The term “so bad it’s awesome” gets thrown around a lot, especially when referring to movies. While there are probably more bad movies than good ones, by no means does that make every bad movie automatically awesome by default. In order for a film to be “so bad it’s awesome,” many special elements must be present. It must be entertaining. It must be quotable. It must be worth watching more than once. The most important one, for me anyway, is that it must be unintentionally bad. Gems like The Room and Troll 2 attained their cult status because they are lovably wrong-headed results of clueless, but earnest filmmakers. You just can’t manufacture that kind of magic.
For this reason, I avoided a movie I kept hearing a lot about recently. At first glance, Birdemic: Shock and Horror appears to be one of those deliberately shitty horror-comedies the Syfy network cranks out on a weekly basis. But then I started hearing more and more about it with the upcoming sequel (which, sadly, looks a little in on the joke this time around—I pray that’s not so) and live Rifftrax theater event later this month. So I looked into it a little further and was very happy to learn that the movie IS one of those special disasters.
Here’s a little backstory. The film was self-financed for $10,000.00 (I didn’t leave out any zeros) by writer, director, and producer James Nguyen. Yes, a foreign writer, director, and producer. Always a winning combo for an awesomely bad movie. Nguyen worked on the film on weekends when off from his full time job as a software salesman (remember this) and shot it guerilla-style.
We don’t need no stinking permits!
After four years of production, Nguyen was so impressed with his creation that he submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. Surprisingly, it was rejected. That’s when he took matters into his own hands. Nguyen stuck some toy birds and a banner that read “BIDEMIC.COM” [sic] to his van and drove around the festival passing out flyers that read “WHY DID THE EAGLES AND VULTURES ATTACKED?”[sic, again]
He also rented out a theater and hosted his own screening of the film. Word of mouth spread and the rest is history. Birdemic now deservedly holds a spot on many short lists of “Best Worst Movies Ever.”
So grab a wire clothes hanger and a six-pack and let’s dig in.
Birdemic isn’t just another mindless “when ____ attack” bloodfest, no. Birdemic has a message. See, we, the human species, are playing cowboy with nature, and we need to quit it, dammit. Or else, nature will revolt. You have to respect Nguyen’s determination to get this point across. Maybe if we all pay attention and start appreciating trees and installing solar panels (pronounced “solpanels” ) and drive hybrid Mustangs that get 100 MPG our planet will be saved before we all get our eyes pecked out by killer divebombing eagles. Did I lose you? Don’t worry. It still won’t make any sense after you watch this movie, but it’s okay. The important thing is, Nguyen is passionate about his cause, and how can you not root for that?
Just listen to his enthusiasm:
The film opens with an extended sequence of a car driving. And driving. And driving. During all this driving a gentle instrumental plays. Then it stops. Then the same piece of music starts again to accompany more driving and credits in Arial font (“Supporting Casts”) Then it stops. Then it starts again. Then…can you guess? Yup! The same piece of 30 second long music loops four times before we get to this riveting opening scene:
Nuff said. Drink.
In case you’re wondering, that clip has not been altered. That is exactly the way it plays. That sound dropping out? Get used to it. I was tempted to put “Drink: every time the sound drops out” into the drinking game, but I’m pretty sure anyone that attempted that would die from alcohol poisoning twenty minutes in. Instead, I recommend taking a sip every time you catch your jaw hanging wide open at what you are witnessing. Better yet, don’t.
When I was ten or so, inspired by ABC’s TGIF lineup, my friends and I thought it would be fun to make our own sitcom. We wrote a script, borrowed my dad’s camcorder and even made up a theme song on my Casio keyboard. Our show was called What Are Sisters For? and we pretended we were glamorous sisters in our 20’s that lived in a really cool apartment (my basement with the old living room couch and a coffee table we painted pink served as the set) and had cool girl problems like too many guys calling for dates. We even had a laugh track (my mom behind the couch with a boombox). It was pretty ambitious for a few preteens, especially in the days before movie-making computer programs. I wish I still had a copy of that tape because I’m pretty sure the production values on What Are Sisters For? are vastly superior to those of Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
So, back to the movie. Remember that guy in the diner? That’s our hero, Rod (Alan Baugh). Rod works as a software salesman and is pretty successful, if you consider giving a client 50% off a strategic selling technique and not losing your company one million dollars. Rod is a very fitting name for this guy which you’ll soon discover (I applaud Alan Baugh for developing character traits based on his character’s name). Rod’s also an excellent car parker.
stalks meets a beautiful fashion model named Nathalie (Whitney Moore, whose acting chops rival Meryl Streep’s—when compared to everyone else in this movie). Nathalie is charmed by such lines as “So are you from here?” (after they have established that they attended to high school together) and “I bet you’ll great in those lingeries” and a love story for the ages develops between the two.
Things couldn’t be going better for these lovebirds (get it?) with Rod becoming an insta-millionaire after his software start-up company is purchased in a major acquisition (one of the best scenes in the film) and Nathalie lands the Victoria’s Secret catalog cover moments after doing a photo-shoot at a One-Hour Photo Shop. What could possibly disrupt all this happiness?
When the angry birds finally make their first appearance you nearly forget this is a horror movie because it takes 45 minutes for the action to get going. (During that time the very thorough Nguyen makes sure we see every aspect of Rod and Nathalie’s developing relationship, and why wouldn’t he? He’s the self-proclaimed “Master of Romantic Thrillers” after all.) But once those bloodthirsty eagles and vultures begin attackeding, it’s on.
I have to raise a glass to Yeung Chan for the astounding visual effects. James Nguyen clearly used a good chunk of his budget to get someone extremely proficient in MS Paint to create the intense superimposed action sequences. Sometimes the birds swoop down and maim, sometimes they inexplicably explode. It’s always fantastic and needs to be seen to be believed. The sound effects add to the imagery and are equally impressive. Who knew birds could sound like kamikaze fighter planes! (Must be all that toxic waste.)
Rod and Nathalie team up with another couple who just so happen to have an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons in their van (which is a very good thing, because wire clothes hangers can only ward off killer birds so much) and the foursome embark on the battle to save the world while everyone else in the background just goes about their daily business, unaware they’re in a movie.
In case you weren’t paying attention
While running from the birds, kidnapping a couple orphans and involuntarily killing a busfull of tourists, Rod and Nathalie learn that we, humans, are the reason the birds have turned against us. We’re destroying the environment with our gas-guzzling cars and non-solar-powered energy. They learn these valuable lessons from a jaded scientist and Woody Harrelson’s long-lost brother that lives in a tree, both who conveniently pop up at just the right time to share their wisdom about these inconvenient truths.
“Enjoy and appreciate these trees while you can! Damn you Woody, you never even send me a birthday card!”
And then, in perhaps the most anticlimactic conclusion to a movie ever, it’s over. Just like that.
“How long do we have to stand here? I want a Happy Meal.”
Or is it? As I mentioned earlier, coming soon: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection.
Make no mistake, this is a must-see movie with the six-pack rating being the equivalent of a toast for bad movies. I want so badly to include every laughably awful line of dialogue, every ridiculous plot development, every unnecessary scene, every misstep, but these things are best discovered on your own. I envy those that get to see Birdemic: Shock and Terror for the first time. Revel in it. It’s just a shame Alfred Hitchcock will never get to.
(Suggestion: drink shots of Wild Turkey)
Take a Drink: Every time the camera pans.
Take a Drink: Every time Rod parks his car.
Take a Drink: When you see the “Getty Images” watermark on the news report.
Take a Drink: Every time you see “imaginepeace.com” anywhere. Take two when it’s accompanied by the fake “Imagine” song.
Take a Drink: Every time a new round of applause starts during the board room scene.
Put down your drink and do the muthafucking robot: During “Hangin’ Out With Mah Family” scene. Do it. I’m watching you.
Take a Drink: Every time one of the kids says something bratty.
Take a Drink: Every time they do something stupid like having a picnic outside, you know, where the birds are.
Take a Shot: Every time a bird is shot down and drops from the sky like in Duck Hunt.