Bad Movies Done Right – Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: The eagles are coming! The eagles are coming!

There are bad movies and then there are bad movies.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a film so awful, so misguided, so wondrously terrible that it transcends pure technical miscalculation and becomes a masterpiece in garbage. Birdemic is officially the worst movie I have ever seen — but it may also be one of my new favorites.

Birdemic first flew into the public consciousness in 2008 when director James Nguyen crashed the Sundance Film Festival in a van plastered with props and signs — one of which, according to legend, misspelled the title to his own film.

Despite not being accepted into the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, Nguyen rented a local theater and showed the movie to a sparsely populated audience. From there, the Birdemic spread.

The film is an obvious homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds but it is also so much more (or less, depending on how you look at it).

Alan Bagh plays Rod, a stiff-walking, awkward talking software salesman who finds his attempt to woo an old high school crush crushed when a flock of eagles begin attacking (and spontaneously exploding) all over his tiny California Bay city.

Bagh seems to have been cloned from the DNA extracted from a used tissue, grown at an accelerated rate, given a sloppy crash course in what it means to be a functioning member of society and then thrown in front of a camera and told to read off of a bunch of cue cards — even if he didn’t understand what the words meant.

From his delivery of words to the weird way he self-consciously walks in front of a camera, Bagh’s character is a blast to watch as he stumbles his way through both love and birdemic-season.

Whitney Moore plays Nathalie, an actress who might not be exceptionally gifted but looks like Julia Roberts next to her co-star. Nathalie is a fashion model who apparently does shoots in the dingy basement of a strip-mall photo development store. Her life appears to have taken a swing for the better, though, when she lands a deal with Victoria’s Secret to be their next photo model and she meets Rod, a highly “charming” gent with stock options!

In fact Rod is so rich he plans to retire … but just for a few months.

Both Rod and Nathalie’s dreams are interrupted, though, when the eagles begin to attack. What begins with a long, protracted montage of scenic establishing shots is interrupted when the screeching sounds of birds break the silence. Soon, horribly animated eagles, drastically out of proportion with the buildings in shot, begin to plummet to the earth and explode against things — mainly gas stations.

It is very obvious that Nguyen couldn’t afford an excess of animated birds so he uses the same few crudely constructed killer eagles and vultures over and over again. It is also obvious that Nguyen has had very little interaction with real life birds because his film’s deadly creatures, besides exploding, have the ability to hover in place as they slowly and methodically flap their wings, can kill people by dousing them in acidic urine and have the ability to swoop down and slice a man’s throat in a split second.

When the birdemic begins, two things happen. First, Rod and Nathalie begin their attempts to escape the birds with a series of illogical and ill-advised choices (everything from firing their guns with a seemingly unendless supply of ammo at the direct opposite location of the birds to taking a break from fleeing the birds to have a picnic at the beach).

The second thing that happens is that Nguyen’s clear agenda begins to seep through the cheesy confines of his Z-movie plot.

Besides wanting to make a movie about birds killing people, Nguyen had clear intentions of creating a movie that would change the hearts and minds of his audience and, using lines of dialogue that appear to have been directly lifted off of Wikipedia, has his characters clumsily theorize that the reason the birds are attacking people (specifically those near their cars or gas stations) is because have been driven mad by the effects of global warming.

Audiences had hints to Nguyen’s agenda throughout the film thanks to bizarre non-sequiturs that dealt with his characters converting their homes to solar power or espousing the benefits of hybrid cars. He even had a sex scene that featured, hanging behind the couple’s bed, a prominently placed sign directing people to (and, if that subtle cry for global revolution wasn’t enough, the scene featured a newly composed sound-alike to John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background).

After watching Birdemic, I am convinced Nguyen reached for greatness. He attempted to make a movie that was more ambitious than he had any right attempting. From the endless stream of establishing shots that show his characters taking the most minute steps in their daily lives to the poor approximation of a Hitchcockian musical score during the opening credits, it is obvious that Nguyen gained his directorial skills from watching, if perhaps not understanding, a steady stream of great movies. He just didn’t learn anything from the experience.

The cynic in me has a slight suspicion that Nguyen and his cast may have actually attempted to make a truly awful film in the hopes it would find notoriety — which it did. Surely somebody, let alone an entire cast and crew, can’t make a film as willfully awful as Birdemic and not realize what a steaming pile of bird droppings they have in their hands.

Either way, Birdemic is a completely awful film. There are almost zero signs of talent in the film. That being said, I recommend it to all. Birdemic is a god-awful film, but it’s a god-awful film that’s awfully fun to watch.

Robert Saucedo can’t wait to see what “romantic thriller” James Nguyen brings audiences next. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.

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