‘Hollywood is about to take a beating’
Birdemic 2: The Resurrection is a 2013 American horror feature film written and directed by James Nguyen. The movie stars Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Thomas Favaloro.
Few films can be as hard an act to follow as Birdemic Shock and Terror, the jaw-dropping, ludicrous, hilariously inept ‘romantic thriller’ that astounded audiences worldwide a few years ago. After all, that film was made with serious intent by a filmmaker who had the enthusiasm to bring his vision to the screen, but who was lacking in pretty much everything else.
Now, after years of being proclaimed ‘the best worst movie of all time’ (you’d vote for The Room? Get out of here!), it certainly can’t be lost of director James Nguyen that audiences are not reacting to his film in the way he’d hoped. But ever the trooper, Nguyen embraced the joke, while still proclaiming that his film was a more serious movie than most viewers thought.
How do you make a sequel to that? It’s tougher than you’d think, because what do you do? Do you make a bigger budgeted, straight-faced follow-up that might be more mainstream but would probably be a lot less entertaining? Or do you go for deliberate laughs, running the risk of falling flat with jokes that are too knowing?
The answer to the question was partly solved by the multi-million dollar budgets that Nguyen had been expecting curiously failing to materialise, ensuring that he had no choice but to go the zero budget, crowd-funded route again.
An attempt to shoot in 3D, using a rig the director had cobbled together himself, predictably ended in disaster, but Birdemic 2: The Resurrection could not be stopped. And incredibly, with this film Nguyen has managed to once again capture lightning – or something – in a bottle. After all, this is still from the mind that brought us the first film, and his bigger, better sequel features almost all the elements that made the original film so glorious.
It’s as much a rehash as a sequel. It opens as it means to go on, with a numbingly awkward, lengthy shot of new hero Bill (Thomas Favaloro) walking self-consciously down Hollywood Boulevard before entering a restaurant and hitting on waitress-slash-actress Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo) with the old ‘I’m a film producer line’.
Amazingly, this is not meant to set him up as a sleazy guy, but instead open up a new romance. He’s here to meet old friends and Birdemic survivors Rod (Alan Bagh) and Natalie (Whitney Moore), and before long, software millionaire Rod has agreed to finance his new movie, a staggeringly original story of the struggle to make it in Hollywood.
However, bad things are around the corner, and it’s not just a whole bunch of characters from the first film who are clumsily inserted into the story and then forgotten about (the young boy rescued in the first film is now Rod and Natalie’s adopted son – his sister having died after eating poisoned fish cooked in the first film! – but is soon forgotten about as the action picks up).
After the usual romantic meandering – including a nightclub scene where the cast have clearly not been told how long the song they are frugging away to lasts – the horror begins, as global warming or something causes the sky to rain blood and dead prehistoric birds to rise from the La Brea Tar Pits – yes, the eagles and vultures are once again attacking, but this time they are giant prehistoric eagles and vultures!
Nguyen is wonderfully eccentric, but he’s not clueless, and there are moments in Birdemic 2 where his tongue is clearly in cheek, knowingly referencing the badness of the original film. That’s no surprise – what’s amazing is how few they are. It’s possible that this time round, he could’ve had better special effects (and in a sense, he has – though they are still mind-bendingly dreadful) and an early bit of terrible sound seems like a deliberate reference to the first film’s notorious audio.
Yet, let’s be honest – his cast is not going to have suddenly become great thespians and he’s not going to have suddenly become a great director – and so all the elements that made the first film so stunning are here. The stilted, ridiculous dialogue; the halting performances; the bizarre editing; the incomprehensible mix of action and people standing around.
The film also has one of the most blatantly gratuitous topless scenes ever filmed (inserted at the insistence of producer Jeff Gross, apparently) – literally, three girls pop up to show their boobs and exchange a few lines of dialogue before being killed off.
The movie has zombies – which might seem another cheap gag for cult audiences, but which was actually Nguyen’s ‘big secret’ when I met him three years ago, a twist he was sure would rock the audiences on their heels (sorry if I’ve just spoiled that for you!) and a pair of resurrected cavemen who I missed thanks to a toilet break.
Birdemic 2 isn’t as much fun as the first film. It couldn’t be unless you hadn’t seen the first film, because everything hilarious here was hilarious there. But it is wonderfully entertaining and crowd-pleasing, if not for the reasons I suspect Nguyen is still hoping for. And I’ll take this – or any other film made with blood, sweat, tears and passion – over some soulless summer blockbuster any day, thank you very much.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
Cast and characters:
- Alan Bagh … Rod
- Whitney Moore … Nathalie
- Thomas Favaloro … Bill
- Chelsea Turnbo … Gloria
- Thuan Luu … Will
- Aaron Pressburg … Dustin
- Brittany N. Pierce … Jessica
- Colton Osborne … Tony
- Rick Camp … Doctor Jones
- Patsy van Ettinger … Nancy
- Damien Carter … Himself
- Stephen Gustavson … Tree Hugger
- Carrie Stevens … Tree Hugger’s Wife
- Eric Swartz … Bill Stone, CEO
- Steve McMoy … Robert Perkins, Venture Capitalist