In 2006, a Vietnamese software salesman named James Nguyen, raised on a love for the films of Alfred Hitchcock, began working on and self-financing a movie he personally described as “a very seriously-felt story about man and his machines and all the harm it’s doing on planet Earth.” Heavy-handed, sure, but promising nonetheless.
Four years later (as in three more than one), Birdemic: Shock And Terror was released.
This movie is wonderful, and if you have about an hour and a half to spare, you should do yourself a favour and hit play because you genuinely cannot grasp the idea of the experience you’re about to have if you’ve never seen it.
Basically, there’s bad movies like The Last Airbender where everything is completely joyless and lifeless and watching it feels like a fucking chore, and then there’s bad movies where each and every moment begs mind-splitting exegesis to inform every single executive decision made from script to screen as your thoughts and feelings and grasp on the medium of visual storytelling all begin to abstract. Birdemic is best described as the latter.
On paper, this movie is a modern retreading of The Birds, about two recently reconnected high school friends who begin a relationship and then must face a violent threat as the natural world turns against that of mankind. What sets this movie apart is that despite having access to exponentially better technology than what Hitchcock had at his disposal, you’ll honestly see better filmmaking in all the horrible Gangnam Style “parodies” that various high school media clubs are resorting to.
The sound editing is a mess, dutch angles seem to be created out of Nguyen’s inability to fit into a space with a camera and his actors, he’s cast an honest to god Blade Runner replicant as his lead protagonist, the expository information cup runneth over as we are shown characters taking five to ten minutes of screen time driving to their destinations and sometimes even stopping for gas, set design consists of signs written in Helvetica on regular printer paper if they’re not simply green screened in, the film credits a composer who used royalty-free pre-recorded loops for almost every instance his job called for except for one original song which is essentially a MIDI cover of “Imagine” by John Lennon and is seriously called “Imagine Peace”, and I’m pretty sure the birds themselves are actually just the same two or three animated gifs. Oh, and there’s a distressingly restrained dance scene consisting of three people.
I’ve described about a tenth of everything that is ridiculous about this movie, and that’s not even touching on the plot. Nothing anyone does in this movie makes any god damn sense. The birds are apparently attacking because of bird flu because of global warming. They can explode on impact after divebombing and sounding like a crashing World War II plane, they can spit acid, and they can squeak. The protagonists discover this apparently terrifying outdoor threat and then promptly drive out into an open field and have a picnic. I don’t know what their plan was. I don’t know how long they were gone for and why they keep eating so much.
At one point during the making of the film, Whitney Moore, who plays Nathalie (and who probably walks away from this movie looking the best), asked Nguyen why the characters would go into the forest to fill up hundreds of water bottles at a river after having bought plenty of supplies only a few scenes earlier. He replied “because it’s a movie”, and then, in true Hitchcock style, refused to speak to her during the next several weeks of production.
Oh, also, global warming.
The mythology of this movie is utterly engrossing. I love it so much. I’ve written an incredibly disjointed and sloppy essay here and there are still so many things I could talk about. Watch this movie. Please.