Birdemic: Shock and Terror

birdemic3

-Review by Paul Ewbank-

Oooooooh boy.

Like, seriously. I don’t have to tell you that I’ve seen some bad films. In writing this blog I have sifted through the putrid, festering underbelly of the film industry and time and again have emerged to make witty comments another day. But now, at last, I have reached the ne plus ultra; the pinnacle of awfulness; the crowning turd on the dung heap. This film represents a unique point in the history of the arts akin to a black hole in space. A fixed point around which the rest of creative endeavour silently revolves. There quite simply can never be another film as bad as Birdemic: Shock and Terror as long as humanity walks this sorry, wretched earth. And what mine eyes have seen can never be repealed. I have seen the end of cinema. And it’s absolutely freaking hilarious.

“So bad its good” is a really, really hard thing to achieve. I’ve seen a good few films along the lines of Mega Shark vs Whatever which are funny for the first ten minutes (or first twenty if you’re playing the ‘drink every time there’s a science montage’ game) but get boring pretty soon. And I’ve had the misfortune of seeing a shameful number of so called films which are just so bad they’re very bad. If there’s a universal scale of badness, Birdemic is way off the end. This is a whole new class of abysmal.

Where do I even begin?

I think the only meaningful thing I can do is talk you through the film blow by pitiful blow. Brace yourselves. So the film opens with the credits playing over some upbeat music and a long shot of a car driving through a forest. Typos in the credits aside, this is probably the best part of the film in that it is merely boring rather than offensively poor. The first actual scene is of protagonist Rod walking into a diner, getting served by a waitress, seeing a hot girl he knew back in school and running after her. Sounds inoffensive enough, yes? Fairly straightforward to film, you would think. No. Oh, no. The opening scene of Birdemic is a masterclass in how not to make movies. Firstly, you might want to have your man and the waitress be in the same restaurant. If for some inexplicable reason you can’t do that, at least get them in ones that look similar, for goodness sake. If you feel like you absolutely have  to have each line of dialogue in a separate shot to do justice to your artistic vision then go right ahead, but the three second pauses between each line probably aren’t necessary. And you’ll probably want to make sure that the level of background hiss is the same between the different shots. By the same, I mean similarly absent. Next, hire some people who can act. You know, actors. Those people you employ to be in films. Seriously, you haven’t seen bad acting till you’ve seen Birdemic. The characters here make blocks of chiselled balsawood look like Oscar-winners, and that this is the least of the films problems really is quite a marvel.

So Rod and the girl (who by the way are the two most BORING people on the planet. Oh, tell us more about your software sales company, Rod, please!) have what would be called a budding romance if we were dealing with human beings here and not wooden spoons given human form by dark magic, and we are treated to a full 40 minutes of them walking around pumpkin festivals and Vietnamese restaurants, interspersed with occasional and perplexingly unrelated references to solar power and newsflashes of strange occurrences by a news reporter who looks like she knows exactly what kind of film she’s in and is wishing she hadn’t dropped out of university to give acting a go.

And then the birds come.

This scene really does defy explanation, so I recommend Youtubing it. One minute we’re getting more of the usual filler shots of scenery and roads (expect a lot of this) and the next there are squadrons of the most poorly rendered CGI birds in history pixelating their way through the skies, dive bombing buildings and blowing up for no apparent reason. I was in stitches. The shoddiness of these avian adversaries really does need to be seen to be believed. Ok I have a task for you. Go into Microsoft Paint and draw a bird. Now select it and drag it across the screen. Congratulations, you are now on par with the animators of Birdemic. Of particular interest is the way that each gif bird is exactly the same, presumably copied and pasted a billion times. The oh-so-annoying squawking sound is on a pretty short loop which repeats extensively, as does the flapping animation. And stock footage? But of course! Filming more than one shot of a bird dying would’ve just been wasting money, so expect to see the same one a lot of times. Also enjoyable are the birds which hang in mid-air, not flapping. I mean, I know nothing about animation or computer graphics or anything but I’m pretty sure that if the monsters in your monster movie wouldn’t look out of place in a level of Doom, a game released fifteen years prior, then you really aren’t very good at making monsters. Can’t really call ‘em monsters actually. They’re just birds.

If an average picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth about three.
If an average picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth about three.

I could go on. And, you know what, I will. Other highlights include the scene where our heroes make a run from their house to the car only to be set upon by a terrifying flock of floating pixels and have to swat them away with coat hangers. Then they get in the car and suddenly a load of guns appear. A scene late on where the two heroes find their good friends butchered and bloody by the side of the road is set to some bouncy, happy techno music. At two separate points in the film a totally un-introduced character walks on screen and delivers a lengthy monologue about how global warming is destroying the world and how humans, not birds, are the most terrifying killers on Earth before walking off never to return. And who knew that global warming was the cause of the SARS virus? Still, no film with such an irritatingly bone-headed environmental message would be complete without copious amounts of product placement for cars, right? Really, Rod, the new Ferrari can do how many miles per gallon? Then there’s the two rescued children who, and I wouldn’t have thought this possible, are even worse actors than the grownups. It takes effort to be that annoying. Real effort.

Some of the birds vomit acid. Forgot to mention that.
Some of the birds vomit acid. Forgot to mention that.

This all might sound like a little too much fun to bear, but be sure to stick around for the ending. So Rod, blondie and the kids wind up on a beach, fishing, of all things, when the raptor armies of Windows 95 spew forth anew and all appears lost. Then, from across the sea fly what appear to be doves. I couldn’t be sure as each was made of approximately six pixels. These newcomers fly around the car Rod and co are trapped in a few times and then they and the eagles just fly off out to sea. The four garden ornaments impersonating living things watch them take wing into the sunset, and the female one says something like “I wonder why they stopped?”, at which point I assumed one of them would answer in some meaningful way which made sense of it all. But nope, the thing just ends without any explanation at all. I think what we’re meant to assume happened is that the doves convinced the eagles to stop all the violence and leave humanity be. It’s rather sad that that’s the explanation which makes the most sense.

Birdemic was reportedly made on a self-financed budget of around $10,000, which in film terms is miniscule but in real life is a lot of money and it could have been put to so much better use. The director (I refuse to Wikipedia his name. I will not do him that honour) could have cashed it all in as ten cent pieces and swallowed them one by one. That would’ve been a better use. Heck if he’d filmed himself doing that it would’ve made a much better viewing experience than Birdemic. The really sad thing is that at some point a group of people sat down, looked at this, their finished product, and said “yeah, I’m happy with that. That’s good enough. Nice job everyone.” How those people sleep at night is a mystery. And yet, for all its utterly hopeless failings, for all its woefully inept acting, animation and script, and despite it having the gall to lecture me on the environment whilst delivering the cinematic equivalent of a lick to the ear when I’m trying to sleep, I am glad I experienced Birdemic: Shock and Terror for a couple of reasons. First, it was the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time. So bad its good? Nah, so bad its frikkin’ transcendent mate. Second, I got to have some fun thinking of synonyms for ‘bad’ to put as the tags for this review. ‘Films considered the worst’ came up as a suggested tag. Finally, it puts all other films into a new and far kinder perspective. Yes, I may have hated Dead Snow, but hey, at least the camera was in focus the whole time. At least I could never hear the cameraman fumbling around behind the shot. At least what was happening on screen could usually be described as ‘acting’, or ‘dialogue’ or ‘special effects’ and not merely as ‘failing’. Cos Birdemic fails in ways I had never even thought possible. So give it a watch and let it widen your view of how awful a thing human minds can do if they really try. Just make sure you get some stiff drinks in first. You’ll need ‘em.

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