My experience with Birdemic is wholly exclusive – in fact, you’ll see me if you focus very intently on a two-second scene in the teaser trailer for Moviehead: The James Nguyen Story, included on this disk. Mr. Nguyen, the self-titled “master of the romantic thriller”, made an appearance at his film’s New York premiere and my friends and I were first on line. I bought a ticket almost immediately after seeing this astounding trailer. The next couple of weeks saw an actively cajoling of close friends in an effort to warm them up to this film. Without having seen it, I secretly hoped it would approach the grandeur of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – that improbable genius that results from a film so ineptly orchestrated that it redefines your idea of how bad movies get.
Sadly, it doesn’t – but that’s not to say Birdemic doesn’t carve out a personal mantle of awfulness, supported by the laurels of the cast, the direction, the cinematography and especially the eye-popping, umm, CGI? The draw has to be the animation of the avian menace – I can’t vouch for it, but those like GIFs to me, circa 1998.
Mr. Nguyen’s skill behind the camera is beyond my writing abilities to summarize, but luckily, a collection of the prominent action scenes is up right here on Youtube. His approach to the story of Rob (Alan Bagh) and Nathalie (Whitney Moore) is one for the ages – imagine, if you will, someone who gorged on the classic silver screen romances and then proceeded to effectively butcher them to great hilarity. But that’s only one facet of Birdemic mosaic-like tale of interlocking lives in a world under siege by a seriously pissed off Mother Nature. This film’s ambitions would make Paul Thomas Anderson proud.
It is considerable of Mr. Nguyen to punctuate our couple’s warmly lit and unsurprisingly conservative sex scene with all hell breaking loose, as acid-vomiting (fact-check?) birds lay waste to empty stretches of highway, fields, and long shots of small towns. Rob and Nathalie join forces with a crew of survivors and endure considerable loses while fending off the menace in the sky with automatic weapons. Considering the birds explode on impact with anything, its odd they never mount a full-scale kamikaze attack on the humans, instead preferring windshields of cars and often, the ground.
The last 45 minutes of the film is some of the most emotionally grueling filmmaking I’ve ever sat through – you keep asking yourself, don’t I have something, anything better to do? And finally, as you watch Rob and Nathalie (and maybe some children – were there children?) survive a vicious onslaught with a little help from GIFs that look like white doves, Mr. Nguyen closes out his film with a breathtaking one-take shot of the eagles slowing being animated further into the distance. If Charlie Sheen’s rants can be deemed art nowadays, then Birdemic doesn’t fall into the category, it owns it. Tommy Wiseau need not worry atop his throne, but to see Mr. Nguyen work is to know there somewhere, deep down in the bowels of bad filmmaking, there thrives a challenger – I can only hope the sequel, Birdemic II: The Resurrection (in 3D), does not disappoint.
DVD Bonus Features
Not to be outdone by the film, Birdemic special features make a serious case for outright purchase on the basis of one single featurette – an episode of San Franciscan public access TV show Movie Close-Up. Either host Bonnie Steiger is the most genuine woman on earth or the funniest – her earnest questioning of Mr. Nguyen is arguably some of the funniest (or driest) humor to be found anywhere on this DVD. Also included is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek commentary with cast and director, two deleted scenes, a brief Birdemic Experience Tour featurette that sees Nguyen visiting a variety of screenings around the country (including the NY screening!), and the teaser Moviehead: The James Nguyen Story.
P.S. As one-half of the podcast duo The Brooklyn Film Theorists, I covered The Room earlier this month. Check out that episode right here. Thanks for listening!
"Birdemic: Shock and Terror" is on sale February 22, 2011 and is not rated. Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Romance, Romantic-Comedy, Thriller. Written and directed by James Nguyen. Starring Alan Bagh, Tippi Hedren, Whitney Moore.