Friday, March 23, 2012
Day 114: Birdemic: Shock and Terror
"I hear a mountain lion, I've gotta get back to my house and you'd better get back to your car."
This is going to sound way more racist than I intend it to, and I promise I don't mean this comment insensitively, it's merely the only way I know how to get this point across. Birdemic: Shock and Terror could only have been written by a foreigner living in America. It has a lot of very American sounding dialogue and concepts, but they're all off, and end up looking and sounding ridiculous. For example, the main character, Rod (Alan Bagh), is a high-powered salesman and/or software designer depending upon which is more convenient for the particular scene, and in one particular scene, he's closing a deal of some sort, telling his friend afterwords that he just scored a big deal for "a million dollars." Even. It's like, the elements are in place for something that sounds remotely like a real deal made in real life, but instead, it ends up sounding ridiculous because he says that the deal was done for a million dollars.
Birdemic is full of shit like this, but make no mistake, it is one of the absolute best bad movies you could ever hope to see. It's rampant incompetence makes other bad movies seem like stylistic masterpieces. This film almost makes The Room seem like a triumph of form over content. The fact that for almost a full hour of the film's running time there is no indication, beyond the title, that there will be killer birds in this film, is a pretty good indicator of the quality of film you're dealing with.
The movie opens with the most interminable driving sequence this side of Manos: Hands of Fate, and then lazily stumbles into what it assumes is an American meet-cute between the two leads, the aforementioned high rolling businessman/software designer Rod, and a model about to get the biggest break of her life, Nathalie (Whitney Moore). The fact that these two are completely and totally devoid of anything even resembling a personality makes them a match made in heaven. Before I get too far ahead of myself, can we talk about the font used for the opening titles for a second? It was like Helvetica or Courier New, it was so pedestrian and comically oversized, it was an instant indicator of the quality of the film to follow. It also uses the phrase: Additional Casts to introduce the supporting cast. It's another one of those adorable foreign touches I was talking about earlier.
So anyway, the two leads set out on the path to romance, but luckily for them, the path is paved with their dream jobs as well. After posing for some pictures in a strip mall photography place by the name of "Dream Models," she gets a call letting her know that she's going to be on the cover of Victoria's Secret. There's no irony in this film, it doesn't have time for such contrivances, so they're pretty sincere about this plot development. Is it wrong that I'm getting hung up on this sort of minutiae in a movie about exploding killer birds? I don't think so, I'm trying to set the scene for the overall incompetence on display. American concepts, foreign sensibilities.
Make no mistake, this isn't just a badly written movie. It's startlingly bad on all fronts. The acting is atrocious, the directing is clumsy (there are at least five establishing shots before every scene), the writing is tin-eared, the audio mix is terrible (dialogue, ambient noise and room tone seem to be single tracked, if anyone even bothered with the latter two) and the visual effects are so primitive, they are laughable.
There's nothing good to be said about any single element of this film, but as many of you know, I am a bad movie connoisseur, so when all of these disparate elements combine, it makes for a wonderful viewing experience. Also, scenes and sub-plots come and go with reckless abandon, it's ridiculous. Consider for a moment all the nonsense herein: the solar panel salesman, the guy at the bar singing a song about "hanging out," the hippie in the woods who lives in a tree, the gas station owner who's jacking up his prices due to bird attacks. There's some really great stuff here, and I'm laughing just thinking about it.
Director James Nguyen has pulled off a coup here that only a few directors have been able to pull off before: Ed Wood, Uwe Boll, Tommy Wiseau among them. He's made a genuine piece of shit that has found a second life as a cult classic. I would hate to think that he set out to make a good movie, but once the birds start attacking, the talk of global warming, tree hugging, & the Iraq war make me think that he was setting out to make something that would get people thinking about the world in a different way. Characters throw out theories about the birds attacking with a commitment to their lines not seen since the advent of after-school specials. For example, the main characters go on a double date to see An Inconvenient Truth early on, again, without even a hint of irony.
I would love to think that Nguyen is a genius, and has mastered the art of making a thoroughly competent incompetent movie, but there's no way that's the case. Films like Black Dynamite & Hobo with a Shotgun are definitely of this ilk, but I think that Nguyen, like Tommy Wiseau before him, is trying to make the best of a bad situation. I heartily recommend that you watch Birdemic. You can find our liveblog of it archived here. I can tell you that we had a blast, and I can only hope that you will too. Share your favorite moments below (Rod eating a donut off a plate at his house, for example), and let's all have a good laugh together. That's what movies like this are all about.