Before I get going with this one I have to say that It’s a slight departure from what I usually do, I will say like any other movie review I’ve done it’s clear that I pieced together my thoughts while watching the movie and so to an extent it’s all very sequential but I’m not sure if that’s a flaw or not, please comment and let me know and if you’d prefer that I do it differently I’m willing to try. Anyway getting back to the matter at hand, this is different because with the exception of one or two posts in the opinion section which are really just rants if I’m being honest this is the first largely negative review I’ve done, and what’s worse is I promised myself that I’d try and find something redeeming about the movie because I knew going in it was bad but I just couldn’t do it. Anyway today I’m going to be discussing Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made.
I came to this movie after hearing Jontron and Cinemasins tear it to shreds so I came in with plenty of preconceptions but since both sources cut their footage for comic effect and are known for placing humour over objectivity I genuinely thought that I’d be able to honest and yet fair in my appraisal and yet as the movie started I felt a sense of apprehension that I don’t usually encounter when watching a movie. I even started off by admiring the establishing shots, and making the decision to shake off those preconceptions and enjoy the movie but even doing that it’s hard to look at this movie and think anything but ‘this is the worst movie ever’ or ‘someone who’s never operated a camera could make a better film’
So yeah, even early on the quality isn’t great, we have a repeating audio clip over the intro sequence that made it feel like they could only afford like 15-20 seconds of music and just looped it. Given the limited budget that is very possible and I really don’t want to criticize the movie for what amounts to limitations relating to money but having made bad student films myself with no budget and just basic resources I know that they probably could have worked a little harder. Anyway an issue that has nothing to do with cost is the camera work, which is also poor, and I don’t mean the technical aspect which again could be just down to costs but like the camera operator themselves would just find the shot and slowly let their arm list lazily downward to the side so that you’d get a better view by tilting your head…but if that’s what you expect from the moviegoing public you’re going to end up with a load of unhappy people with sore necks.
Also side note, unless your movie is called called Drivedemic: Shock and car, you don’t need more than three minutes of nearly unbroken driving, especially at the start of a movie, and ESPECIALLY when environmental concerns are a vital message in your narrative.
The audio cuts were a consistent issue throughout this movie and I’ll point out the worst offenders as we go through, but to my knowledge they start them off really early when the main character who’s called Rod by the way, enters a restaurant and is greeted by a server whose audio is not only laughably dubbed over but so out of sync with her mouth and action as to make it weird. I honestly don’t see why they didn’t just cut it out or just have her say nothing, it would have maintained the notion that this was a good movie for at least a bit longer but sadly this is a high point because it only gets worse from here.
Moving on from the audio for a moment, although I will be talking about it again later I want to discuss the ‘romance’ in the movie. Now I am not an arbiter on what’s okay in pursuit of a woman, and my experience with the fairer sex is limited but I do know that few relationships of note start off with staring at her till she leaves the restaurant you’re in and then chasing after her to ask her awkward questions. Additionally this could have worked out as a better movie if they hadn’t shoehorned in an awkward relationship that only seemed to come together because the script said so.
I mean the actual scene where they first interact has such a palpable sense of awkwardness that I wanted to save her from the inevitable relationship the movie was going to force upon her. I mean that first scene is just rife with an embarrassing lack of chemistry, and the cuts the ‘director’ chose to make made the whole thing even worse. There is a point where he ‘remembers’ that he sat behind her in English class and she says something along the lines of “You remember that far” only for their to be a completely unnecessary visual and audio cut before he says “Yeah…so…uh…what do you do?” which not only isn’t an appropriate answer but reeks so much of ‘Transparent stalker who almost got caught’ vibes that I’m surprised she wasn’t making excuses to leave.
In fact in a bizarre twist of fate she actually seems charmed by him, which I guess is another example of power of script over reality, oh by the way she answers that she is a “fashion model” to which he replies in a totally ‘normal human’ manner “and a beautiful one too” which at least to me is just a perplexing example of dialogue. Sure I guess it’s a valid thing to say, and it makes sense to compliment the attractiveness of someone who claims to make a living from their looks but something about it doesn’t ring true, maybe it’s just his wooden delivery but coming from him the line just doesn’t work. Final point on this scene, after she makes her excuses and leaves, the camera and the main character watch her walk away and it lingers on her for just too long and sure they could just be trying to milk every last drop of sexual exploitation from having a pretty young woman in an otherwise terrible movie but it just made me feel uncomfortable. After the extended camera lingering he chases after her, evidently not willing to let her get away without locking down a date and again showing that every line he delivers needs to be devoid of any real emotion.
At around the 7 minute and 20 second mark we hear our first hint that something is happening with the birds, although it’s way too subtle for this movie to be considered foreshadowing and felt like someone had looked back at the script after filming and stuck it in so they’d at least mentioned the birds ahead of the whole Birdemic. Anyway the first mention of the birds is presented to us via the most terribly framed news broadcast I’ve ever seen, it’s just the female newscaster’s lower body is completely cut off. I will admit it’s rare to see their legs during a broadcast but the camera isn’t supposed to cut off at nipple height like a pair of grandpa’s trousers.
Anyway after the terrible news broadcast Rod (Alan Bagh) heads to work, and the musical cue just doesn’t match up with the scene, tonally the music suggests adventure but all we’re really seeing is a monotonous shot for shot of his morning routine. This routine includes even more driving, seriously considering how much this movie preaches about preserving the environment they’d probably have been better cutting their carbon footprint by just not making it in the first place.
Okay, now I’ve seen enough of the movie at this point to comment on it but Rod doesn’t act like a real human, I don’t just mean that the actor is bad at acting, but I seriously get the impression that he isn’t a real person, that he was some sort of automaton designed exclusively for this movie. I truly had to keep going at this point to see how someone who expressed little emotion from scene to scene would react when events escalated at the title suggested. It’s not even just his acting that’s weird, he’s walking away during one scene and the camera follows him and he seems overly tense and stilted like he’d only been introduced to the concept of walking ten seconds before the camera started rolling. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little on that part but I do feel that they went with either the first or worst take for every scene he was in and it just made for the ridiculous movie we ended up getting. While I’m on the topic, he doesn’t seem to be able to replicate any action a normal human is capable of, there’s a scene shortly after he arrives at work where he closes some sort of deal and celebrates with a cheer and a little proud arm movement and that is honestly one of the few moments you see realness in the character, he looks awkward like a real person who has no idea how to celebrate a victory, particularly in an office where endzone cheering is frowned upon.
The next thing that I felt I needed to comment on was a scene where Nathalie (Whitney Moore) the love interest and female lead comes out of a photography studio, only to receive a call from her agent who says she’s got her a job, that she’s going to be a cover model for Victoria’s secret. Now I don’t know a lot about the fashion industry and in my opinion the woman playing Nathalie is certainly attractive enough that her being a model is believable but like any creative industry modeling is a lot of working hard, paying dues and making your way up the ladder, so I seriously doubt anyone still booking modelling gigs at a place that also does passports is high profile enough to even be on Victoria Secret’s radar let alone her being on the cover. But I guess everything has to go right for our main characters before everything goes to crap..bird crap to be specific.
Now it’s not exactly a related point but since I’m talking about her I figured I’d mention it. The woman who plays Nathalie is actually a pretty decent actress, she’s certainly the best that this movie has to offer and she wouldn’t be out of place in a movie with higher standards in terms of acting and performance. She certainly has a certain innocence and naivete to her that makes me feel like she doesn’t know how badly this film is going to damage her acting career. Although if it goes anything like her fictional modelling career she’ll be starring across from Hollywood heartthrobs like Brad Pitt any day now. Now I’ve said she’s not a bad actress and I hold true to that statement, but she probably looks better when paired with Rod the robot, the ideal scene to see the contrast between the two is when he calls her shortly after she receives the news about being a Victoria’s Secret model, they are both in their separate cars, and every line of dialogue he says seems uncomfortable whereas she does her best to seem natural when reacting to him.
I’ve been pretty harsh towards Rod, and I want to say firstly that I’m sure the actor is a lovely person and I hope that this movie is a blemish on an otherwise talented career but also it isn’t just him, while no one comes close to his level of non acting the side characters are equal stilted and unsuited to being in front of a camera. Rod’s friend Rick (Danny Webber) and Nathalie’s friend Mai (Mona Lisa Moon) are prime examples, they seem like people at least but it with them it seemed like the director went for the first take with them and then moved on without explaining what they did wrong.
We get to see 1/3 of our favourite newscaster again when she appears again to talk about a wildfire that’s spreading uncontrollably and in less serious news there will be a Los Angeles exclusive Grand Prix racing event, where the cars will all be hybrid or electric, and the vehicles will be driven by celebs. I don’t know what part of that sentence is more unbelievable but as if to give you a moment the camera lingers for too long on the shot of the television broadcast where If I’m not mistaken the ‘newscaster’ is suppressing a smirk…no doubt she thinks this movie is as hilarious as everyone else.
Oh and the solar panel guy, apparently he and Rod had an appointment and yet Rod answers the door not only like he’s not expecting anyone but as if the prospect of someone ringing the doorbell itself was some sort of inconceivable act. The entire scene plays into the environmental message of the movie but seems heavy handed and adds time to a movie that has a lot of filler. Even weirder he’s apparently fully aware that he’s going to come into a lot of money at this point but still haggles with the guy…i guess penny pinching dies hard and even in a movie that deals with green energy and stuff like that in such an inept way they still don’t want to give anymore money to the eco movement than necessary.
I think perhaps the most awkward part of the entire movie is during their dinner together where he talks about himself and his job, it’s just so bizarre, he’s saying normal things but somewhere between the lines being in his head and actually delivering them they get all weird, he makes a sweet joke about the Bs of his computer science degree standing for Bull Shit, and in a more capable actors hands that line would have landed really well, but with Mr. Roboto here it falls flat and you get the feeling that she’s just humouring him. Honestly considering how sweet she is and how oblivious he is, it seems like he’s an awkward still living with his mother type, and the date was orchestrated by the parents of both parties to get him out because he’s such a nice boy and she just went along with it. There’s no real chemistry, but rather an obligation…to the script no doubt. His success however does bode well for other people with no personality….you too can find love.
It takes about 22 minutes for the central issue of the movie to present itself and even then its not quite ready yet. But at least we get to see some birds finally, they flap onto screen, completely ignoring how birds actually fly and just hover about above the main characters who seem only mildly interested at best in what this freaky group of birds are doing.
Now finally we get to something redeemable about this movie, we meet Nathalie’s mom (Patsy van Ettinger) aka the sweetest woman on the planet, who asks why her daughter is smiling and manages to seem genuinely interested in what her daughter has to say, she just seems to real and I just want to giver her a hug. My only problem with the scenes involving her is that they seem to be heavy on the audio cuts as if they realised that someone might actually like the mom and decided to do their best to make those scenes otherwise unwatchable.
Following on from our time with the mom character we have to deal with a scene that’s essentially worthless. We see Rod’s buddy Rick and a bikini clad lady called Mai engaged in what has to be the most awkward attempt at foreplay ever. Mai takes a break to answer a phone call from her BFF Nathalie and they agree to have a double date. Now this scene wouldn’t have been so bad had they not shot the entire thing with a specific focus on a poster on the wall of a weblink for Imaginepeace.com. What’s even weirder is that after the phone call rather than moving on to another scene involving the main characters or even skipping straight to the date itself they go right back to spooning and trying to make love fully clothed while maintaining a PG rating.
Next up I want to talk about the meeting scene, it’s as worthless as the previous scene I mentioned, the meeting scene is bad not for any real technical reason but just because it serves no real purpose other than to give the main character a lot of money and evidently to show a profound lack of understanding of how business works. Now I said that this scene was bad mainly because it was pointless, but there was something truly weird about it, the meeting room end up clapping once the boss tells them their company has been bought out and they have all earned their stock options, but the clapping just goes on for too long and it keeps cutting to different background characters, it really felt like they needed to show us exactly how well the extras were earning their money.
As I said I’m reviewing this sequentially and the next big thing to happen is the double date and it’s at this point I want to raise an issue I have with the whole scene. They go to see ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ which was out in 2006 and even assuming you could find four young people, even social conscious ones, it’s unlikely anywhere would be showing it since the movie is most likely set during the same period it was released in 2010 and I seriously doubt any theatre would still be showing the movie four years later. And even if for some reason a movie theatre in Los Angeles was still showing Davis Guggenheim’s environmental documentary about former United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about global warming it doesn’t seem like first date viewing material especially when you consider than in 2010 movies like Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 were also showing. So yeah not only was it a weird movie for them to be able to see considering when the movie is set but just a weird choice overall and it broke the reality of the movie. What was weirder though was that they all enjoyed the movie without any real thought or comment. Brief side note, Rick’s date is wearing a t-shirt, which is perfectly acceptable to wear on a date if a little plain in comparison to Nathalie’s dress but it’s also emblazoned with the web address for imaginepeace.com. It’s almost as if she refused to be in a scene where she wasn’t subversively advertising that site.
I mentioned earlier than the entire cast are fairly bad at acting, I feel that they fall somewhere between the two leads with Rod being at the bad end and Nathalie being at the better end. I need to adjust that slightly because Rick is just awful, he seems to suffer from the same debilitating social condition that afflicts Rod but also thinks with his penis, he actually shoos away Rod and Nathalie so he and his date can go have sex…or as he puts is go do ‘Sensual work’, man this entire script is like the child of The Room by Tommy Wiseau and the failed attempts at writing Shakespeare from the 1000 chips at a 1000 typewriters. It’s just so honestly without any real understanding that I’m amazed it actually got made.
So I’m going to skip over the whole Autumn festival thing because it’s brief and adds nothing to the plot but I would not miss the chance to talk about the mom again, she’s a total angel, she’s so real and I really want to know what happened with her after the cameras stopped rolling. Although she is a harbinger for audio cuts because right after her scene there’s a nearly five second cut out after the scene transition, which is just too much even for this movie.
Right after Rod meets Nathalie’s mom things cinematically take a turn for a worse, the visual cuts between them and the waiter seem like they were filmed days apart and cut in so haphazardly. Honestly I know low budget films, I’ve made a few as a student, I’ve even made ones deliberately farcical to compensate for inexperience or skill either on screen or while editing but this movie takes itself so seriously and yet everything about it is sadly comical, from the cuts to the acting. I just have to wonder who watched this every step of the way and still decided to actually release it, I get having passion for a project but did anyone truly want their name to be attached to this project.
The actress who plays Nathalie is beautiful, there’s no denying that, and Rod is clearly interested in her, but even when she’s standing in front of him in her underwear he still can’t muster anything like an appropriate reaction, he seemed more excited closing a deal at work than the prospect of all the ‘sensual work’ that awaits him here. The ‘passionate’ lovemaking scene was so tame however then I found myself distracted by the sea side bedspread they were sprawled out on. Also we are treated to well over a minute of scenery shots, calm and seemingly out of place after a scene with implied sex.
Finally around the 47 minute mark we have full Birdemic, it comes like a bolt out of the blue…bird….haha get it? Well that joke is still better than this film. But after all that waiting I’d have been disappointed with the birds, but apparently this isn’t your average, ordinary bird attack because they explode like kamikaze pilots on impact. They swoop across the screen with actual plane noises like a feathered luftwaffe, destroying the city with the bird explosions, a few even gather outside the motel where Rod and Nathalie spent the night because apparently they smell human meat or something. Also when she asks if the birds can get it his eyes darting back and forth before he answers even though the curtains are drawn, he replies ‘not for the moment’ like the birds have some master plan, and doors and walls aren’t a tried and true method of keeping out most wildlife. It’s also super distracting that she’s in her underwear throughout this scene, not because I can’t be objective with a pretty half naked woman on screen, but because it undercuts the tension, and pollutes the otherwise noble, if a little ham-fisted message of the movie with mindless sex appeal. Also I waited 47 minutes for some birds and three minutes in all I wanted was for them to go away, the screeching was intolerable and was added to the long list of issues I have with the sound in this movie.
Rod somehow loses his car keys in the hotel room which forces him and Nathalie to seek help from the couple in the next room. This makes sense and marks the first normal thing he’s done in this movie, after all exploding, killer birds are everywhere and there’s strength in numbers but he immediately loses any respect he earned from that decision when he decided to stay with the couple when the man, called Ramsey (Adam Sessa) suggested using coat hangers as a tool against the birds. I mean seriously even the most mindless idiot would have to think to themselves ‘how would these be of any help?’ but because this movie doesn’t exist in the real world they end up using them and for some reason they keep the birds at bay. Anyway Ramsey suggests that they all move back to back for maximum visual coverage as they move from the hotel room to his van, which is a sensible suggestion but doesn’t quite make up for suggesting a coat hanger as a suitable method of defence. Anyway despite agreeing to go back to back Ramsey’s girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha) breaks ranks almost immediately after clearing the threshold of the room. Also in one shot both Beck and Ramsey are just absent from a shot where they’d totally still be visible I guess so that no one is confused about who the main characters are even if it screws with continuity.
Anyway they make it to Ramsey’s van without any major incident and as it turns out Mr Coat Hangers apparently has van full of guns, which includes a submachine gun and a pistol, bear in mind they are leaving the day after the incident, this isnt months into an end of the world type scenario, he just randomly happened to have guns in his van which is convenient in this case but is also deeply unsettling outside of an incident of this nature.
Anyway not long after they take off from the hotel in the van they encounter some dead bodies on the side of the road and decide to stop and look for survivors and oh my god a bird straight up shredded some old ladies throat, if only she had a coat hanger she might have survived. Anyway while looking in the car, Rod hears a noise that I’m still convinced sounds more like a baby than anything else and so he checks under the car and discovers a scared young girl, he also discovers a boy when he pops out of the trunk and so Rod and the gang round of their group with two innocent youths and thus tick all the key demographic boxes. I should also add that the children can’t act but at least they have the excuse of being children.
Okay apparently Ramsey has a bloody arsenal in his van, enough for a small war because the sure do fire their guns a lot and they miss way too much and yet despite that they apparently have an infinite supply of ammo.
Next up, at around the hour mark for the movie they all decide to have a nice picnic, which they do right out in the open, you know in prime exploding bird territory. Anyway while the two couples and the traumatized orphans hang out waiting to be killed by birds they see a random old man in the distance and apparently he’s interesting enough that they approach him and it’s at this point that the ‘subtle’ almost subliminal social message the movie has preached because out loud and proud, to borrow some terminology. The old man decides to give the group a good old fashioned and unprompted lecturer about global warming and man’s terrible impact on the environment, and how basically we’re all to blame for the Birdemic.
They return to the van after that where they manage to slip in an anti-war message when we discover that Ramsey is actually an ex-marine (which kinda explains the guns) and how he got tired of the killing in Iraq. He relays this story to Rod while they sit in the van together, meanwhile Becky and Nathalie are out for a walk so that Becky can take a crap…I need to add that I’m not being crass and I’m not trying to make some weak joke about this movie being a huge dump, they literally say that she’s going to relieve herself, although Ramsey uses far less polite terms. Anyway it’s been awhile since anything happens and so the movie decides to escalate things.
That escalation comes in the form of poor Becky dying, now I have a special sympathy for anyone who dies while going to the bathroom, after all that’s how Elvis died but Ramsey’s delivery of the line ‘The Eagles Killed Becky’ is so bad that it immediately made me laugh, and I would love to have that on a t-shirt.
The next important scene is the group attempting to rescue a tour bus full of people trapped by the birds, and I hate to say this but the group kinda deserved to die, they fought with the person trying to save them, complained and didn’t run to the van when they had the chance, they totally deserved that one bird spitting acid on them or vomiting on them or whatever that was. God their are so few likeable characters in this movie, you don’t even sympathise with the victims. Also Rod and Nathalie, waste like no time in taking the van once Rasmey bit the dust.
It was only when the group walked into the gas station to refuel that I remembered they had children with them. Apparently the movie forgot about them as well because seriously we heard not a peep out of them for quite a while.
Speaking of the gas station, that gas station attendant in true American spirit went all capitalist and jacked up the price of gas to gouge his customers, but then runs Rod’s credit card, like that’s gonna be any use in a world full of killer birds who apparently managed to sever the phone lines. I guess things are still reasonably civilised then despite eagle attacks, we are not at the bartering your shoes for water stage yet. Also speaking of people who are clinging to money in a world that’s almost certainly a few days away from electing the first bird President, the cowboy guy tries to force the group at gunpoint to sell him some gas rather than the more conventional ‘I have this gun gimme what I want’ approach to things. He gets his comeuppance though when his throat is spectacularly slashed by a bird and the group flee, leaving behind the gas that of course they’ll need down the line. The musical cue for that scene in particular was ridiculously out of place.
We get another lecture on the environment this time from tree hugger Tom Hill (Stephen Gustavson) who goes on a tirade about bark eating beetles destroying his family….who are redwood trees and right before he overstays his welcome he claims to hear a mountain lion and runs off. The group do the same, only to be caught up in the same forest fires that Rod was hearing about on TV at the start of the movie, and I can’t help but think that considering how quickly the flames engulfed them, seemingly without warning that poor old Tree hunger Tom is definitely dead.
Weird thing, apparently Nathalie’s friend Mai lives in a lighthouse? Also she’s dead as well, along with Rick….so I guess things aren’t all bad.
In the van that never stops giving, Rod finds another rod…this time of the fishing variety, and a camping stove to cook the fish, so they are saved…well from starving at least they still need to deal with the constant threat of birds attacking them and the fact all their friends are dead. Its at this moment I think about Nathalie’s mom, how’s she doing, what’s going on with her, and has she gotten the birds into her house for a nice little chat where she apologised for humanities wrongs.
So the movie is basically over at this point but Rod still has time to be awkward one last time, he approaches with his fish that he totally caught, and Nathalie responds that she collected seaweed, and he blinks like the sun hit him in the eye and responds with a resoundingly awkward “Good” as if she’d wasted her time. So they cook up the fish, but the kids being the ungrateful types they are want a McDonalds Happy Meal or nothing. Just shut up and eat your seaweed kids or you’ll get to play with the birds if you get what I’m saying.
So we come to the end, the group are trapped in the van with bird circling when all of a sudden they leave, and we are treated to a wonderful shot of CGI birds flying off into the distance, the group emerged relatively unscathed, and for the first time the musical score fits the mood of the scene, the group watch the birds fly off and thankfully Rod manages to avoid saying anything dumb.
Okay I think i made it pretty clear throughout that I didn’t think the film was good, overall it didn’t really have a story, and despite agreeing with the environmental message I felt it came across too preachy and other movies did it better anyway. The acting was poor, the audio started badly and got worse, and the cinematography was largely poor as well, as for whoever edited the film they need lessons on how to put a scene together in a way that isn’t jarring and upsetting to the eyes. But in spite of all that I can see why it’s a classic, the mistakes are part of the appeal, someone wanted this vision to come together so much that despite having all the wrong elements they made it, much like putting together a jigsaw but using pieces from another box. But I can’t let a movie pass just because it was so absurd as to be funny so I have to give it a rating of 3/10 which I believe is my lowest rating yet. And it deserves that rating because while I try to be positive I’d be lying if I said it was good, but it does certainly live up to the so bad it’s good category.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org