Challenge Week 27: Birdemic: Shock and Terror

When I did the little preview post for this challenge with how much I was looking forward to various films, I listed this under “I’m Terrified” – not really so much because I knew it was supposed to be one of the worst movies ever made (I have a soft spot for so-bad-they’re-good movies), but because for some reason I thought it was like extra violent/gory/gross or something. I don’t know why I had that in my head, because it isn’t at all. It’s pretty tame, really, in that department.

So back to having a soft spot for so-bad-they’re-good movies. If you’re that type of person, THIS MOVIE IS AMAZING. It’s clearly supposed to be a sort of remake/homage to The Birds, but the incompetence, oh my. It makes the fake-looking rear projection shots in The Birds look like masterful special effects. It makes ‘Tippi’ Hedren seem like the greatest actress the screen has ever seen. (Before it seems like I’m bagging on The Birds, that movie is in my Top 100 – those are some things people complain about in it, but I do not complain about them.)

We start off following Rod, a Silicon Valley salesman. He sees Natalie at a diner and awkwardly picks her up (just assume that every verb I’m going to use in this whole post is modified by “awkwardly”, because everything in this movie is sublimely awkward). They go on some dates, his company is bought out by a bigger one, he starts a green energy company, etc. Oh, yes, the environment is a big part of this, so if you’re annoyed that The Birds didn’t give its birds a motivation, Birdemic fixes that.

tf-chatting-in-street

This all takes up fully half of the movie, and there’s only like one hint that there’s going to be a birdpocalypse (as opposed to the constant looming dread in The Birds). Of course, that’s not necessarily bad in and of itself – what IS bad in and of itself is the dialogue, the acting (Whitney Moore as Natalie seems like she COULD be decent with a better script/director, but Alan Bagh as Rod is literally the worst ever), the camera work, the cinematography, the sound mixing (OMG)… But it’s SO pervasively bad that I found it hilariously entertaining. Look at some of the dialogue I’ve got below (especially the first one with Rod telling about his Silicon Valley Dream), and imagine it with the flattest possible line readings.

Once the bird attacks, come, hoo boy. First off, they start right after Rod and Natalie sleep together for the first time, because OF COURSE THEY DO. But then the birds are so obviously composited into the shot in post (they’re not even real birds), and whenever our heroes are tasked with fighting them off hand to hand, it is…wow. Like, there’s no way these filmmakers can be serious with this. NO WAY.

giphy

And it’s everything. Like, acting, sound, and special effects are the most obvious “flaws”, but from the very first car drive under the opening credits, I knew I was in for it, because the shots just have the car driving every which way with no regard for spatial integrity. Which way is the ocean? WHO KNOWS! Are we going North or South? WHO KNOWS? When the car’s suddenly going left instead of right, did they turn around for some reason? I DON’T THINK SO! That seems like a minor thing, but it’s just one of many things that competent filmmakers think about (and if this particular thing was done on purpose, it would’ve been much MORE overt than it is – like the spatially impossible sequences in Black Dynamite, for example).

Ricky assigned this to me in part because the things that are bad here are so instructional, and he’s right about that. Things like the spatial continuity, the bad sound, the bad compositing. Like, they’re bad, but they’re things that young film students think they can get away with, or think they can fix in post-production. You can’t. (I mean, compositing is all in post, but if you don’t have good VFX artists and the things you’re compositing together aren’t filmed well, it’s not going to work.) Everything also looks really flat, like it’s filmed on a cheap consumer camera with no thought to lighting and was never color corrected in post. The editing is off, too, in terms of when to cut from person to person during dialogue, etc. It’s a lot of things that FEEL wrong while you’re watching it, but aren’t totally obvious why, which is why, as Ricky mentioned to me a while back, it would be a great film to show to first-year film students.

tf-bus

The thing is, regardless of all that, and not even because of its educational value, I loved watching this. I straight-up laughed all the way through it. There are plenty of ideas in it that are just flat out hilarious (and I find it hard to believe weren’t meant to be), like the birds dive-bombing to airplane noises and exploding into fires everywhere they land. Like, WHAT?! I find films like this incredibly difficult to rank, so you’ll see it ended up just above the lower third of my chart, but that doesn’t really reflect my enjoyment of it, because I had a great time with it.

Stats and stuff…

2008, USA
written and directed by James Nguyen
starring Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Adam Sessa, Catherine Batcha

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Birdemic: Shock and Terror entered my chart:

Birdemic: Shock and Terror < The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > Road to Zanzibar
Birdemic: Shock and Terror < Tarzan (1999)
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > Liar Liar
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > The Protector
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
Birdemic: Shock and Terror < Murder on the Orient Express
Birdemic: Shock and Terror < Tammy and the Bachelor
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > The Fox and the Hound
Birdemic: Shock and Terror < Le Pointe-Courte
Birdemic: Shock and Terror > Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare

Final ranking #2343 out of 3674 films on my chart (36%)

It is now my #1 James Nguyen film, my #6 Natural Horror film, and my #38 film of 2008.

NOTE: Flickchart has this listed as a 2008 film. Wikipedia also says it’s from 2008, but then lists an LA premiere in 2010. IMDb says it’s 2010. I HAVE NO IDEA.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror was recommended by Ricky Janzen, a friend from college.

A few quotes…

Rod: I like sales. It fits my personality. Started out as a software engineer. B.S. Computer Science. But programming was boring for me, and I felt that I was more of a sales and marketing type. So I switched to a high tech sales career.
Natalie: That’s interesting.
Rod: Some of my friends say that my B.S. degree stands for bullshit, because I was so much of a salesman and not enough engineer.
Natalie: Very funny.
Rod: I work at a startup company called NCT Software. Got the stock option. Hopefully, if the company makes it big by being bought out or goes public, I’ll exercise that stock option, cash out, and walk away with tons of cash. My Silicon Valley dream.
Natalie: I hope that happens for you.

Rick: Chicks love cars. If you want to get into their pants, you better have a nice hot Ferrari.
Rod: She’s my hot Ferrari. Besides, I love my Mustang. Which is a plug-in hybrid. It gets 100mpg.

Rod: Man, that was a good movie! An Inconvenient Truth!
Rick: That is it, I’m getting myself a car that’s environmentally friendly.

Rick: Mei and I have to get back to work.
Rod: Work?
Rick: Sensual work.

Ramsay: We need something to protect ourselves.
*grabs coat hangers*

Dr. Jones: Besides, I’m not worried about the birds. They’re not the dangerous animal. It’s the human species that’s the dangerous and menacing and terrifying animal. Because of its fossil fuel-related activities, causing global warming, it’s killing life on earth itself. It’s the human species that needs to quit playing cowboy to nature.

Ramsay: Got tired of all the killing in Iraq. Why can’t we just give peace a chance?

Ramsay: The eagles killed Becky!

A few more screenshots…

tf-outside-apartment

tf-Natalies-mom

tf-office

tf-dancing

tf-menacing-car

tf-window-gun

tf-point-blank

tf-picnic

tf-bombing

  • Their date at the club with the “hanging out with my family” performance still makes me laugh when I think about it. There’s basically no one there but them with a guy performing on stage. It’s a terrible movie, but I enjoyed it quite a lot.

    • Right?! And that scene goes on forever, too! It was like they got the musician to be in the movie for free as long as he could perform a song in its entirety. Actually, that’s probably exactly what happened, heh.