Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010) – That about sums it up

I love trashy movies as much as the next guy, but it was honestly hard to sit through this one. I mean, there’s plenty to enjoy here, but not in the way it was intended. I think The Room might have to relinquish its title for the worst movie ever made. Seriously, the production on romantic-eco-thriller Birdemic looks worse than any student project I was ever involved in, and that’s saying something. Director James Nguyen has outdone himself here, assembling a cast and crew beyond compare, who are introduced in plain font over a painfully slow opening scene. Honestly though, the level of ineptitude on this self-financed project is charming. Nguyen is clearly a guy who idolises Hitchcock and Al Gore, but just doesn’t know how to go about emulating them.

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With the amount of first timers involved, I can only guess that Nguyen has roped in some friends to help him out. Perhaps he should have just done it himself. The sound, which seems to have been exclusively captured with the on-board mic, cuts in and out to try and mask the hideous background levels. There are three people listed in the sound department, all with actual experience, I doubt there was even one. The rest of the editing is about as good as the royalty free soundtrack. Shots often pause for a second or two before a fade kicks in at beginning or end. The sheer amount of useless footage that has been left in should probably be punishable under federal law. Unbelievably, this isn’t Kim Choi’s first editing gig, he worked on Nguyen’s second feature Replica. Yes, the director has two features to his name before this one, remind me to check them out. I’m being a bit harsh on Choi though, Nguyen’s script should take a lot of the blame. Seriously, we watch this totally uninteresting protagonist do everything from stopping for gas, to walking down the street, or having a consultation with a solar salesman. The camera work, by Daniel Mai, throughout all of this is pretty ace too, featuring plenty of questionable framing, a lack of focus, and jarring readjustments. You have to admire his passion for camera movement though.

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I feel bad for beating this film up a bit, especially when I haven’t even got to the acting. Just know I do it out of love. I honestly can’t believe, though, that these actors ever worked again, most made their unenviable screen debut here. Alan Bagh is our totally uninteresting protagonist Rod, looking like he’d be more at home on a shelf at your local DIY store. Wooden, robotic, emotionless – these words don’t even describe how sad this guy’s acting is. It’s like he is reading the script for the first time, without glasses. Tommy Wiseau eat your heart out. Watch out for his latest role alongside Danny Trejo, coming to a cinema near you, or a bargain bin. Filling out the cast are Rod’s overly excitable workmates, seedy friend Rick and his Yoko Ono-loving girlfriend, and all manner of other awkward characters. I want to give a special mention to Whitney Moore though, as Rod’s budding love interest Nathalie, and possible the most beautiful actress to ever grace a B movie screen. She is the only person here – perhaps with the exception of her mother, played by Patsy Van Ettinger, a Nguyen regular – who seems to actually hold down a scene, in spite of how awful they are. Apparently the poor girl even stepped in as makeup artist when the others, understandably, quit. Talk about dedication.

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Somewhere in the midst of all this banal and meaningless character development, birds go kamikaze on Rod and Nathalie’s quiet seaside holiday destination. This is when the movie really kicks in to gear. Nguyen obviously shelled out big on the CGI department with first timer Yeung Chan. The poor guy really made a name for himself here, having no credits since. He was one of the few cast and crew that didn’t even return for the sequel. However, Nguyen has backed the kid saying “from a distance I think those eagles and vultures look pretty realistic.”  Either way, you can’t deny it is a scream watching poor, novice actors fending off bad CGI birds with coat hangers. Our lovebirds quickly make friends with an ex-Marine, and his girlfriend. They pick up a couple of kids as they travel aimlessly around in a dodgy van searching for supplies and survivors – yuppie Rod lost the keys to his “plug-in hybrid” Mustang. They meet all manner of colourful folk, including an utterly incomprehensible shop owner, a hermit, and a cowboy who forces them at gunpoint to “sell me some gas.” When the ending finally comes, you probably won’t believe it, and not in a good way.

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There is just so much more I could say about this miracle piece of filmmaking. A miracle in the sense that it actually got made and distributed. Apparently when denied by Sundance, Nguyen drove around in a car covered with fake blood and birds to promote the movie. It’s a good thing he did, because if not the film-loving world would be at a loss. Whichever way you look at it, Nguyen has achieved something here. It’s rare that a movie manages to be so awful and amateur, yet still almost keep you entertained. So, if you like bad movies, make sure you check this one out, it takes the cake. Or if you prefer sane advice, do yourself a favour and don’t watch it.

Here’s an interview with James Nguyen a bewildered ABC journo

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