Finally, global warming gets the kind of attention it deserves: public mockery. Even West Village audiences have to laugh when nature attacks in James Nguyen’s grade-Z environmental “thriller,“ though he seems to have produced it in painful earnest. Forget “so bad it’s good,” Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror is so bad it defies mortal powers of description, yet it rolled into New York’s IFC Center for a pair of midnight screenings this past weekend with an idiosyncratic buzz to rival Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Usually, a desperate subtitle like “Shock and Terror” is a sure sign a film will have precious little of either. Indeed, such is the case with Birdemic, though viewers should be warned, the first fifteen minutes could potentially induce car-sickness, as the film slowly cruises the streets of a small Northern California town, constantly parking and stopping for gas along the way. Our protagonist tonight will be Rod, a former computer programmer turned software salesmen, which we know because Nguyen relentlessly re-establishes his back-story over and over again.
While Birdemic takes its sweet time getting going, Rod puts the moves on Nathalie, a fashion model whose last shoot was at the one-hour photo mart (I’m not making this up). About a third of the way into the film you will start to wonder if these beastly birds are ever going to show up. When they do, they make George Reeves’s 1950’s Superman look like The Matrix. If the cheesiness of the visual effects were not distracting enough, it sounds like Nguyen cut the mikes before the end of each scene, because there are weird audio drop-outs throughout the film. To be fair though, it hardly matters.
By now you should already know whether you would enjoy seeing a midnight screening of Birdemic with a suitably appreciative (drunk) audience. However, Birdemic goes further, tirelessly injecting doses of global warming hokum into the story that is already just plain ludicrous. Trying his darnedest to link the crudely super-imposed killer birds to global warming, Nguyen has an ornithologist magically appear to tell us: “I’m not a climatologist, but I think it, like, maybe has something to do with the warming oceans.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but not by much.) At least it was heartwarming to hear the West Village audience erupt into derisive laughter when Rod announces to the world: “wow, that was a great movie, An Inconvenient Truth,” after one of their interminable dates.
During the introduction, lead actor Alan Bagh said “just remember, it is what it is.” Yes, but perhaps it is also something more significant: the perfect marriage between junk film and junk science. Really, this is where global warming alarmism belongs, screening at midnight to a house full of hooting hipsters. Still, it was a strange warm-up act. While the distributors are clearly positioning Birdemic as the campy second coming of Troll 2, the irony seems completely lost on Nguyen, the self-styled “Master of the Romantic Thriller,” who appears to be playing it agonizingly straight. Frankly the contrast between them was sort of embarrassing.
The normal critical rules really do not apply to a film like this. Did I laugh at Birdemic? Constantly. You either start riffing on films like this or you start groaning and there is no shortage of material in Birdemic. After all, it is the new public face of the global warming hysteria. You’ve now been warned, Birdemic is everything you think it is, and less. It returns to Los Angeles for an encore screening at the Silent Movie Theater on April 9th.