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a film for our times, for ALL times, or perhaps none at all....
Sometimes there is a film that comes along that boggles the mind. You cannot believe the thing exists, but there it is, paddling its arms forward like a Special Olympics finalist (and no, this is not a joke on the Special Olympics - they're too good for Birdemic: Shock and Terror). The movie tricks a viewer like yours truly; at first, having not seen anything made by its director, the inimitable James Nguyen - he has two other films to his credit, Replica and Julie and Jack, neither seen by me (just as well, one of whom gives its highest praise as "Ed Wood quality" on IMDb) - I wasn't sure what I was really seeing, if it was either the highest or lowest of artistic expression.
The film takes place in some sunny seaside community on the California coast - as we're made PAINFULLY CLEAR in the opening from-the-car driving shots (immediately calling to mind the opening credits of Manos: The Hands of Fate) - and is about how Rod (Alan Bough) and Nathalie (Whitney Moore), who meet one day by chance, he a successful solar-panel salesman and she a Victoria's Secret model (she just made the cover!) Oh, and there's an almost inexplicable warning of a crazy-killer bird epidemic on the news, from, um, I guess it's global warming. And after about a half hour of almost *nothing* going on between these two pieces of cardboard-as-actors, the birds finally arrive.... oh yes, how they arrive.
What I mean by my uncertainty of what I was seeing, it felt like a double-edged sword. I kept thinking during the film, 'either Nguyen is a total genius, crafting the most intentionally bad movie in recent memory, or he's quite possible the most sickening hack you've never wanted to meet.' It's one thing that the film was shot on a shitty camcorder. It's another that the actors appear to be non-professionals or at best from community theater (Alan Bagh is so stiff he just might make your eyes bleed; Moore is too hot to have that happen, though her talent is just as nill).
But it's something else how absolutely, and surprisingly consistently, awful the film-making is. Even if you've never taken a class in proper lighting or sound or stage direction or editing, Birdemic shines so mightily in its crap-ness. Scenes start and end without a proper marker, as if the editor didn't know how to flow from one scene- one SHOT- to the next. Sound is completely mis-matched from one shot to the next. The music is the kind of synthesizer work that cranked up loud enough could drive Bin-Laden out of his cave (they even go as far as to rip-off the John Lennon song "Imagine" for a girl character wearing a "Imagine Peace" shirt. And the birds... oh, boy, the birds (if you need further proof, watch the trailer, do yourself a favor and get it out of the way).
Now, again, experiencing this film, especially in the case I had in a theater with people perhaps anticipating its awfulness based on the trailer or the website or the claim by Nguyen to be a "Master of the Romantic Thriller" (Trademarked. I'm not kidding), that this is perhaps just a brilliant prank, a satire of epic proportions. Certainly the "message" part of the movie- and it's wielded with such a sledgehammer it would make Stanley Kramer look like Jim Jarmusch - is done to such a ludicrous extent, with characters appearing for walk-on scenes like a Old-man Biologist who appears to explain that the birds were caused by man's harm to the planet, or the "Tree-Man" in the woods who has a tree-house home and finds the birds don't attack him because he's in the woods and not out on the road like the rest of stupid man-animal civilization. Not to mention the rather *listen to us now* attitude of the main characters driving their hybrid cars and seeing An Inconvenient Truth (I s**t you not, this is in the movie) and their silly solar panels. Who ever heard of that working really well?
All of this could, potentially, really be just a put-on of such a magnitude that I would want to shake Nguyen's hand for pulling off such a feat. But, no, Nguyen took himself very seriously during this production, only slightly changing his tune after the fact of people seeing the film like the audience in The Producers seeing "Springtime for Hitler" for the first time (if you need proof, look at this NY Times article quote: "I never went to film school," Mr. Nguyen said. "But I did go to what you'd call the film school of Hitchcock cinema."). I'll give him that he had persistence in getting the film out there, even showing it in bars around the Sundance film festival when he couldn't get in. The masses of sober people puking all around him should have given him a clearer idea of what he had though.
Oh, don't get me wrong, Birdemic is absolutely, hysterically, historically, gloriously funny. It's a magnificent fresco of horrible CGI (the birds just float, like a screensaver), and non-existent acting, and plot that... wait, what plot? And who needs an ending that makes sense either, or shots that match up? It's so funny that I ended up feeling just a wee-bit guilty by the end. It's easy to mock this movie, like a bully on the playground mocking the kid with Cerebal Palsy. If the film isn't an intentional anti-film, then it's just a really bad Manos/Ed-Wood level movie, and all of the hilarity that ensues from it is kind of expected. It's not even worthy of Asylum DVD status. Alongside The Room, After Last Season, and Severed Ways, it's one of the real no-budget bad-movie finds of the past ten years. A must-see, for every wrong reason imaginable.
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