Screen Jeers: ‘Birdemic’


Caryn: This week, we’re talking about a movie that might actually be quite good… if the sound, video and special effects weren’t such poor quality. This week we’re talking about “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” It’s a beautiful love story with a thinly veiled environmental message.

The movie starts with Rod reconnecting with Nathalie, a classmate from high school. Rod puts on the moves and regales her with tales from his fabulous job at NCT Software. They strike up a romance, chatting over Vietnamese food, dancing at a shady club and finally hooking up in a seedy motel when shock and terror strike! Hundreds of eagles randomly begin attacking the human race! Nathalie and Rod escape with the help of two other motel guests, Rick and Becky, and a handful of coat hangers.

The group traverses the countryside, trying to find a way to escape the eagles. They stop occasionally and meet an ecologist and a guy who lives in the forest. The people they meet tell them about global warming and the impending threat of spruce bark beetles. Eventually they stop on the beach, the eagles fly away, and they enjoy a meal of fish and seaweed with two little kids they kidnap on their journey. The movie ends with Nathalie, Rod, and the two little kids gazing off into the distance with some crappy synthesized music playing in the background.

Dan, you loved this movie, even more than I loved “The Room,” I think. What did you love about it and why should everyone you know and love see this movie?

Dan: No joke, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Nothing works at all: the acting, the dialogue, the horror, the plot … it’s all terrible. But it still holds this weird charm throughout that makes it genuinely enjoyable. There are terrible movies like “Battlefield Earth” and “Glitter” that are just a pain to sit through. I’d also throw “The Room” in that category because, if you’re watching it without friends or someone to make jokes with, that would make for a miserable experience.

But “Birdemic” hits just the perfect note of cheesiness and laughable awfulness. With some movies, especially ones that are trying to make a statement, I get really angry or upset when things don’t make sense or when a message is so overt and blatant that I can feel it being pounded into my skull. This definitely falls under both categories, but it’s clear that the people involved had no idea what they were doing. Every single attempt at filmmaking missed in “Birdemic,” and somehow that made it better. I liken it to “The Producers,” where the characters set up the show that’s sure to bomb, only they accidentally created a masterpiece of a comedy. Except in the case of “Birdemic,” James Nguyen and company were trying to make a great film, only it was terrible … but that’s what makes it so great!

Does any of this make sense?

Caryn: Of course that makes sense. I feel the same way about “The Room” that you do about “Birdemic.” I think the one thing I like more about “The Room,” though, is it doesn’t have annoying seagull noises throughout the entire second and third acts. I think at one point the birds even make some dive-bombing airplane noises. It’s completely ridiculous

After the first act, the movie hits a bad cycle. Rod, Nathalie and whatever characters are in their beat-up van drive around the countryside, stopping randomly to either pick up food or chat with environmental experts. After that, the eagles arrive, so they get back in their van, shoot a few rounds of ammo at the eagles and drive away. The eagles make an awful screeching noise that overpowers all the rest of the sounds. The cycle repeats itself five separate times, and my brain started tuning the movie out after the second cycle of park-talk-shoot/screech-escape.

A lot of people die in this movie, too, and the characters seem to have no reaction to so many dead people. They seem to lack basic human instincts to react with disgust and horror, or really any emotion. Rod and Nathalie’s relationship is based on… well, nothing. It results in just a bunch of weird, uncomfortable scenes that are poorly shot with a cheap handheld camera.

Dan: I know! Isn’t it wonderful? I think the redeeming quality of this movie is that it’s all so sweet and sincere. “The Room” tried to be deep and twisted and ended up just being stupid. “Battlefield Earth” tried to be epic and ended up just being tedious. But “Birdemic” tried to be a love story and a survival story. Those are two inherently good things; the audience wants the main characters to fall in love and to get through the turmoil of .GIF birds attacking. It doesn’t matter that neither of them have the slightest inkling of a personality — they’re so entertainingly awkward that we must see more of them!

When Tommy Wiseau saw how “The Room” was being lambasted, he started saying he had always intended for it to be a black comedy and not a straight-up drama. (Those of us who saw that movie have a sneaking suspicion that this, in fact, was not the case.) James Nguyen goes to screenings of “Birdemic” and laughs along with the crowd. But he still stands by his work for its original intentions, not taking the easy way out and switching tactics to make himself seem more clever. And the best part is he’s making a sequel!

Bottom line is this movie spirals so far out of control that it’s just so much fun to watch and see how much stranger and lamer it gets. It never disappoints, right up until the inexplicable ending. Rod and Nathalie are bunkered in with those random children in the van as the birds are floating over them. Then, for no reason whatsoever, they all fly away across the ocean. What made them leave? Was global warming defeated? Did the characters learn a valuable lesson that made the birds decide, “You know what, we should give them another chance”? Did they think Rod and Nathalie were going to start doing the “Hanging Out with the Family” dance again? No! Nothing changed in the slightest! They just fly away as the characters mosey on down to the beach to watch the credits roll. It’s an absurd ending to an absurd movie, and I challenge you to name one movie this strange from beginning to end.

Caryn: I could watch “Birdemic” over and over again, and I’ve watched it multiple times. I’ve seen other horrible movies such as “Battlefield Earth,” “Battleship,” and “Safe” only once, and no amount of money would bribe me to see it again.

You don’t have to challenge me to name a stranger movie. I totally believe you. “Birdemic” isn’t an intolerable movie, but I acknowledge it’s probably not for everyone. The constant driving around and shooting at the poorly animated birds in “Birdemic” was probably the most tedious part. Famously bad movies require a good sense of humor and a great deal of patience to watch, and a boatload more humor and patience to actually enjoy.

While we’re on the subject of bad movies we actually liked, we saw “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” this week. We went to see it because it made its debut at the bottom of the box office (it was No. 10.) We expected it to be lackluster at the most, but were pleasantly surprised at the plot, the characters and especially how it ended. Also, I’m obsessed with the soundtrack. Watch it now! We’ll have a video review next week.

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