Some horror films start with a dramatic and frightening scene which drops the viewer straight into the action. Birdemic doesn’t. In fact it never really starts. And it’s not really a horror film. In fact it’s barely a film. If you decide to watch it (don’t) fast forward to exactly half way through. That way you’ll only have to wait two minutes instead of 47 for anything at all to happen.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Birdemic‘s opening credits will fill you with dread – not the kind of dread usually associated with horror films, more a fear that you may never reach the end. The footage is shot from inside a car using a camera which is tilted about 30 degrees, and this apparently accidental tilt is a feature at various points throughout the film.
In the first scene it’s hard to tell if the main character is meant to be a zombie or a stalker, but it soon turns out his woodenness applies to all situations, from office banter and traffic jams to lovemaking and bird attacks. His character is really developed in scene two, an amazingly lengthy set of clips which are best described as “random guy’s journey to work”. He comes out of the house, gets in the car, drives, stops for petrol, drives, goes through some lights, drives then – finally, mercifully – gets to work.
Though he shows no emotion at any time, this turns out to be a pretty momentous few days in his life. First off he meets the girl of his dreams and she agrees to a date (though no time or date is mentioned – she just says: “Sounds delicious, see you then.”)
About half an hour in, with no hint of a birdemic and audience consciousness surely wavering, our hero’s “little internet start-up” company announces it has been sold for a billion dollars. A billion dollars?! Never mind, such details turn out to be the least of the viewer’s worries.
When the birds finally arrive, they are either a comic masterpiece or the worst thing in film history. It’s hard to imagine anything less realistic, a situation not helped by the fact they occasionally make aircraft sounds before crashing into buildings and immediately exploding – something birds rarely do in my limited ornithological experience.
Armed first with coat hangers and then with machine guns, a plucky band of deeply unconvincing actors fight back. The cause of the birds’ bloodlust is hard to work out, but various passing sages explain it’s got something to do with global warming. By this point however, you just won’t care.
Perhaps the worst aspect of Birdemic – which is really saying something – is the sound quality. It is frequently difficult to hear what the characters are saying and viewers are subjected to the same two or three shrill birdcall sound effects over and over again, which is incredibly annoying.
Just like The Room, every scene in Birdemic is damaged by a second-long pause between each line of dialogue. It might not sound like much, but you can almost see the cast reading their lines before they recite them with absolutely no tone or inflection. An editor could have made the film half as long and twice as good.
Director James Nguyen should be credited with one achievement: the invention of the emptage (a montage during which nothing happens). For example, the central couple spend the afternoon – and I mean an afternoon in real time, as we apparently need to see every minute – at some kind of village fete. The scene has no dialogue, so it feels like a music video from the people who make elevator music.
Perhaps the best moment is during the scene when the characters loot a small shop for supplies. While the man grabs water the woman picks up a bottle of champagne, looks closely at it, then puts it back – actions with no obvious explanation, especially as the shopkeeper is dead on the floor with his eyes pecked out.
Birdemic saves the worst for last, ending with perhaps the most annoying scene in film history. The leading man says: “Look! They’re leaving” and the birds fly away for no apparent reason. They flap their wings and head out to sea, but they don’t get any further away and just hang there flapping as music plays for an amazingly long time.
When the credits finally roll, your relief will be mixed with confusion about why anyone would allow their name to appear in that list. Birdemic is just awful. Having seen it, you’ll probably find the prospect of a real-life bird-related Armageddon preferable to a second viewing.