‘Who will survive?’
Birdemic: Shock and Terror – usually shortened to Birdemic – is a 2008 American horror feature film written, directed and produced by James Nguyen, who describes himself as ‘the master of the romantic thriller’.
The leading cast is made up of Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore (who now appears daily in a Bloody Disgusting web video). Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Birdemic tells the story of a romance between the two main characters as their small town is attacked by birds.
Birdemic was made with no studio support, largely self-financed and produced through Nguyen’s Moviehead Pictures company for a budget of less than $10,000. The film has gained notoriety for its poor quality, with many critics citing it as one of the worst films ever made.
Rod (Alan Bagh) is a young software salesman living a successful life in Silicon Valley. He meets up with old classmate and aspiring fashion model Nathalie (Whitney Moore) and begins dating her.
Things go well for the couple, with Rod receiving a large bonus that he uses to start his own business, while Nathalie is chosen as a Victoria’s Secret model. As they grow closer, the couple remains oblivious to signs of something going wrong around them, such as unexplained wildfires and the corpses of diseased birds turning up on beaches.
After consummating their relationship in a motel, Rod and Nathalie wake up to find that their town is under attack from eagles and vultures that spit acid and explode into flames upon striking the ground. Rod and Nathalie escape from the motel by joining up with an ex-Marine named Ramsey (Adam Sessa) and his girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha). As they leave town, they rescue two young children, Susan (Janae Caster) and Tony (Colton Osborne), whose parents have been killed by the birds.
The group proceeds to drive from one town to the next, fending off more bird attacks along the way and briefly meeting a scientist named Doctor Jones (Rick Camp) studying the phenomenon. Becky is killed by the birds, and Ramsey, in an attempt to exact revenge, tries to save a busload of tourists. As they leave the bus, Ramsey and the tourists are doused in acid by the birds and all die.
Rod, Nathalie and the kids continue to flee from the birds, driving into a forest where they briefly meet a “Tree Hugger”/Tom Hill (Stephen Gustavson), who explains to them that the birds have only been targeting gas stations and cars and that the attacks are the result of global warming. The quartet ultimately settles on a small beach, where Rod fishes for dinner.
As they prepare to eat, they are attacked by the birds, which are suddenly—and for no explained reason—chased away by doves. The film ends as Rod, Nathalie and the kids watch the birds fly off into the sunset.
Da Nang-born director James Nguyen’s family fled Vietnam in 1975, shortly before the Fall of Saigon. He never received any formal training in moviemaking but grew up watching the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.
Nguyen went on to be a software salesman in Silicon Valley. He first picked up a camera in 1999, and eventually directed two movies, Julie and Jack and Replica. The former, released in 2003, was a low-budget romance, while the latter was never released. Nguyen blamed this on the expensive storyboarding process and his casting decisions.
Nguyen was inspired to write the script for Birdemic: Shock and Terror while spending time relaxing in Half Moon Bay, California, and much of the filming took place in the area surrounding the community.
Birdemic began production in 2006 and took four years to produce, partly due to time limitations – filming was done mostly on weekends over the course of seven months – and also due to financial restraints as it was financed through Nguyen’s day job, plus the time it took to find a distributor.
In January 2009, Nguyen traveled to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to promote the film freelance, handing out flyers to passers-by from his van, adorned with stuffed birds and paper signs that read “BIDEMIC.COM” (spelling Birdemic wrong in his haste) and “WHY DID THE EAGLES AND VULTURES ATTACKED?” [sic], and renting out a local theater to screen the film.
Severin Films acquired the film in early 2010 and launched the Birdemic Experience Tour 2010, which showed the film in numerous cities in the United States and Toronto, Canada from April through July 2010. Birdemic premiered in the United Kingdom at The Curzon Soho in London on 28 May 2010.
Birdemic was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 22 February 2011. The DVD’s special features include an audio commentary by James Nguyen as well as one by lead actors Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore, two deleted scenes, a feature on the Birdemic Experience Tour, and an episode of the public-access San Francisco TV show Movie Close Up which features Nguyen.
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 awful 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.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
” …Birdemic is blissfully unaware of how terrible it is, and that makes it totally brilliant.” Paste magazine
“Birdemic features acting as wooden as a tree, clunky camera work… and crude special effects that reduce audiences to tears of laughter rather than terror.” The Guardian
“Birdemic displays all the revered hallmarks of hilariously bad filmmaking: inane dialogue… miscued music, godawful sound… and special effects that simply must be seen to be believed: birds dive-bombing and exploding in red-and-yellow poofs of smoke, and clip-art eagles, crudely pasted on the screen, with only their wing tips mechanically flapping.” Variety