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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 0. Severin.

Birdemic Shock and TerrorI first heard of Birdemic - Shock and Terror a couple of years ago, when Severin Films’ Carl Daft and David Gregory entertained me over a few drinks with tales of the mad film they’d just picked up and it’s eccentric director, James Nguyen. That evening, I found the trailer online and sure enough, the film appeared to be jaw-dropping stuff, as terrible, hovering CGI birds crashed into disproportionately sized buildings and exploded.

Over the next year, Birdemic became something of a phenomenon - rapidly beating out previous contenders like The Room and Troll 2 to become a midnight movie sensation, hailed by aghast and astounded critics as ‘the best worst movie of all time’ - it’s reputation helped by the remarkably enthusiastic Nguyen, who would turn up at screenings and play to the excited crowds. When I caught the film at Nottingham’s Broadway - a cinema where audiences are more likely to sit in contemplative reverence during serious arthouse films - there was a party atmosphere that I hadn’t experienced since the heady days of horror movie all nighters like Shock Around the Clock and Black Sunday. And the film didn’t disappoint: a mad, ridiculous mess that is so awful on more or less every level that it transcends being merely ‘bad’ and becomes a hard-to-believe, hugely entertaining riot.

I’m no fan of sneering at ‘bad’ films - especially as most of the people who do so don’t seem capable of differentiating between something really fucking awful and films that are merely low budget (and then heap praise on dull crap anyway) - but I’ve seen enough zero-budget, shot-on-video amateur hour stuff that really is irredeemably awful to see that this was something different. For example, no audience would sit through Summer of the Massacre in a cinema, no matter how much it was hyped as a laugh-riot, but Birdemic not only holds the audience, it rewards them with a wholly unique experience.

Birdemic Shock and TerrorThe plot follows lingerie model Natalie (Whitney Moore) - who has a meteoric rise from a One Hour Photo store to the cover of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue seemingly within a few hours - and software salesman Rod (Alan Bagh), who becomes an overnight millionaire and starts up his own ‘green tech’ business. After these two successful young people enjoy a trip to a pumpkin festival and a night in a motel (nice going Rod - couldn’t you dip into your millions for a real hotel) they awake to find that eagles and vultures are attacking people. Why? Who knows? The film implies that it’s all down to Global Warming, and the viewer is treated to some remarkably unsubtle environmental lecturing from various supporting characters along the way.

While much has been made - quite rightly -of the jaw-droppingly awful CGI effects (the birds hover in the air like static cut out photographs, and the rarely-mentioned forest fire has to be seen to be believed), Birdemic works because it is terrible on more or less every level. From the opening titles - which drag on forever with the most godawful music you could imagine - onwards, this is staggering to watch. The editing and sound are incredibly shoddy, making the already stilted acting seem even more awkward. Actually, to her credit, Moore seems as though she might be able to give a half-decent performance given less risible dialogue and more direction; Bagh, on the other hand, may well be the worst actor of all time. Whether he’s scoring $10 million dollar deals, talking to friends about the hot model he’s just met, fighting off killer eagles with a coat hanger or having a gun pointed at his head, his expression rarely changes from a look of mild confusion, like he’s just been asked to work out a tricky math problem.

Birdemic Shock and TerrorLet’s be honest - Birdemic shouldn’t work: it’s awful on every level, and really badly paced. Ironically, if the film was more technically competent, the lengthy romantic opening would probably be terminally dull - it’s the sheer awfulness of it that gets you through this long opening section and into the bird attacks, and so Birdemic does work as one of the most entertaining nights you will have watching a film. How it will translate for first-time viewers watching alone at home is more open to question; but I’d say that most people will still get a huge amount of enjoyment from it. To be safe though, I’d suggest you hold a James Nguyen-approved ‘Birdemic Fest’ by inviting a few people round and cracking open the booze.

Severin’s long-awaited DVD ices the cake with a couple of commentary tracks - one with Nguyen and the other with stars Moore and Bagh - and both are laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, for very different reasons - Nguyen’s belief in the quality of his film is an impressive delusion, while the two stars have great stories about the production and the director. There are a couple of missing scenes, assorted trailers (Nguyen’s original teaser; the wonderful Severin Films preview), a teaser for Severin’s documentary about Nguyen and a great featurette following the Birdemic Experience tour around the world amongst other bits and piece that make this a worthy packaging of the cult film of the decade.

Why did the eagles and vultures attack? Buy it and find out!





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