"Just hangin' out ... hangin' out ... hangin' out with my family, having ourselves a paaartaay!"
Yep, it's BIRDEMIC. Famous for being one of the most woefully inept films of our time...
It opens in a sleepy coastal town, where nice-but-dim software salesman Rod (Alan Bagh) sits in a cafe when he recognises the girl opposite him. Following her out onto the street, he stops to ask her name. Sure enough, it's Nathalie (Whitney Moore) - a girl he used to sit behind at school. He learns that she's now a model.
Returning to work on the afternoon, Rod can't shake Nathalie from his mind. He calls her and she agrees to meet him for dinner (she makes the date too, despite him failing to give her details of a time or place). They hit it off and begin dating.
For a time, we follow their burgeoning romance (including a date at the cinema, watching Al Gore's ecological warning AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH). Meanwhile, both excel in their jobs: Rod lands a huge deal for his software firm; Nathalie wins a contract modelling lingerie for Victoria's Secret. It even transpires that Rod's sex-mad friend and colleague Rick (Danny Webber) is, coincidentally, dating Nathalie's best pal Mai (Mona Lisa Moon). Life, it would seem is peachy.
But. Rod's television has been warning from the start about the horrors of global warming, and how man's irresponsible behaviour has resulted in hardship for much of the world's wildlife. Could it be, that nature is ready to strike back?
After what feels like an eternity, yes, that's what happens. A small gathering of eagles and vultures decide to attack the aforementioned coastal town while our lead protagonists are consummating their relationship in a motel room. These are no ordinary angry birds: these are capable of spitting acid and exploding upon impacting on the ground.
Our witless heroes flee their motel, running into beefcake Ramsey (Adam Sessa) and his girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha). Being the resourceful types, Rod and co defend themselves with the first things that come to hand: clothes hangers...
Directed by James Nguyen over a four-year period on a budget which purportedly came in at less than $10,000.00, BIRDEMIC is in many ways as horrible as its reputation suggests.
Right from the start, it's apparent that things are going to get ugly. The camerawork is flat and unengaging, visuals are soft and sometimes blurry. Outdoor scenes - of which there are many - often suffer from a blown-out effect due to over-exposure to sunlight. Audio is blighted with frequent dropouts from the off, as well as inconsistent background noises as the camera angles change mid-scene.
You'd be hard pushed to find cheesier lead characters than Rod and Nathalie, all toothy smiles and vacant stares into each other's eyes. They're horrible, cardboard cast-offs from the worst TV soap opera imaginable. The performances of all concerned are best described as fantastically awful. Pregnant pauses, unedited stumbles over dialogue, broken English (from actors whose first language is English): it's as if this cast took lessons in how to act badly. Highpoint/low point may well be when Rod and Nathalie slow-dance while a black singer croons the line from the top of this review, in the background. It's a golden moment of cringe-inducing cinema.
Then there are the bird attacks, which take an absolute age to arrive. When they do, they are delivered via the art of hilariously inept CGI. Honestly, the worst CGI you've ever seen. Furthermore, these birds don't even attack, they just hover and squawk a lot. Their threat is non-existent, such is their ridiculous nature.
There is a strong, forced ecological message prevalent throughout. A really heavy-handed, badly written-in one at that. And despite this, there is no satisfying explanation given for the birds' feeble attacks.
Yes indeed, BIRDEMIC, clearly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's classic eco-thriller THE BIRDS, is shit.
But over the last few years, that's become the film's selling point. You see, when it comes to the world of "so bad it's good" movies, BIRDEMIC is this generation's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Its gathered an extraordinary cult following in recent years and enjoys special screenings to guffaws from packed-out theatres to this day. For all its (many) failings, it is an endless source of guilty entertainment.
You will laugh. You will cry laughing. And then you will want to invite mates round for a drunken night where you can all cry laughing together. BIRDEMIC is serious fun, albeit unintentionally, and comes recommended for that reason alone.
Severin Films obviously saw the potential in this milestone of calamity right from the start, and successfully inflicted it upon America back in early 2011. Now, five years later, their spreading the love by unleashing the film onto UK blu-ray.
BIRDEMIC is presented uncut in full 1080p HD, in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It looks as good as it possibly can, given its low budget and the fact that Nguyen is largely incompetent with a camera. Continuity flubs ensure lighting is all over the place, and images don't often stay in focus for long. Still, we get a clean and clear picture with no compression issues or unwelcome digital noise (well, apart from all the blocking and smudging issues which, again, are inherent to how the film was made).
As mentioned above, English audio is flawed too. This is exclusively due to how it was recorded on the shoot. Luckily dialogue remains clear throughout. The additional noise on the soundtrack strangely adds to the cheesy enjoyment factor. Would you believe we get a 5.1 DTS-HD mix, as well as the more basic 2.0 offering? It won't blow your speakers out, don't worry.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option allowing access to the film via 16 chapters.
Bonus feature begin with two audio commentary tracks. The first is from Nguyen, who seems like a nice chap who is perhaps a little naive in not realising that his "romantic thriller" is revered for all the wrong reasons. The second track comes from Bagh and Moore, along with fellow actor Bobby Hacker. This is a fun track which finds the cast members knowingly ribbing the film throughout. It's well worth a listen and, if anything, sets the film up to be even funnier upon subsequent viewings.
Two 1-minute deleted scenes feature in HD. Neither is of any consequence, but at least they're both slightly amusing.
"Birdemic Experience Tour" is a 12-minute featurette following Nguyen on his promotion of the film. This includes some affable Q&A footage from various festivals where the director doesn't really seem to be in on the audience's jokes. He comes across as thoroughly likeable and true though, offering his thoughts on why his film is "so awesome" as the reason being its "honesty and sincerity". Bless him.
A 27-minute cable TV interview with Nguyen follows, on some two-bit programme called "Movie Close-Up".
"MOVIEHEAD: The James Nguyen Story" is a bogus 2-minute trailer for a fake documentary, cheekily advertised as "coming soon" from Severin.
Three trailers follow, along with a 2-minute reproduction of Severin Film's promotional "electronic press kit".
Finally, we get trailers for a handful of other titles available from Severin in the US: INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, PSYCHOMANIA, GWENDOLINE, SCREWBALLS and BMX BANDITS. Along with the FBI copyright warning at the disc's load-up, these clue us in on this being a port of Severin's identical US blu-ray release.
The best fun I've had while watching a review disc in quite some time, BIRDEMIC is a film I can't conventionally recommend but know punters with a sense of humour will absolutely adore.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Severin Films|
|see main review|