Rarely outside of student films do you see a feature-length production with a budget under $10,000.
But when you do, it’s pretty safe to expect a subpar result.
“Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” directed by James Nguyen and inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds,” is bad on a level that is almost incomprehensible. When you look at some of the other all-time classics of terrible cinema, films like “The Room” or “Catwoman,” you can imagine saying to yourself, “This director, talentless though they may be, has at least some concept of how filmmaking works.”
You don’t really get that sense here. James Nguyen, self-proclaimed master of the romantic thriller, might just be the least competent filmmaker to ever grace the silver screen. The technical aspects of “Birdemic” are frankly laughable.
The trouble begins right away with the nine minute opening title of nothing but credits appearing over a series of low-quality POV shots through the windshield of a driving car. That’s it, really.
One struggles to comprehend how massively this movie fails at everything, but the titular birds are an excellent place to start. After about 45 minutes wherein absolutely nothing happens, the birds show up and… there’s really no way of describing it in words. It can only be observed.
In addition to that filmic masterwork, whenever it cuts to wide shots of the birds attacking the city as a whole, it seems Nguyen takes the concept of dive-bombing rather literally. When the birds hit the ground, they erupt in a ball of flames, accompanied by the sound of a plummeting fighter plane.
But the technical woes extend far beyond the bizarre choices made surrounding the assortment of avian antagonists. The sound mixing springs to mind.
For those who wonder why there are two different sound awards at the Oscars, this is the difference: sound mixing involves taking on-set sound and sound recorded after-the-fact (ADR) and piecing together a realistic audio landscape. Sound editing is designing the sounds of a film. One example of a sound editor is the person who came up with the famous lightsaber swoosh.
While the sound editing in “Birdemic” leaves much to be desired, the mixing is utterly ludicrous. If there’s ever a shot of someone walking, you can be sure that the walking sounds will be a beat off every single time. The film has a bad habit of having either really muffled dialogue or having dialogue that was so clearly dubbed after-the-fact that old “Godzilla” movies are covering the ears in embarrassment.
And of course, the coup de grace, there are a humiliating number of times wherein there will be awkward bursts of complete silence in between lines of dialogue.
I could go on about the other issues, like how the camera is constantly out of focus, misaligned or both, or how the movie somehow finds a way to be about global warming, or about how the lead actor has all the personable warmth of a 2×4.
But honestly, nothing I could say would sum up “Birdemic” better than the above clip of GIF birds rendered digitally in 1995 being fought off with wire coat hangers.