The Edinburgh B-Team is a loose affiliation of enthusiasts of any and all films of the low-budget, DTV nonsense variety that many, far more sophisticated cinemagoers overlook as a matter of principal, who meet up on Monday nights for alcohol and laughable DVD entertainment. Restarting after almost a year of inactivity due to technical difficulties there was a triple bill celebration of the rubber-suited classic Godzilla Vs Mothra, the sci-fi lunacy of Manborg, and one other that I felt compelled to relate my experience of.
There are degrees of bad films. There is bad in the sense of the highly enjoyable trash that B-movie aficionados like us devour like crack-coated jelly beans. There is the bad in the amateurish sense of inexperienced filmmakers not making films very well despite their best efforts. There is bad in the Hollywood sense of mind-numbing mass-produced crap churned out to appease the masses queueing up at the local multiplex. There is bad in the sense of films being made with such technological incompetence it’s a wonder the director knew which end of the camera to point at the action. There is bad in the sense of the interminable deluge of utterly dire anti-entertainment computer game adaptations inflicted upon the world by Uwe Boll. There is bad in the sense of the inexcusable aberration that is The Star Wars Holiday Special.
Then there is Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
At its most basic, Birdemic is a film about the residents of a town being attacked by birds, but to compare this to Hitchcock’s sublime The Birds is – like comparing Barb Wire to Casablanca – an insult so unforgivable that never mind spinning in his grave, His Great Rotundity will rise from it, hunt you down wherever in the world you are hiding and drag you down to the eighth circle of hell, screaming all the way.
To describe Birdemic merely as a bad film does a disservice to the English language, as it dismisses the plethora of adjectives that may better enunciate just what a torturous physical endurance trial viewing this cinematic abomination truly is. It’s not until about halfway through the film that the birds even appear. Well, other than the ones we’re supposed to ignore in the background of the shots, as they, unlike their blitzkrieging counterparts, were evidently not affected by the Folly of Man.
You see, there is an ecological message here, communicated by various details dropped in with the narrative nuance of a Loony Tunes 16-tonne anvil. A couple of news reports related by a robotic, dead-eyed anchor about the melting of the polar ice caps and a “Green” Grand Prix; the perfect double date movie being An Inconvenient Truth; a demonstration of how straightforward it is to buy solar panels; rising temperatures causing forest fires; and, apparently, vultures and eagles driven to murderous insanity by the thoughtless homo sapiens destroying their world. Seriously, Captain Planet had a subtler one-world environmental subtext, and that was a ‘90s children’s cartoon about a pollution-battling superhero summoned via the converging of the concentrated elemental powers of nature by an international quintet of ethnically diverse teenagers overseen by Gaia, the anthropomorphic avatar of the Earth itself.
Anyway, until Birdageddon, we must tolerate what was supposed to be a romantic comedy, but instead came off as the most inept porn film this side of the 1970s, minus the actual shagging. There is acting more wooden than the Amazon rainforest; ceaselessly repetitive dialogue (and I mean the same statement recited half a dozen times in the same conversation); a guy who fails to convince even when simply walking from a car to a building; a girl whose default facial expression is a grin wide enough to look carnivorous and which contains more impossibly white teeth than an entire studio of CBBC presenters; motionless actors staring blankly as shots continue for several seconds longer than they should; sound fading in and out from one shot to the next; endless driving montages; directionless character interaction; extended scenes that do nothing to develop the plot; and dialogue even less natural than the aforementioned vintage carnality. The most efficient film school lecture ever could consist of merely showing this film and telling students to do the exact opposite of everything they see.
Our sadistic screening host kept reminding us to trust him, as in, “trust me, the birds will appear,” but not, it seems, “trust me, this is not one of the most risible pieces of garbage you will ever suffer through. Mwuhahahahahaha!!!!!”
After over 45 minutes of insufferably unconvincing romance, the morning after the duo end up in a cheap motel (where the alluring azure shade of the girl’s underwear was declared the best thing about the movie so far) they awake to find a the streets abandoned and desolate, which may well have been as ominous as intended were it not for the fact that streets usually are pretty empty just after daybreak. Anyway, moments later multiple squadrons of birds are revealed to be assaulting the town in a CGI clutter, with a few kamikaze units dive-bombing cars and buildings before inexplicably detonating on contact and fading into cheap flame effects. This was the greatest part of the film and its only entertaining sequence. It lasted roughly twenty seconds.
Each bird hovers stationary in copy-pasted looping animations that are barely comparable to Internet gifs, but with less definition than a shadow puppet. The birds don’t physically do anything, they just hang in the air like a software glitch while we are supposed to accept the danger they pose from nothing more than their visual presence. When surrounded, the characters flail apoplectically beneath the feathery failures in imitation of onslaught, and when on the run they shoot at them with pistols and a machine gun they serendipitously came across.
Some further “highlights” include an attempt to save some anonymous extras trapped on a bus leading to one bird exploding in a fountain of corrosive acid for no apparent reason, an event sadly not repeated; a couple of rescued kids seeming to be completely unaffected by their parents being gouged to death by homicidal birds of prey; a tree-dwelling hippie with a ponytail resembling a skinny Woody Harrelson who proclaimed himself the guardian of the forest; and one scene of stand-out egregiousness where the survivors unaccountably stop for a picnic with food and drink looted from a petrol station. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on apocalyptic survival, but I would have thought it a rather unwise course of action to blithely frolic in a wide open field when there are avian battalions patrolling the skies ready at a moment’s notice to swoop down at stray humans and gore out their eyes and slash open their jugulars. But that’s just me. It’s here we also meet a scientist type person who monologues an essay the director wrote in high school about how global warming is spreading viruses and ravaging nature and how mankind is dangerous and destructive and has brought about its own annihilation and oh god I don’t fucking care any more just make it stop.
And I wasn’t the only one. One girl at the screening took to chanting “END!” every few minutes in a monosyllabic mantra of despair, as though the film could be brought to a conclusion by exasperated willpower alone, while another began pointing out everything the protagonists were doing that neither made the slightest bit of sense nor were receiving any logical repercussions, then even began warning people who entered the bar to stay away, to the effect of “It’s too late for us, but you can still save yourself!” I myself was almost hyperventilating in manic and increasingly desperate laughter at the film’s sheer unendurable awfulness, as anything else would likely have led to me clawing my eyes out just to relieve the agonising tedium.
If you are ever overcome with the need to see a film driven by nature running amok due to ozone layer depletion, then watch Day of the Animals; that at least has the glorious sight of Leslie Neilson picking a fight with a grizzly bear. If for some reason you still feel the need to watch this travesty, just don’t. Watch the first few minutes of Debbie Does Dallas before the dick sucking starts, then skip to a random scene of The Birds, then download a NES emulator and play Duck Hunt for an hour. This will simulate Birdemic’s base elements, while also having the advantage of being several thousand times more entertaining.
If you ignore my warnings, you will soon come to understand the extent of its incomparable unwatchability. However, it’s not enough to merely turn it off. You’ll want to crowbar open the DVD player while the disc is still spinning in the hope its rotational speed will launch it through the window like a silver clay pigeon, whereupon it can be obliterated into a thousand shards by a blast of buckshot so that none may ever again be subjected to the haemorrhage-inducing monotony of its excruciating contents.
I hate hyperbole. I think it’s unimaginative, uninformative, lazy to write and boring to read. I also think it should only be utilised if you have a steadfast and literal belief in the words employed. I mention this so that when I say that I truly believe Birdemic to be a strong contender for one of the worst films ever made, I want you to fully appreciate the true significance of what it means for me to make such a statement.