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03 April, 2011

Junkyardfilm.com's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR


Year of Release—Film:  2008

An ambitious young software salesman reacquaints with a long-lost high school crush, now a high-fashion model.  But their budding affair is interrupted by the sudden and unexplained invasion of vultures and eagles bent on their destruction and that of the town.  Bloody carnage from above ensues as our brave couple flees along with their mutual best friends and two small children they rescued along the way.  Who will survive?

That's it, folks.  That’s the whole plot.  Director/ writer/ producer James Nguyen gives us a... well... homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (complete with a cameo of Tippi Hedren by way of a small TV screen).  Billed by him as a “romantic thriller,” BIRDEMIC is a disaster.  But, not in the way that Nguyen envisioned.  Or is it?  This movie is so artfully filled with craptastic film work one wonders if Nguyen might not just be a genius.  Let’s examine the acting, which is so wooden that viewers run the risk of contacting Dutch elm disease.  Our young salesman, the aptly named Rod, walks down a sidewalk so stiffly that one imagines the director glued the actor’s back to a broom-handle.  He enters a restaurant and sits down.  A waitress approaches the table and says, “Here is menu.  I’ll return.”  On her face is an expression of such sheer terror one would assume she was handling nuclear reactor waste rather than a simple menu.  This is the level of the acting in this movie.

While we’re at it, let’s discuss the dialogue.  Watching BIRDEMIC is like watching a poorly dubbed foreign film.  Examples: “I like you and because you are pretty to me”.  And this conversation: “Where is Becky?”  “She’s taking a shit.  Nathalie is watching her back.”  In an interview, female lead Whitney Moore states “He only gave the cast the script in thirds, so I, yeah, the script was obviously broken English...you know, it wasn’t a great script.  But he wrote it himself.  He really was very strict about sticking to the script.”  Nathalie is certainly attractive eye-candy in her lingerie that one can actually imagine her garnering a job as the cover girl at Victoria’s Secret catalogue as she does in the movie.  However, that’s where her believability ends.  Aided by the fact that her “high fashion modeling” takes place at a One-Hour Photo Shop that also advertises cold beer for sale.  For the next 45 minutes, we see the young couple at their jobs (the software boardroom scene is priceless!), dining out, going to movies, taking long walks, visiting friends and family and engaged in a well-lit but otherwise passionless bedroom romp.  Then the birds attack!

Rod and Nathalie escape and, along with their best friends, Becky and Rick, flee into the countryside.  Along the way they find two small children, orphaned by the birds.  They also find AK-47 assault rifles with lots of ammo.  They encounter Mr. Tree-Hugger-Guy and another man who charges them $100 a gallon for gas.  A bad GIF forest fire and an attempted robbery later, we find them at the beach.  With nowhere else to run, it seems it's curtains for our young couple.  But wait!  Flocks of bad-GIF white doves are flying to their aid!  Doves of peace!  Doves of salvation!

The film is shot using a hand-held video camera that constantly swoops and dips leaving one with a feeling of vertigo.  Mr. Nguyen knows nothing about blocking a scene.  Scenes end abruptly or go one for too long and there is no cohesive flow from one scene to the next.  A prime example of this is where the couple is running through a forest fire and the GIF fire suddenly blinks out a full two seconds before the scene ends!  Dialogue is often over-shadowed by loud 70”s synthesizer music or lost completely by bad sound editing.  Some scenes are shot in total silence only to be interrupted by conversations that seemed to have been recorded using walkie-talkies.  When the microphone wasn't needed to capture some mindless blathering between the actors, eco-friendly Nguyen turned it off.  And, we mustn't forget the birds!  (I know I never will!)  Badly animated, low-resolution GIFs, they hover like 2D stickers in place, flapping their wings and cawing in a sound-loop.  People who are killed by the birds just cover their eyes, wait for the GIF to work its magic, and then fall to the ground with blood on their faces.  Because I cannot emphasize this enough, I offer you this youtube clip:

The birds “poop” acid and, when they are shot, they fall straight down to the ground and explode!

Mr. Nguyen, the self-proclaimed “Master of the Romantic Thriller” (he had that trademarked!), has a message in BIRDEMIC and that's that nature is going mad and it's caused by man's harm to the planet.  When not slamming us in the face with www.imaginepeace.com posters, Mr. Nguyen is assaulting our ears with bad John Lennon cover songs and Mr. Tree-Hugger-guy telling our heroes that he won't be attacked by the birds because he lives in the woods and not out on the road like other stupid man-animal civilizations.  Nguyen proselytizes by having his characters talk about solar panels and hybrid cars and going to see AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.  He wields his “truths” in a heavy-handed manner that makes Michael Moore appear laid back.  At least we now know the name of Yoko Ono’s lone fan!

After seven months of weekend filming and at a cost of under $10,000, Nguyen finally had his film in the can.  And, like any director of vision, he headed to the 2008 Sundance Film Festival to submit his movie.  (He wasn’t invited.  He just went!)  Decorating his beat-up SUV with fake bird props, lots of phony blood and a poster advertising his movie (misspelled “BIDEMIC!”), Nguyen proudly pulled into Park City, Utah.  However, Sundance wasn’t ready for BIRDEMIC so Nguyen unspooled it in bars before drunken but stunned customers.  Word-of-mouth spread and soon it became a cult sensation on the midnight movie circuits in Austin TX, Phoenix AZ and Los Angeles, CA.  But someone else at the Sundance Film Festival noticed Nguyen, and that someone was Evan Husney of the UK-based Severin Films.  Intrigued not only by the movie but the audiences’ reactions to it, Severin Films picked up the DVD distribution rights and began showing it across the country.  Along the way it began to get encouraging notices from “Attack of the Show,” the horror movie web site Bloody Disgusting and Entertainment Weekly.  Midnight showings sold out across the nation!  BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR was released on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 22, 2011.  Mr. Nguyen’s ship had just come in!

In a Feb 24th interview with Bloody Disgusting web site, Mr. Nguyen was asked about his struggles to make BIRDEMIC.  He states, “I make movies because I love making movies, like a painter who loves to paint.  I love making movies.  Making movies is my passion.  That’s why I made it.  I didn’t make it to make money.  I made it because I love making movies.  But it was a struggle, like anybody who wants to be discovered, to be recognized.  So I went on to make “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.”  I love making movies.”  And by accident, by chance, it became a hit.  It was my breakthrough movie into Hollywood.”  Encouraged by the movie’s “success,” Nguyen is working on it’s sequel BIRDEMIC 2: THE RESURRECTION in 3D which is anticipating a fall 2011 release.  Here’s hoping Nguyen can capture lightning in a bottle twice!

Enjoy!  “Yaaaaaayyy...”

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