BIRDEMIC - Shock and Terror
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(Apr 03, 2009)
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SYNOPSIS: A platoon of eagles & vultures attack the residence of a small town. Many people died. It's not known what caused the flying menace to attack. Two people managed to fight back, but will they survive BIRDEMIC?
Why did the eagles and vultures attack?
Partly inspired by Hitchcock's The Birds, there is a Cameo by Ms. Tippi Hedren (Hitchcock's "The Birds").
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I have seen many, many bad movies over the years. Many. Hundreds, perhaps thousands. And of those, there are a select few that are so indomitably awful that they transcend bad and achieve a sort of awful greatness, a train wreck effect that compels you to watch the movie over and over again, trying to make sense of it. Night of the Lepus. Beware! The Blob!. Shriek of the Mutilated. I'm sure you can come up with another dozen of your favorites. Add to that list the second half of Birdemic: Shock and Terror. I mean, when people rush into your convenience store and scream "the eagles killed my friends!", and you've been hearing reports about killer eagles on the radio all day, wouldn't you think your first reaction would be to go to the front door and remove the prop holding it open? But no, folks. That's the kind of genius that was involved in putting this mess together.
The first half of this abyss of stupidity is actually a romance, not a horror flick. Rod (Alan Bagh in, thankfully, his only screen role) is a software salesman who runs into a high school classmate, Nathalie (Student of Virginity's Whitney Moore), who's become a fashion model, by chance in a diner. After a painfully awkward meeting scene that encompasses everything one shouldn't do in a meeting scene, they begin dating, etc., etc. There are a couple of foreshadowing moments that something will go wrong (and as soon as you hit the first one, you'll know you're trapped in yet another horrendous ecohorror movie with a MESSAGE), but for the most part, it's played as a straight drama/romance. Fifty minutes into the movie, however, it switches direction into ecohorror. The opening piece of this half of the movie is so badly done that I defy anyone to see it without laughing in near-hysterical disbelief. It is at this point that the movie transcends is horrible beginnings and becomes worthy of sticking on your short shelf of movies so truly awful that you can't help but love them. I've seen CGI this bad in a handful of Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies, but I've never seen any worse. The acting is horrible (as it was in the first half), but more notably, the actions taken by the characters are invariably idiotic. (The not-closing-the-door thing in the opening paragraph? Tip of the iceberg, baby.) And when you get to the final scene, please resist the urge to throw things at the television. You don't want to break your screen.
Like all movies that find themselves on the list, it lacks any redeeming qualities whatsoever. If you are not appreciative of cheesy movies, do yourself a favor and stay far, far away from this one. If, however, you can appreciate the demented (sub-mental?) genius involved in the crafting of such braindead classics as Kingdom of the Spiders, then this is one you need to see. Stick it out through the first forty-five minutes, though, and you will be amply rewarded. ½
Given this, there seems little point in not beginning the review with the answer to the question that's been on every serious cinemaphile's lips for well over a year. That answer is Yes; Birdemic: Shock and Terror is another Nguyen masterpiece.
The movie tells the story of young lovers Rod (Alan Bagh) and Nathalie (Whitney Moore) and their harrowing struggle for survival in a small town beset by avian aggressors. With a screenplay so remarkably well crafted as that of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, it takes remarkable restraint for a reviewer not to go into the minutiae of every beautifully executed twist and turn of the narrative, simply through enthusiam for its beauty. It would be an unpardonable sin for me to steal the wonder of discovery from any future viewers by venturing into such spoiler-laden territory and so, as much as it pains me, I will steer clear of such details. It is clear from the opening credits though that the movie is special. In exploring the origins of the central romance between the protagonists, Nguyen makes sure to take his time. By labouring so carefully over the development of his characters, when they encounter the inevitable peril of the titular Birdemic the viewer has no choice but to feel a very real kinship with them, experiencing vicariously the horrors to which they're subjected. By taking the time to document the banal elements of Rod's day to day routine (pulling out of his driveway, putting petrol in his car, opening doors) the contrast of the white knuckle thrill ride to come is all the more keenly experienced. Nguyen's revolutionary technique of allowing the camera to switch with every line of dialogue and focus on the speaker espouses a hyper-realist aesthetic seldom seem outside of art house cinema. Nguyen uses it in what is, in every sense, a blockbuster movie without missing a beat. This
vérité approach is mirrored in the very clay with which Nguyen sculpts his work. By disregarding modern, expensive cameras and oft-relied upon tools such as tripods and directional microphones in favour of more basic equipment, the director succeeds most admirably in breaking down the wall of cinematic sheen that so often serves to distance a narrative from its audience.
In contrast to the use of more basic recording equipment, it should be noted that the special effects in Birdemic: Shock and Terror rank up there with the greatest the big screen has ever seen. From the stunning parrot scene early on to the remarkable bird attack on the car, the CGI is impeccable. It's testament to the lifelike quality of the work that I spent the majority of the film wondering how they were able to train such large quantities of birds to perform on film. Indeed, it was only the breathtaking scale of the climactic scenes that brought me to the realisation that the birds were computer generated. I am still unable to decide if the flame effects were digital or produced through burning scale models of the sets.
I must also address a concern that was expressed by many critics in the preproduction stage of Birdemic: Shock and Terror; namely, the casting. Many felt that by putting household names such as Alan Bagh (Ghost Shark II: Urban Jaws) and Whitney Moore (Student of Virginity) in the leading roles, Nguyen would undermine the individuality of the movie. Let me assure you that any such concern is allayed instantly by the quality of both actors' performances. As people are so fond of saying about Leonard's di Caprio, I have found myself wondering aloud before how these two cinematic greats have been passed up for recognition by The Academy in the past. Given the performances of both in Birdemic: Shock and Terror, this question becomes less a bemusing oversight and more a crime of modern cinema.
As a small footnote, it would be remiss of me to discuss the casting of Birdemic: Shock and Terror without making mention of the contribution of that darling of the contemporary music press, Damien Carter. Not only does Damien contribute several songs to the already stellar soundtrack of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, he also has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in the memorably touching nightclub scene performing his global hit, 'Just Hanging Out'.
To summarise, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is not only going to be remembered as the best film of 2010, but as a true zeitgeist event in world cinema. It is perhaps all the more remarkable that, in producing a film which pays such a clear homage to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, Nguyen has managed to usurp the former's place as the greatest commercial director to ever grace the chair.