Two of my favourite genres are horror and comedy and occasionally when those two unintentionally intersect it can result in an unexpected treat. Such is the case with Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the 2010 (very independent) film which contains neither shock nor terror but does induce many unintentional laughs.
The film’s marketing promises a horrifying tale of birds that terrorize a California town called Half Moon Bay. The movie meanders its way to that promise as the first bird attack doesn’t happen until the film is almost halfway over. The first 45 minutes concentrates on establishing the main characters, Rod (played by Alan Bagh) and Nathalie (played by Whitney Moore), with their backstories.
Typically, one of the biggest flaws of b-movies is the lack of character development but Birdemic goes to the other extreme, telling us far more about these two, including their family and co-workers, than is remotely necessary. We learn that Rod is former software developer turned salesman. He is apparently really good at his job as we watch him close a million dollar deal over the phone from his cubicle after offering the customer a 50% discount. I guess profit margins aren’t a priority at his company. He later starts his own Green Tech company and we get to see him give a PowerPoint presentation. What does this have to do with killer birds? Good question.
Then there’s Nathalie, a fashion model who quickly becomes Rod’s girlfriend after bumping into him on the street. We get to see her do several “high fashion” photo shoots in a studio that looks suspiciously like the set for Rod’s office. She finds out she has won a job as a Victoria’s Secret cover model and runs home to have a LONG conversation about it with her mom. I don’t think I can put into words how long, boring, and unnecessary this conversation is so I’ll leave it right there.
Let’s jump ahead to about 40 minutes in the film when the couple spot the first bird, a dead eagle they find during a stroll on the beach. About five minutes later, all hell breaks loose when birds suddenly start attacking the town abruptly for no apparent reason. Rod and Nathalie barricade themselves in a motel room and then make a run for it with another couple they encounter using coat hangers to battle the crazed fowl.
The birds themselves are some of the most crude attempts at CGI I’ve ever seen. The appearance and animation of the birds are so amateurish you can’t help but laugh out loud. The lack of quality effects is understandable given the reported $10,000 budget for this film but I assume that the result couldn’t have been what James Nguyen who wrote, directed and produced Birdemic had in mind.
The remainder of the film follows the two protagonists as they drive around intermittently trying to evade and fight the birds in various settings. At one point they rescue a couple of precocious kids whose parents were killed by the crazed birds, taking them shopping for snacks and, in one of the funniest scenes of film, stop for a leisurely picnic on the beach right after being swarmed by some evil eagles. They later attempt to rescue a busload of tourists being attacked on bus with some machine guns they somehow obtained. Most of the townsfolk are no match for the birds who kill their prey by briefly hovering in front of them and leave a red mark on their necks which I presume is supposed to be a gash caused by their sharp talons.
Throughout the film, the cause for these birds’ maniacal behaviour is eluded to and it’s…you guessed it…global warming. They first encounter a scientist in a park wearing a surgical mask who decries that mankind is responsible for the bird flu epidemic due to their use of fossil fuels which explains why the birds seem to be targeting vehicles and gas stations. They later run into a hippie in the forest who talks about how global warming is killing the trees and that they’ll all be gone in a few years. Now it’s all making sense right?
It’s the nonsensical elements of Birdemic like the out of place environmental angle that make it so entertaining. There are so many things consistently wrong with this film, it somehow makes it all right. Technical flaws include the poor video quality (it looks like it was filmed on an camcorder made in the 80s), terrible audio (levels shift dramatically in the same scenes and at some points dialogue is inaudible or dubbed) and the horrendous editing which likely stems from the fact the film was filmed with one camera causing scenes to be shot several times from different angles and spliced back together.
The acting is universally poor with the worst offender being the actor playing Rod who is incredibly stiff not only with his dialogue but even the way he walks. (Think Racquel Welch’s cameo on Seinfeld when she was criticized for not moving her arms when she walks).
The climax of Birdemic comes as the birds leave as abruptly as they arrive, leaving Rod, Nathalie and the precocious kids to watch them slowly float away on the horizon in all their low-budget CGI glory. As you can probably deduce from this article, there’s not a lot that’s great about this film but I did find it to be consistently entertaining. Birdemic didn’t quite deliver on its promise of shock and terror but it did provide the unintentional gift of some good laughs which is more than most of today’s Hollywood comedies deliver. If you’re a fan of the “so bad it’s good” genre, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is worth a watch. It’s currently available to stream through Amazon Prime Video and a sequel was released in 2013 if one serving of turkey isn’t enough for you.
This is my contribution to the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. My partner in maniacal monstrosities has also written an article for the blogathon here. Please check out some of the other contributors by clicking on the image below. Our thanks to Rebecca of Taking Up Room for including Maniacs and Monsters, this theme is near and dear to our hearts.