By Peter Galvin
Birdemic: Shock and Terror: it's heeeere! This underlit, out-of-focus and erratically-edited independent film is America’s newest cult obsession, recently booking a West Coast theater tour (including Fri/30-Sat/1 at the Roxie) on the back of some impressive press coverage and a thumbs-up from Adult Swim superstars Tim and Eric. It’s the story of a freak eagle attack on Half Moon Bay, and there’s no pussyfooting around the reality that Birdemic is an amateur work. If it weren’t for the awkward fades between scenes, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the film was cut entirely in-camera. With all the fuss building around the picture, the allure must be in laughing at it, and setting out to laugh at a bad film can be a tricky endeavor. Searching for whimsy in a poorly-made film can be an infuriating struggle of highs and lows, a pitfall Birdemic avoids by being laughably inept in every frame.
Thank goodness that Birdemic is so devoted to its deficiencies, or it might have been disappointing to find that the first half is eagle-free. We awkwardly meet Rod (Alan Bagh), a big shot salesman with enough cash flow to spend 19 grand on a solar panel and drive a blue Mustang that “gets 100 em-pee-gees.” Rod awkwardly meets Nathalie (Whitney Moore), a fashion model who loves cats (“if I could afford it, I’d have ten of them!”). Naturally, the pair is drawn to each other and falls passionately in love, but their first night together is interrupted by a screaming eagle blitzkrieg, trapping Don and Nathalie in their motel room.
No one actor in Birdemic has the inverse charisma of Tommy Wiseau, director and actor of that other cult favorite The Room (2003), but the CG eagles come close. They look like clip art, hovering in the air accompanied by a grating, looped cawing sound, before divebombing houses and causing them to explode into flames. Are they enraged by global warming? If the terrorizing birds are eagles, are they a metaphor for America? Birdemic poses a number of heavy questions, but the one on the tip of my tongue is whether or not it’s rude to heap praise on the film for being bad. It’s pretty clear that director James Nguyen didn’t set out to make a comedy, but his straight-faced seriousness is much of what makes Birdemic so funny. Appearing along with his cast to support the film’s Roxie screening, Nguyen seems willing to take his success whichever way he can get it.
Fri/30-Sat/1, 11 p.m., $9.75
Roxie, 3117 16th St, SF
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