What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Alfred Hitchcock would be so proud. Whitney Moore and Alan Bagh star in what is probably #1 on Al Gore’s “must-see” list, Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

BirdemicCast of Characters:
Nathalie – Whitney Moore
Rod – Alan Bagh

Director – James Nguyen
Screenplay – James Nguyen
Producer – James Nguyen & Tim Ubels
Not Rated

Rod (Alan Bagh) is young, environmentally conscious software salesman living in Silicon Valley. Things are going so well for Rod. His company completed a successful merger, meaning he’s getting a major bonus, allowing him to retire early and startup his business. He also runs into old classmate and aspiring model Nathalie (Whitney Moore). The two reconnect and hit it off. They fall in love, of course, and everything’s just going great for the two of them. Rod’s making bank and Nathalie got offered an opportunity to be the next Victoria’s Secret cover girl. What could go wrong?

Well, birds could go wrong, and not just any birds. These are big, mean and scary birds with the gift of targeting specifically gas stations and cars ’cause of global warming. They can also hover midair while barely flapping their wings.

Take that, hummingbirds!

It’s amazing what you can make for just 50 cents. That money could’ve been spent toward a starving child in Africa, but we got Birdemic: Shock and Terror instead. Don’t worry. That African child got a copy in the mail. Sure, the film’s info says the budget was $10,000, but after you view it for the first time, you’ll be convinced they took just about $3 out (to buy blank videocassettes for their handheld camera, of course), and then the rest – well, I don’t know. It probably got run through a paper shredder.

The key to this film’s “success” (or lack thereof) is James Nguyen, who probably read somewhere in an article, “Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith did not attend film school.” (they actually did, just dropped out early), and then thought, “Oh, sweet. I guess then I can make one too… Okay, let’s see… Google ‘how to turn on a camera’.” You can’t fault Nguyen for lack of marketing sense. When his film was rejected by Sundance, he decorated his van with prop dead birds and drove around promoting the film himself. Great marketer, sure. Filmmaker? This guy doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Then again, no one here does. Not editor Kim Chow, cinematographer Daniel Mai, performers Whitney Moore and Alan Bagh, hell, I bet even the grips and caterers botched their job. Collectively, though, they managed to make one of the best-worst films of all-time.

When you work together as a team, kids, you can accomplish anything, even creating a massive pile of cinematic crap. The more you know. Cue the shooting star now.

It’s not the #1 best-worst film of all-time. In fact, if you just read the script, you’d be relying on plenty of NoDoz to help trudge your way through it. The sole reason this film is so craptastically watchable is ’cause if every single cast and crew member had those dialogue clouds floating above their heads, it would have nothing but big, giant question marks bouncing around inside them.

This is truly some horrendous acting, and I ain’t talking about over-the-top. Was Alan Bagh zoned-out on anti-depressants the whole time? I mentioned Emily Browning last week in my Pompeii review. Remember how I said she had the same emotionless expression the whole time? She’s Robin Williams and Jim Carrey on crack next to Bagh.

Rod really is a perplexing character. I’ve never met or heard of anyone so unenthusiastic about collecting a huge payday or uttering a line such as, “I think you’ll look great in those lingerie.”, in such a bland, insincere way, the viewer is certain he’s thinking, “I secretly like men.” Ben Stein showed more emotional range calling out to Bueller during class role-call. There’s one moment where his excitement levels appear to rise above pronounced dead. It’s when he and Nathalie are on a double date and he happily responds, “Man, what a great movie! An Inconvenient Truth!” Why he’s gotta mention the film’s name like the rest of his group hasn’t the slightest clue of what they just got finished seeing, I don’t know.

Showing at least some sign of life is Nathalie. You have to wonder if these fashion photos of her are that good or if Victoria’s Secret is just that hard up for a cover girl when Nathalie’s only modeling experience is doing photo shoots in a strip mall. I kid you not, the place is named “One Hour Photo” too, in standard strip mall fat block lettering, of course. I have a feeling, though, Moore could maybe be a decent actress in the right film (this and its sequel might’ve forever prevented that). Don’t get me wrong. It’s a bad, bad, very bad performance, but she at least blinks and smiles and shows that she still has a pulse. Bagh, on the other hand, could make even the choicest lines from a David Mamet script sound dull and horrible.

Adding insult to their acting injury is just how God awful this movie is filmed. There are certain scenes where you can just tell film editor Kim Chow had no idea where to cut from one scene to the next. It’s like there’s an additional three seconds per scene where the cast just stands there looking all awkward, waiting for the moment to end. There’s a date scene between Rod and Nathalie, in particular. If it was just filmed in one continuous shot, just them talking, you might’ve been bored to death. The way it was filmed and ultimately edited, though, has to be seen. Me talking of it does it absolutely no justice. It is literally one abrupt cut and different camera angle for every single line of dialogue between them. It’s not the cuts and angles themselves, but just how jarring they appear. There are moments where Rod says something and then it cuts in such a way that looks like Nathalie’s sitting at a completely different table inside a different restaurant located in a different city that happens to be in another country. That’s what I mean by jarring. That’s not even the worse example, which goes to Nathalie’s mom explaining about her career as a jeweler, then it abruptly cuts mid-sentence just to use the exact same camera angle. Hey, I understand. I made the same filming flubs too… When I was in high school.

The sound guy doesn’t get off the hook either. He (or it, if we’re assuming the “sound guy” was actually the built in microphone to the camera) should explain how one scene’s deafeningly silent (literally, not exaggerated), then followed by a scene where you wonder if they’re running white noise experiments a couple feet away.

The greatest wonder this film has to offer, though, is the birds. Yes, those birds that are attacking people ’cause of global warming (this film is so self-importantly preachy, it could turn Al Gore into a forest fire enthusiast). That’s the main reason we wanna see this! You get all excited finding this film in your local library’s donation bin. Ask when it’s due back, to which the librarian responds, “Hell, don’t bother.” Giddily walk home with it, gripping the case in your hands and looking over that nice DVD cover, which was probably just typed up on some word processing program (one of the cheaper ones too). Pop that sucker in your DVD player. Sit through Rod and Nathalie’s timeless love story while you yell at the TV, “Come on! Where are those damn birds! Where are – oh, here they – what the hell?!!!” Your first thought will naturally be if it’s a bad CGI job or just bird stickers slapped on the camera lens while crew members hammer away on kazoos for the sound effects. Your next thought will be on the marine-turned-pacifist that joins Rod and Nathalie, who, for being such a pacifist, has a nice collection of conveniently stashed machine guns in his van to ward off the birds (I’m not sure why when the coat hangers were working so well). Your final thought will be, “Well, this movie is turning out to be quite a spectacular pile of horse crap. At least they spared us the cliche scientist that somehow has everything all figured – okay, never mind.”

Scratch that. Your first thought will actually come before the birds attack and be why, if Rod and Nathalie both own homes, do they decide to consummate their first time together – in extremely awkward fashion – in a dingy hotel.

Remember, young, aspiring filmmakers out there. This film got distribution. Yours didn’t. Just some words of discouragement to live by.

Am I giving too much away? No. I not only haven’t scratched the tip of the iceberg here, I haven’t even gotten to the iceberg yet.

I had one lingering question the whole time I was watching this. Am I being played here? Is this one elaborate 90 minute joke? Then, with a second viewing, I got my answer. Hell, no. These people are as sincere about this as they get, and the only thing funnier than a sincere attempt at humor that succeeds is a sincere attempt at anything else that doesn’t. The Room still has this beat, but that doesn’t mean Birdemic: Shock and Terror isn’t knocking on its door, saying, “Hi, neighbor!” James Nguyen may not have accomplished much, other than achieving cult-status that accompanies films like these, but if he has accomplished anything, it’s making Ed Wood seem legit.

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