. The fact we can celebrate “The Room” and Tommy Wiseau creator of it. “You can laugh you can cry you can express your salve but please don’t heart each other!” Tommy Wiseau is the best director and actor. And I noticed by your article you are talking about Tommy as everything was done by accident. The fact is that he use two camera system; HD and 35mm at the same time. No one in the world did this except for him. He is writing book about; my suggestion for all the Hollywood elite is that they should hire Tommy because he is very talented and that’s the fact so do your homework first before you talk about someone who is very talented. 

    Comment by tony — September 11, 2011 @ 6:02 am

  3. Judging by your comment, you must be Tommy Wiseau. 

    Comment by Bobby Morgan — September 18, 2011 @ 12:36 am

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