Awfully Good: Birdemic

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

Director: James Nguyen
Stars: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Rick Camp

Is there a plot?

Tommy Wiseau directs an M. Night Shyamalan-scripted remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS.

What's the damage?

With the marginal success of THE ROOM hitting the mainstream over the past couple years, it seems like more and more people think they can make a horrible movie and strike it big. I am not okay with this. Any schmuck can go out with a camcorder and create garbage, but the best awfully good films are unintentional, unrepentant and genuine in their awfulness —and this is where I have a problem with BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR.

And with a final "meep meep," the Roadrunner finally succumbed to Acme-brand Avian Flu.

THE ROOM has a hypnotic charm that makes it great; every frame feels like Tommy Wiseau taking it seriously and trying his best, except that his best is on par with every other human's worst. Despite what everyone says (and a seemingly honest commentary track by actors Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore on the DVD), I still refuse to believe that director James Nguyen didn't set out to make an epic fail of this magnitude on purpose. The man either:
A) knew exactly what he was doing (the fact that he's now selling merchandise at screenings ala Wiseau would allude to this) and is a giant liar. (His claims that the Humane Society contacted him after seeing the trailer to make sure he wasn't harming any birds? Bullshit; even PETA wouldn't buy that.)
B) is a worse filmmaker than Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg combined, or
C) has a learning disability, in which case I apologize. (This might actually be true considering Nguyen promoted his own film as BIDEMIC - "WHY DID THE EAGLES AND VULTURES ATTACKED?" while at Sundance.)

For a split second, the group forgot about the bloodthirsty attack and just stared in awe at the enormity of eagles' genitals.

If I'm wrong and this is all actually real, than BIRDEMIC might be a serious contender for the worst movie ever made, even in terms of mere technical achievement. This movie is so badly edited it makes me think Nguyen shot everything sequentially and just turned the camera on and off between "cuts." Almost every shot lingers so long following each take that after the first two minutes I was praying for Tony Scott to come in and ADD the hell out of it. The same goes for the sound, which was clearly recorded in camera, meaning that each shot has different volume, sound quality and background noise. Add in some horrible foley work (i.e. footsteps that don't match up) and watching a scene is like listening to a symphony of amateur disappointment. Even the most novice middle school filmmaker knows better than to avoid these mistakes; how does a 40 year old Asian man who cites Hitchcock and Bill Wilder as inspiration think this is acceptable?

"Hey, I got this great idea from George Lucas. Instead of actually filming in a club, I'll just shoot you against a greenscreen and we can digitally insert the club later! That makes sense, right?"

The story is just as bad, sadly. Nguyen has declared himself the "master of the romantic-thriller" but I don't even think the guy has mastery of craft services. The film does take time to set up a love story before all the bird-attacking action and it's one of the worst romances ever committed to celluloid. (See the "Best Parts" clip below.) There's Rod, the millionaire software salesman, and Nathalie, the Victoria Secret's model, whose courtship involves Rod stalking her until she relents. The pair then go on some awkward dates that involve a random pumpkin festival, dancing alone in a bar to Soul Train's biggest reject, and hooking up in a Motel 6—all while uttering some distractingly bad dialogue. It's about here that the Hitchcockian thriller supposedly starts, as the feathered creatures descend upon our heroes and chase them across the town. Along the way they learn about love, being responsible adults, taking care of children and you want to kill yourself.

Even John Lennon would find this ironic.

Other "great" things about BIRDEMIC:

  • The unbelievable CGI birds. The SNES-caliber graphics make Sci-Fi Channel CGI look like WETA. The eagles literally just hover there, repeating the same movement over and over again and somehow manage to look worse than regular hand-drawn animation. Some birds also explode for no reason.
  • A girl who gets killed off while pooping because the actress no longer wanted to be in the movie
  • The film's obsession with global warming that makes M. Night Shyamalan look subtle. Nguyen constantly hits the audience on the head with his hilariously overbearing environmental message, whether its random newscasts about the melting ice caps or scientist characters literally saying, "Fossil fuels caused this and it's bad!" There's constant references to global warming, green living, hybrid cars, deforestation, solar power, and world peace. At one point the characters actually stop to watch AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (I'm super serial) and by the end everyone has learned to appreciate nature, not pollute, fish and eat seaweed, and just generally become huge hippie douchebags.
  • A millionaire and a supermodel stay at Motel 6
  • The amount of time wasted avoiding the plot, including the characters watching a lengthy parade for no reason, a full musical number where a guy sings about hanging out with his family, and a two minute scene where Rod has a handyman give him an estimate on installing a solar panel in his house.
  • The genius idea to use coat hangers as defensive weapons against killer birds.
  • The ridiculous characters they encounter on their travels, including an ornithologist who drank the Shyamalan Kool Aid, some unenthused child actors, a thief hitchhiker, and an actual treehugger that lives in a treehouse
  • [SPOILER] An ending that sees the birds just randomly stop attacking for no reason, pretty much like THE HAPPENING.

James Nguyen's biggest fan.

As a whole, I'm torn about BIRDEMIC. Parts of it are incredibly entertaining and memorable in a derailed Amtrak sense, but some of it borders on too bad , leaving big stretches of boring that beg for the fast forward button. And I know Tommy Wiseau, James Nguyen, and you sir are no Tommy Wiseau.

"Best" Line

A sampling of Rod's sex-crazed best friend, some enthusiastic children, and the most awkward clapping scene ever.

"Best" Parts

1) Enjoy these hilarious bird attack scenes that include coat hanger defense, pooping death and random acid spit.

2) Some of the great moments in Rod and Nathalie's epic love story, from awkward phone calls to awkward first dates to awkward dancing to awkward sex scenes. (P.S. - Look at how dirty her feet are at the end.)

3) Two ridiculous speeches about global warming that would make even Al Gore cringe.

Nudity Watch

As Rod says when he sees Whitney Moore in her underwear: "You look fine."


BIRDEMIC II: RESURRECTION 3D is coming, I kid you not. Buy the first movie here!

Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone randomly talks about the environment or global warming
  • The sound drops out mid-line
  • Someone says, "Anyway…"
  • There's a newscast
  • The sound of squawking overpowers the dialogue
  • You see kids playing with a ball

Double shot if:

  • Clapping goes on forever

Thanks to Mark, Rob and Jason 2 for suggesting this week's movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: Digital Dorm
Tags: awfully good



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