Hallmarks of Cinema: “Birdemic: Shock and Terror”

By Rotten Grapes

Staff Critic


I’ll be honest, the 2015 movie season has left me rather cold so far. There just hasn’t been that spark to make the year memorable that we have normally gotten some hint of so far. It’s times like these that I find myself dusting off old DVDs and reliving some true classics. What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than with some pinnacles of cinematic success? In fact, why not start with what will surely come to be remembered as the preeminent film of the decade, “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.” Not only is “Birdemic” clearly the best of the ever popular avian-apocalypse subgenre, but it’s an intelligent cinematic tour-de-force that deserves to be recognized for centuries to come.

Rod (Alan Bagh) is just your average environmentally conscious millionaire salesman living in the Silicon Valley when he happens upon the girl of his dreams, Nathalie (Whitney Moore). Nathalie too is on the path to success having just landed a job as Victoria Secret’s covergirl model. Together the two enjoy the blissful romance that 20-something’s can only dream of. However, an unexpected environmental disaster raises its blood-soaked wings on the horizon ready to shatter all we hold dear.

Writer and director James Nguyen’s masterstroke of artful activism was unjustly rejected by the Sundance Film Festival upon initial release. I can only imagine the retroactive shame those poor uncultured swine feel now as “Birdemic” enjoys both a prestigious DVD release and a sequel released in 2013.

Nguyen’s script bursts with intelligence and life. He clearly has an eye for contemporary environmental angst. “Birdemic” paints a scathing critique of modern eco-policy. It warns us to drive hybrid cars, install solar panels, and listen attentively to the preachings of Al Gore.  However, all of this may still be for nothing. Even as Rod and Nathalie try their best to save the planet, doom hovers circling just above. Nguyen smartly waits a solid 40 minutes into the film before introducing us to our feathered villains, which arrive in a sudden burst of fire and screeching fury.  In real life, the environmental disaster that will spell death to us all will come as a surprise to us all. There will be no “first act” that sets up the dangers to come and all the coat hangers we can grab will do nothing to stop the bird blitzkrieg.

However, it’s not merely the environment that Nguyen has on his mind. “Birdemic” is also a clever meta-commentary on the state of Hollywood film production. Not only is Nguyen’s script so visionary that it foregoes most if, not all, traditional structure, he also creates a pointed and insightful deconstruction of the contemporary blockbuster. The only sex scenes within “Birdemic’s” runtime are tastefully performed overtop underwear and bathing suits, a decision that Nguyen has intelligently put was “to prevent the actors from actually having sex” which simultaneously subverts modern pieces of pseudo-pornography such as “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Similarly, the birds are created through ingeniously incorporated stock animation. They may appear fake and lifeless, but the decision is clearly intentional, for in this age of weekly digital apocalypse can’t it all be just simply summed up by a looped animation of a screeching eagle.

Surprisingly, the most poignant moment occurs before the birds even appear. Rod and Nathalie enjoy a date at a local night-club. They dance excitedly as Damien Carter, playing himself, sings his hit single “Just Hanging Out” soulfully in the background.  Sometimes all one really needs is to sit down and hang out with your family and have yourself a party. You can even see Nguyen nodding appreciatively along. If the birdemic is truly upon us, then saving the environment may mean nothing. Be young. Be pretty. Catch the big fish. Have yourself a party.

“Birdemic: Shock and Terror” is the sort of overlooked masterpiece that is sure to be the stuff of film courses in twenty years. With impeccable sound design, cinematography, and a daring musical score that surprises at every step, Nguyen has constructed a film lover’s dream. It should be experienced by the young and old alike and discussed with fervor and heart.


Notice: This article is a part of the annual April Fool’s edition.  None of the information in this article is true.

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