So I’ve been hearing people mention this BIRDEMIC film for a few weeks now and having never seen it, it began to spark my interest. I managed to find it on Netflix and while I was somewhat prepared to take in all the horridness that was being discussed, I was still quite taken aback at what was presented to me on television screen.
Having read Robert Rodriguez’s REBEL WITHOUT A CREW and subsequently watching his Spanish language masterpiece EL MARIACHI, I was fully aware of what could be done on a tiny budget. Sure it’s difficult, but for a sub $10,000 budget, the man responsible for a few of Hollywood’s recent gems, proved that it is possible to create a film that isn’t total shit. With BIRDEMIC, however, directory/producer/writer James Nguyen managed to turn his $10k investment into one of the most horrendously ridiculous filmic bowel movements I’ve ever encountered. Luckily for us, it is another one of those “trash that’s treasured” flicks made for those who can look past what it tries to be and value what it actually is.
Right from the start, with the obviously basement bottom musical “score” on loop, you pretty much know what you’re getting into. Even the opening credit sequence text is grammatically incorrect, listing non featured actors as the “supporting casts.” While most will look past these minor details, or not notice them at all, to the trained eye and mind, its somewhat of a warning as to what is to follow for the next 93 minutes.
As a romantic thriller, BIRDEMIC is equal parts romantic and thriller. The major issue with the film, however, is that neither side truly correlates to the other. The first half of the film is purely romance, introducing the audience to our characters and showcasing their courtship. Rod (Alan Bagh), a software engineer turned salesman and Nathalie (Whitney Moore), a fashion model, meet outside a restaurant and a rekindle a flame that apparently was missed during their shared high school days. They exquisitely wine and dine each other via montages, showing their budding relationship quickly blossoming. One thing leads to another and they eventually find themselves at a sleazy motel.
And then it happens…
Some quaint establishing shots of familiar landscapes– a staple of the film at this point– turn into terror as the brief intermission unveils the “thriller” portion of the film. Horribly animated CGI birds – for all intents and purposes: eagles and vultures - take over the city, flying about and dive-bombing themselves into all the people, places and things about. Rightfully so, the ferocious fauna wouldn’t be complete without the capabilities of inciting fear by sounding like fully equipped B-52 bombers. It is truly a birdemic, indeed. Fortunately for our couple, they manage to make friends with another pair staying at the hotel who happen to have concealed submachine guns on hand, and apparently, the cheat code for unlimited ammo. From here on out, it’s a kill or be killed scenario that produces some of the worst visuals known to mankind. Mix this in with some other ridiculous scenarios – Nathalie goes from taking photos at a small boutique to being the cover girl for Victoria’s Secret; Rod’s entire life resolves around extremely simple, round numbers; etc, al. – and you’ve got all the ingredients for disaster.
On top of the whole plot amounting to be ornamented fecal matter, the “actors” are atrocious. Our male lead, Rod comes across as being completely inhuman. Moving about as quite mechanically, he acts as though he’s never had any form of social interaction with other earthly beings. He walks in the most uncomfortable fashions, almost as if rails and tracks bind his movements, and he talks like he’s a societally functional retard. His “way too hot for this film” female counterpart, Nathalie (Whitney Moore), seems a bit more human, but it is still blatantly obvious that she has had minimal experience in the realm of acting. The fact that her resume lists any acting gig following this movie is quite surprising to me. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, though, the only reason it isn’t heart wrenchingly painful to watch the two of them interact is because of how beautiful their awkwardness’s play off one another, like watching two cars collide in slow motion set to a fine orchestral piece. The point I’m getting at can best be summed up in this one particular scene in which the couple engages in a bit of dancing. I’m not going to try to describe it, as words wouldn’t even do it justice. You’ve just gotta see it for yourself…
Furthermore, the remainders of the supporting cast members come across as buffoons. From missed cues to slurred and misspoken lines to the over and under uses of emotion, all across the board it seems as though nobody knows what they’re doing. Sadly, I can’t place all the blame upon the on screen chaps, as I’m sure a lot of their mistakes should have been left on the cutting room floor, but as the beneficiaries of all bad production decisions, they look like total shit.
Speaking of total shit, the birds are just that. Calling the visual effects bad would be the ultimate exercise in understatement, akin to calling the ocean moist. I think I read somewhere that Nguyen paid a student animator $100 to create the birds in the film, and I’d venture to say he got exactly his money’s worth. Aside from the birds being so obviously computer generated, their movements are extremely stiff and unnatural. Not that it even matters, but the fact that the vultures look exactly like their eagle counterparts, only black, makes for an even more unrealistic scenario as does the fighter jet noises that they squawk and their ability to spit acid and explode into balls of fire. Yes, it’s all bad.
On top of all that, the film is riddled with an environmentally friendly “go-green” message. While it is true that it’s the only thing that ties the two completely differing portions of the story together, it might be the unintentionally funny element of the film. From the subtle promotions solar panels as the energy of the future to the blatantly upfront choice of film for their double date night, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (one of the films that Nguyen claims inspired this work), there’s a definite green undertone that builds as the film goes on. Ultimately culminating in a meeting with the self-proclaimed tree hugger, Tom Hill (Stephen Gustavson), in the middle of the forest, one can only deduce that our filmmaker is a eco-crisis fearing man, who is afraid of the consequences of mankind’s poisoning of mother nature. The manifestation of this terror in BIRDEMIC adds yet another botched layer to a film that manages to totally blunder at every turn.
When all is said and done, BIRDEMIC is up there amongst the best of the worst films of modern day. Combining horrendous acting, a lackluster – at best – plot, and some of the worst CGI I’ve seen since my undergrad years, its definitely something you should check out. Hop on Netflix and give it a whirl, just prepare to take what’s presented to you with a grain of salt. While James Nguyen’s intentions might be unknown, the result of his labor tops the charts in the category of films that truly hurt soooooo good.
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