DVD: Why Birdemic Isn't Just for Hipster Douchebags

BIRDEMIC-gas-station225.jpgWhile nü-school auteurist stinkers like Birdemic: Shock and Terror (out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Severin Films) and The Room continue to pack midnight screenings all over the country, there's been a recent backlash against the audiences who are entertained by seeing these bonkers movies. The current complaint is that anyone who wants to see these films automatically has to be a condescending hipster who's there to sneer at the amateurishness of the acting and the logic-defying writing. And true, those people exist -- but there are other reasons to watch a movie like Birdemic beyond plain mockery.

Granted, mockery is the logical response to something like Birdemic, an eco-thriller in which our young lovers (he's made millions from his solar-panel start-up while she's a model who's gone from a studio in a strip mall to the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalog!) find themselves, like the rest of the planet, under attack by Really Angry Birds who can somehow blow up gas stations just by flying near them.

The special effects are of a quality somewhere below screen-saver, and the film generally indicates no filmmaking ability on the part of its enthusiastic maker, James Nguyen. But I think that at least some of the people who go to see Birdemic -- and The Room, and Dangerous Men, and After Last Season, and Rat Scratch Fever, and all the other so-bad-they're-endlessly-fascinating turkeys out there -- aren't just there to point fingers and laugh.

Say what you will about the awfulness of some of these movies -- and plenty have -- they're more interesting to watch than 90% of what's coming out of Hollywood these days. Major studios have pretty much abandoned the "show" in favor of "business," meaning supposedly safe bets like sequels, retreads, remakes, and comic-book adaptations. And even the occasional chick-flick or horror movie that doesn't fit neatly into those categories gets put through the studio machine, resulting in a mass of cookie-cutter movies whose screenplays all dutifully follow the Robert McKee/Syd Field three-act formula.

But as wretched as Birdemic is, no one's going to accuse it of being cookie-cutter. Plot twists might not make sense, but to an audience that's been numbed by predictability, any surprise can be entertaining even if it's completely ludicrous. Choices in sound effects or continuity or editing may feel abrupt and jarring, but hey, that's how Godard made his name.

I'm not trying to make a case that any of these hoot-fests are great cinema. But I do think that at least part of the reason these outsider movies are finding an audience is because mainstream cinema has gotten so very predictable and dull that some moviegoers want to be jolted or tickled or even just caught unawares. If, as the saying goes, history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, these laugh-inspiring epics may represent a cinematic New Wave that we're just not ready to quantify just yet.

In any event, check out Birdemic. No matter how you slice this one, it's some crazy shit.


  • The Winchester says:

    For what it's worth, I don't suspect that only condescending hipsters are the ones seeing these films. But they are the ones ruining it for everyone else.
    By having to be the first to know about these terrible films, I feel that they just embrace anything that's remotely terrible to be the first to say "I saw it before it was popular".
    And while I will concede your point that people will embrace them because they're different than cookie cutter studio fare, no matter the quality, embracing terrible things is not necessarily a good thing for the artists that make them.
    Exhibit A: Uwe Boll. House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark are unbelievably incoherent messes that only a true madman can create, but since he got popular for it, he's gone from incompetent to just mediocre and boring.
    Now you have Tommy Wiseau and James Ngyuen masking their incompetence behind "I was always in on the joke", and while I have yet to see their follow up work, I'm willing to bet that they, like Boll's output, will just be lame attempts to recapture that "lightning" in a bottle.
    Anyway, my long winded point is this: Alonso, you're a hipster douchebag.

  • Alonso Duralde says:

    For what it's worth, my impression is that Nguyen (as well as the mysterious "Mark Region," the pseudonymous director of After Last Season) continue to take their work totally seriously, even if the audience takes a wholly different read from it.
    As for Wiseau, I still remember the print ads from the original L.A. theatrical run of The Room going from "A Drama in the Vein of Tennessee Williams!" to "A Hilarious Dark Comedy!" (No attributes given for either blurb, natch.)
    Whether any of these guys have a second movie in them that will be remotely fun to watch is, of course, yet to be seen.

  • The Winchester says:

    That gives me a little hope.
    Truth be told, I have yet to see Birdemic. (The reasoning being that aforementioned DBs with soul patches and tight jeans always sell it out before I get there), but I have seen Nguyen's Julie and Jack, which is truly a masterpiece of incompetence.
    I guess my main problem is that by celebrating mediocrity, t overshadows those with genuine talent.
    (PS, you do know I was just gently ribbing you about being a douchebag, right?)

  • Alonso Duralde says:

    Of course! Or I wouldn't have responded at all.

  • Riley says:

    Thanks for this post. I surely agree with what you’re saying. I’ve been talking about this subject a good deal lately with my mother so hopefully this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

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