Back in the day, my friends and I used to frequent this dumpy video store in Dover, New Hampshire for their horror section. They seemed to have a distinct lack of mainstream stuff and an overabundance of the cheapest garbage around. We binged on shockfests like the Shocking Asia series and Fulci flicks but the one that kept us coming back again and again, until one of us eventually just stole the fucking thing, was a no-budget cheapie called Attack of the Killer Refrigerator. The premise was that some guy’s fridge is forcibly de-iced during a raucous party and the following day it takes revenge by attacking everyone foolish enough to go for a snack. At one point, the refrigerator breathes fire and then charges across the room at its victim, some dude clearly behind it pushing it on wheels. It was a staggering feat of bullshit. A movie that should not, under any circumstances, exist. It is the worst movie I’ve ever seen and a film that leaves people with the impression that I’ve made it all up. I assure you, this picture is real.
Bad movies that are fun to watch are hard to come by these days. There’s a new school of bad movie that shoots for a couple of targets. It’s either a reasonably budgeted picture with some hipster asshole in the director’s chair pushing the bad taste envelope so that they can crank out some kind of exploitation homage or it’s produced by a company like The Asylum where they honestly don’t give a fuck about the movie that’s made as long as it looks something like a movie in general release so that fucktards will get confused at the Red Box and accidentally rent what they think is a first-run feature. The real folk-art/art brut filmmaking is practically a dead creature. The prohibitive cost of filmmaking in the past made it so that you had to be some kind of 8mm weirdo working with Baltimore junkies and drag queens to shock the system but the cost of making movies is dropping rapidly and we’re starting to see a sort of resurgence of bad ideas from people who probably should have stuck to their day jobs of selling software or selling leather jackets imported from Korea. Easy ownership of prosumer film gear is making it so that anyone who wants to can make a movie and with The Room blowing minds with its staggering volume of badness, it opened the door for James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror to step into the arena. I’m usually the mouthy one. The guy with a thousand words to spare on any topic but I am speechless right now. I just don’t know how to begin to tackle Birdemic. I can’t believe what I’ve just seen.
Rod is a software salesman who meets Natalie, a fashion model, at a local restaurant. Together, they begin an awkward romantic relationship and after talking and talking and talking about their ideal mates for the entire duration of their courtship things start looking up for both of them. She lands a cover spot on a Victoria’s Secret catalog and his company is bought out by Oracle for a billion fucking dollars, causing his stock option to explode. On top of it, Rod’s fledgling green tech company lands the millions it needs to develop a new, efficient form of solar power. Unfortunately, after Rod takes Natalie to a cheap motel for a hot night of making out (seriously) , the local bird population turns on its human cohabitants and starts slashing throats and pecking eyes. Why could this be? Could it be global warming? James Nguyen seems to think so.
Jesus H. Christ! I was not even remotely prepared for Birdemic, a movie so astonishingly awful that most people who’ve seen it are convinced that it’s some kind of Kaufmanesque joke. I’m at a genuine loss to explain it. At least with The Room, I could articulate what was so bad about it but I don’t even know where to begin with Birdemic.
The cast is primarily made up of Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore, Rod and Natalie, respectively and while Whitney Moore displays at least a degree of acting talent, Alan Bagh drifts through the picture as though he had sustained a traumatic brain injury on his way to the set. He seems perpetually confused, mouth constantly agape, never really sure what to look at or do with his hands. During one of the film’s many cringe-inducing scenes, Rod is called to dance with Natalie and while he is at least able to control his motor functions, Natalie is constantly positioned as though she’s about to do the robot while looking like she’s going to karate chop Rod in the neck. Mind you, half of the god damn movie is dedicated to this godawful romance and just when it looks like Rod is going to get a piece, Natalie finally revealing herself to him in some sexy undies, we cut to the next day and it appears that Rod was maybe tagged out on the way to second base or forgot the rubbers because they wake up in exactly what they were wearing when last we saw them.
Throughout, we are being constantly reminded by this movie, seemingly written, produced and directed by a mental patient, that we absolutely must reduce our carbon footprint or be pecked to death by birds. Every single set piece leads to some kind of advocacy for green technology and simpler living, which is fine. I’m actually a believer in this sort of thing but in the context of Birdemic, the message comes across like a Godfrey Ho horror movie written by Al Gore. It doesn’t end there, either. Rod and Natalie eventually team up with some kids and another couple who just happen to have a couple of pistols and a fucking assault rifle in their car. Why do they have these things? The guy half of the pair used to a soldier in Afghanistan and, you know, he just happens to have these things on him at all times. As a matter of fact, everyone in this movie seems to be armed at all times. What’s with that?
Nguyen subscribes to a school of film-thought that believes that the camera should constantly be moving. I’ve played some of the most janky first person shooters out there and never gotten motion sickness from them but Birdemic’s constantly panning, constantly moving, constantly behind the dash of a moving vehicle camera work induced the most savage case of vertigo of my life.
What about the birds, though? I know you’ve seen that trailer. The one where the awful CGI birds hover, in defiance of gravity, over a city before dive bombing it with the sound of an airplane where they burst into flame instead of blood and feathers. Well, they’re not the worst part of the movie, if you can believe it. Yes, they’re awful and just one more maddening component to this ode to insanity, but it takes a long time for the birds to show up and when they finally do, the awe and wonder of the bird attack passes quickly. What is worse are all the awkward encounters with other people, a dude who charges $100 for gas, the casual passing by of traffic in an allegedly apocalyptic setting and a scene where woman’s throat is cut when she stops to take a shit outside.
I feel several things having watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
- I feel damaged, mentally
- I feel like I need to talk to an adult
- I feel like I want to punch James Nguyen in the face
- I feel like I want you to see the movie
In spite of my harsh criticism (if you can even call it that) and apparent outrage, Birdemic is a fucking riot. What James Nguyen thought he was doing when he made this movie is anybody’s guess. Stranger still is his reaction to his rejection from Sundance. Look it up sometime. Luis Bunuel and Dali couldn’t have come up with a more obtuse movie. It’s hard to believe that a movie this awful exists at all but I’m glad that I live in a world where it does.