Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Version I Own: Blu-ray. Nothing like shit in HD.

History: This joke of a movie actually has a bit of a fun and rich history. James Nguyen has no formal training for film making outside of watching a lot of Hitchcock movies while growing up. His love for the cinema gave him enough motivation to make movies independently. He made two movies before this one, Julie and Jack and Replica. It wound up taking four years to complete Birdemic. However it was because shooting would be done mostly on the weekends making it spread out over a long period of time. Also there was a long period of time before he was able to get a distributor. So a movie that started filming in 2006 didn't get released until 2010. James Nguyen actually tried to submit his film into Sundance but was (as you can imagine) denied. After this happened he drove around Sundance in a large van painted and handed out flyers to promote his movie. However on this promotional material he misspelled the name of his own movie as Bidemic, with a sub title that stated "Why did the eagles and vultures attacked?". I should point out now that English isn't his first language. In the end the movie cost around $10,000 to make and quickly became an instant cult classic. The distributors wound up spending more on promoting the movie and purchasing the rights to it. Now it has a following similar to The Rocky Horror Picture show where people have things they say and do at different parts of the movie. A sequel has since been made and is currently available for digital purchase on the movie's website. I'm personally waiting for the DVD release.

Personal History: I have seen this one at least three times and plan on watching it again and again and again. I've still got to watch it with commentary (and there are multiple tracks).

Review: Every year there are a ton of bad movies. Movies that were made with little care in order to turn over a quick buck maybe with a famous face or theme. These are easily passed by and forgotten. Also they're usually pretty hard to get through because they're boring in lacking essential features to a story. Then there will also be movies so bad that were made with such little care or were made with good intentions but they fall so flat that it needs to be avoided cause you will get nothing out of it. But then there are movies that are so bad, SO BAD, some done seriously and others as a joke that the bad turns around and becomes a good. Famous examples of these include Plan 9 From Outer Space (or anything Ed Wood did, really), The Room, and Troll 2. But there was a movie released as recent as three years ago that became an instant classic. A movie that had such strong intentions but failed so badly that it makes Ed Wood look competent. That movie is Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Here's the thing. The movie is so bad in such a great way that I don't even know where to begin. The basic plot of the movie is that a young couple fights to survive when birds suddenly start attacking people out of what seems like nothing. So basically it's the plot of The Birds. And that's one of the many things you'll notice about this movie. James Nguyen is a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and it's easy to see that The Birds was inspiration for this movie. And by inspiration I mean total ripoff. On top of this he tries to add in other elements Hitchcock used, like suspense, a love story, and hidden bits and pieces here and there. Well it has all of those things. Too bad (or wonderfully?) all of these themes failed to be any good or subtle. In short this is a case of an incompetent filmmaker thinking he's better than he really is and takes things way too seriously. So without further Apu I bring you my commentary and extensive synopsis of Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

I was gonna use a series of time codes and send you to the movie on youtube but now they make you pay for the rental so poo poo.

The first thing anyone will notice is the production quality. This movie was made with essentially a consumer level digital camera showing it's level of "cheapness" to it. Now I want to take a sidebar for a second. Just because they're using a digital camera doesn't mean the movie will automatically be crap. A lot can be done with those cameras and very well I may add. One fine example of this is David Lynch's Inland Empire. That title was made entirely on the cheaper, more consumer friendly digital cameras. It's got a unique look to it different than actual film but it's still VERY well done and actually feels like a movie more than a home video (like you may get the feeling from with some of these digital cameras). That was before this movie was made but just by a few years. Granted this movie was made over the course of four years but that's not because it needed that much time and attention, it was a scheduling conflict situation. So a quality movie can come from these types of cameras, but in this case it was used horribly and gives the whole movie a very cheap look.
Speaking of cheap, take a listen to the music. How much more stock can you get with that music? Between that, the unnecessarily long shots, and the slow opening credits you know you're in for a "wild ride." And as a side note, James Nguyen made up some of the credits to make the movie appear more professional. James, James, James, it's gonna take a lot more than that to make this look professional.

Once the movie starts you'll be able to tell how cheap it is on so many more levels. Whoever shot this movie (Probably James) didn't know what they were doing because in the first few minutes alone the focus of the shot is way in the wrong area or the shot holds for way too long. Which brings me to the editing. The editing is terrible because it gives no sense of direction or provides good pacing. When our "hero" first appears on screen he is walking down the street to get some breakfast. What could have easily been a shot of him parking and then cutting into the restaurant with him already sitting down looking at the menu they felt it needed to go on a lot longer than that. First he had to get out of his car, then he has to walk across the street, then he has to walk down the street, walk in the restaurant, say hello to the hostess, then get seated by the hostess, hand him the menu, and tell him she'll be back with him in a moment. Keep in mind this all happens slowly, with no music, wooden movements, and again horrible editing to go along with it. And that's just the start of it all. There are so many examples of terrible scenes in this movie, but all you have to know from here on out is how cheap it looks. Sweet, sweet, terrible looking, cheap.
As promised there is romance in this movie and it doesn't wait around (unlike the bird attack). In the first scene is when our hero meets the love interest. They... hit it off? This is the most wooden acting I've ever seen. The guy makes an automated voice message system have character and charisma. Well in the story they start going out right away. This seems weird cause they just met but we soon find out they went to high school together. However they never hung out or anything so it still seems weird cause they essentially did just meet in a restaurant and they're talking quite personally and communicating like they've been together forever. It's painful to watch them on their dates, mostly because so much time is spent on them. And when they're not slowly walking around town while the camera follows them they are having long drawn out conversations that feel more like interviews than an actual conversation. Something very similar happens when the girl has the guy meet her mother. The mother just sits there and keeps on talking, telling the story of her life in a dull, drawn out manner. There's no engaging from her daughter or the young man, just talking like it's an interview for a local TV show. And this isn't something that's just wrong with the acting (which is some of the worst you'll ever see) but just as much with the writing.
James Nguyen clearly has no idea what he's doing in terms of telling a story. His method of exposition is to just tell you. He doesn't just show you anything or lets the story tell itself. It's all in your face "THIS IS WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT" type talk. Even the not so subtle, not so hidden messages in the movie are more present and in your face than the actual bird attack. The whole movie has this heavy "going green" theme with other related material. One of my favorite not so subtle lines is at the end of the double date. The lead guy starts the scene with, "What a great movie. An Inconvenient Truth." First it's weird that this would be a double date movie as opposed to a fun action movie or a comedy, also why would you say out loud what movie you just saw as if they didn't know? But what makes this line so great to me is that it's delivered on top of so much that's already been said and will be said with going green. These other examples include a news report in a couple different scenes that talks about global warming, our hero purchases and installs solar panels on his roof, he pulls together an energy saving product for his company and sells it for something like a million dollars. How the hell should I know, this movie barely communicates anything properly. It's got no subtlety and whenever it feels the need to REALLY tell you something it is in your face about it. Cause not only does it have this going green message but also a message for peace. I swear, there is a line late in the movie where one character says, and I quote, "Why can't we just give peace a chance?"...I was speechless.

But what about the birds? Isn't this a movie about bird attacks? Well, yea, but the reason why I'm taking so long to get to it is because the movie does the exact same thing. Before the actual attack there are two moments that either show or reference birds and they're both in scenes when our beautiful love interests are on dates. One is simply looking up at a tree and seeing a group of birds flying around it. The other is on the beach when they find a dead bird. Now they didn't use real birds for these scenes. No living birds are on set here. Want to know how they were presented, then? I'll get to that in just a second. So, anyway, there is all this BS about how wonderful life is going and continues to get better for our heroes for forty-freaking-seven minutes and there have only been two scenes with birds. Neither of which are attacking. Now we come to one of my favorite parts of the movie. At the halfway point of the movie just when things just can't seem to get any better our lovely lovers decide they're really horny. They rent a motel room (why they couldn't do this at one of their homes I don't know cause we never got the hint either of them have roommates) and have sex. Just before the sex starts there is one of the most awkward and painful to watch make out scenes you'll ever see.
Fade to black.
Fade back in and we're treated to some extended shots around the town. It's shots from far away to show the town's... skyline?... Some shots of cars driving around, the beach, shops, just totally random unrelated material. It's literally filler and doesn't have any meaning in terms of transitioning. However this is where the split on the movie is. It's where one movie ends and another begins. You know, the movie that should have been playing this whole time!!!!! But why this is one of the best parts to me is because the tone of the movie changes so drastically I had to go to the hospital for whiplash. After these peaceful, long shots of random activity around town the movie fades to black again, and when it fades back in there are birds FUCKING EVERYWHERE! It's essentially the birdpocalypse out of absolutely nowhere. On top of just seeing them flying around they are literally attacking by throwing themselves to the ground and EXPLODING! This is all so amazing first because it's hilarious how quickly they show up. Then the background shots the birds are presented in front of are just daily life so you see people walking and driving around like nothing is happening. But the best part of all this are the birds themselves. The birds are all CG and it is some of the worst CG you will every see. They're poorly animated so they look far from natural. On top of that they lack any sort of texture to their bodies. And lastly it's just the same animation used over an over again. There's flying left or right across the screen, circling, staying in one spot in the air, and diving toward the screen or to the left or right at a side angle. That's about it. It screams hilarity especially when our heroes start fighting the birds cause they are just waving their "weapons" (wire hangers I shit you not) in the air. But since the birds don't interact it looks horrendously hilarious.
This really is when the movie picks up. However you had to go through so much just to get to this point that it does become difficult at parts to keep moving forward with it. Unfortunately that's the case with these good bad movies. The "gimmick" if it being so bad it's good doesn't always hold up throughout the entire thing and it starts to ware off towards the end. There were definitely parts toward the end of Birdemic when that was happening. The movie is so hilariously bad it's enjoyable. But keep in mind it's still bad. It's only entertaining in it's flaws. But sitting through a 90 minute movie that is filled with nothing but bad is still hard to get through despite how good it may be. You stop caring and a lot of the bad is just getting repeated. But that doesn't mean there isn't notable spots in the second half.

It's so hard to talk about this movie without simply describing the scenes. But the problem with this type of movie is that it's really seen to be believed. If you didn't follow my time codes for when certain things happen then I urge you to go back to get some examples of what I mean. They're really funny out of context but even better in context cause you're not expecting them. So whether you take my examples or watch it as a whole I urge you to check it out if you're a fan of good bad movies.


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