[10 June 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
According to writer/director/concerned citizen-conspiracy theory crackpot James Nguyen, global warming, the continuing devastation of our natural resources, the unchecked rape of the world around us, and the lackadaisical reaction to our unfettered passion for fossil fuels, tagged to a continuing quest for material gain and capitalist control will lead to one horrific conclusion - deadly acidic bird shit. That’s right, as part of his prophetic warning to the people of planet Earth - Birdemic: Shock and Terror - our ecological ennui will result in avian adversaries who release a fatal stream of blinding bird feces, that is, when they’re not kamikaze dive bombing into gas stations and SUVs, or tearing out the throats of less than innocent bystanders. Apparently when eagles and vultures get pissed, they will target humanity for their terrifying twist on a “turkey” shoot.
Labeled a ‘romantic thriller’ by its creator, Birdemic begins by introducing us to upwardly mobile software salesman Rod (the robotic Alan Bagh). Closing million dollar deals with ease, he takes time off from his rise to the top to stop at a local diner. There, he meets suspect supermodel Nathalie (Whitney Moore) whose just landed a big gig with Victoria’s Secret. Soon, the two are dating, making cow eyes at each other and discussing - endlessly - what they want in the perfect mate. Rod continues to succeed at his job, so much so that when the company is bought for $1 billion (with a “B”), he takes his stock options and starts up his own solar panel concern. As things get more serious with Nathalie, the future is considered - again, endlessly.
Then, without warning, our lovers find themselves smack dab in the middle of a full blown crow-tastrophy. The birds are attacking, kicking ass and chewing seed - and they’re all out of seed. With the help of an ex-Marine and his irregular girlfriend, they must struggle to survive while all around them, poorly photoshopped creatures prepare to exact their revenge. Why? Well, you see, mankind just hasn’t played fair with the environment, taking advantage of its heavy abundance for its own selfish aims. As the various crimes committed against Mother N and her brood are detailed - yes, endlessly - we soon realize that, after this particular Birdemic, there might be an Insectdemic, Perchdemic, Three-Toed Slothdemic, or even a microscopic Amebademic. We’ve simply screwed things up that badly.
Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is Birdemic: Shock and Terror ever bad. Not just lame in an excusable “James Nguyen has no formal training as a filmmaker” ideal. Not in a “Alan Bagh has the personality of a turnip - and the acting prowess of same” concept. Not in a “Whitney Moore couldn’t keep Victoria’s Secret, let alone pose for them” conceit or “damn, these fake screeching fowls are irritating” perspective. No, the overall awfulness of this fabulous disaster oozes from every misguided cinematic orifice like yellow matter custard from a dead dog’s eye. It’s the minor things that add up at first - the lack of coherent and consistent sound design, meaning that every time someone speaks, Nguyen opens the mic and captures as much ambient noise as possible, making eventual editing and matching impossible. Even during a celebratory board meeting, applause die down and pick up like parents praising their first graders Thanksgiving pageant.
Such aural inconsistency and awkwardness is one thing, but Nguyen goes one step further by failing to deliver a single medium shot. Whenever people talk - and the first 45 minutes of this movie is nothing but individuals gabbing on and on about the god-awful state of Mama Earth - it’s almost always in close-up, the camera cutting back and forth between the actors (if you can legally call them that) while the voice track careens to keep up. The result is like watching Sergei Eisenstein with epilepsy, the poorly lit images bouncing onto the back of your brain like a full on artistic assault on your aesthetics. From the crappy rap song dance set in an Irish pub (you read that right) to a bugnuts moment when one ancillary character dies because she had to cop a squat - in a field - in plain view of the sky scraping terror from above, nothing is normal…or rational…or competent.
But it’s the good intentions that ultimately sink Birdemic into the mire of memorable cinematic slop. You can tell that Nguyen is gung ho about the environment. All throughout the first half of the film, he overloads his dialogue with discusses about emissions, greenhouse gases, global temperature increases, alternatives to gas and oil, and just about any other “inconvenient truth” he can wrap his diatribes around (he even tosses in a double date to the aforementioned Al Gore doc just to seal the deal). While his motives are more than noble, his execution is like running your Hummer on whale blubber and tire fire exhaust. If the planet could perceive what Nguyen was doing in his honor, it would quickly concoct its own Day After Tomorrow and eliminate all bipeds as a precautionary measure.
With its uniformly pathetic performances (a special shout out goes to the family of victims on a double-decker bus who whimper defiance as they physically acquiesce to the demands of a determined character) and a directing style that would make Ed Wood feel vindicated, Birdemic: Shock and Terror burns a pathway toward your pleasure centers and pours poison hawk poop in the wounds. Actually two films in one, the he/she half is so dull, so dreary in its uninvolving execution and lack of resonance that we hope the finch fear factor will live up to the hype. It does - and then some.
As Rod and his rampaging ragtag companions point plastic guns at the swarming flocks, as sporadic cartoon CG fires burn in the background, as unnecessarily saved children brat about being hungry and/or tired, and a self-professed tree hugging hermit discusses his literal love of the forest, Nguyen fires up his hackneyed hot pot to a rolling boil . He then serves us up a steaming bowl of balderdash and hopes we like the fetid flavor. Sadly, like our love for all things petroleum and perilous to the planet, we do. We really, really do.
Rating: 5 WTFs