The Shock And Terror Of It All. James Nguyen’s Birdemic

There are movies, and then there are cinematic experiences that simply must be shared. So move over, Hitchcock, and take your old skool birds with you. Director James Nguyen is the new maestro in town. And if Birdemic: Shock And Terror (2008) is any indication, he’s kicking ass and taking names.

Well, sorta.

Birdemic: Shock And Terror is basically about a guy, a girl, and their epic battle with the deleterious effects of global warming. Said effects take the form of—wait for it—angry birds. But, these are some really, really angry birds.

Having experienced Birdemic: Shock and Terror, as well as the illuminating Blu-ray bonus features, I realize that Mr. Nguyen categorizes this film as a “romantic thriller,” yet despite the astute Hitchcockian elements, the film struck me as more of a science fiction romance film.

Why?

First of all, the film doesn’t just focus on Our Hero—Rod—stopping for gas or mumbling head-scratching lines like “Hey, look! There’s an old guy on the bridge!” upon seeing… well, an old guy on a bridge.

It also takes the time to develop his romance with Victoria’s Secret model Nathalie. And develops it. And develops it some more. The happy couple go to Half Moon Bay restaurants. Attend the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. Walk around downtown Half Moon Bay. (You get to see a lot of this Northern California hamlet in the movie—a lot.) But hey, what’s a little attention to detail? Frankly, it builds more tension for when the titular birds finally make their illustrious appearance much later in the film.

This is a bold move on the director’s part. I’m trying to imagine following the kids of Nightmare on Elm Street as they attend school, discuss homework, watch some TV, and do some chores… only to have a Freddy Kruger finally show up 40 minutes into the movie. (Note to Syd Field: it’s time to update your workshops.)

SF-wise, Birdemic: Shock and Terror tackles issues like global warming and nanotechnology applications in solar power panels. Because Rod is in sales, you see. And mutated, mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore birds of prey are angry with non-solar paneled homes. And when these birds talk—you better listen! From their rather skewed perspective, some of these winged monsters are larger than houses! Not only that, but they sound like Messerschmitts and EXPLODE upon impact! If all of the above doesn’t combine into one tasty sci-fi romance morsel, I don’t know what would.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror boasts a few other elements worth mentioning—elements worth their weight in gold, I might add. First of all, the film features such iconic characters as “Tree Hugger,” “AK-47 Ex-Army Dude,” and “Old Guy on a Bridge.” You have to see these gurus in action to believe them.

Speaking of action, Birdemic: Shock and Terror demonstrates the true versatility of coat hangers. Apparently waving them wildly in the air is kryptonite to malevolent birds. Bear this in mind. You may want to keep a few extra hangers on hand, just in case.

The film also showcases the most inventive use of sound mixing—or in some cases, the lack thereof—that I’ve ever heard in a film (and I’ve experienced quite a few Manos Hands of Fate/War in Space extravaganzas). Thank goodness Severin Films released this with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray disc so I could hear every dropout with crystal clarity.

So that’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror in an avian nutshell. Personally, I’m not a fan of bad movies that are shot intentionally bad. Those are just boring. But that’s not the case here. Nguyen strived to do the absolute best with what he had… it just wasn’t much.

I can say this without the sarcasm tags: this film is more memorable and entertaining than many higher budgeted films I’ve seen recently. I’d be hard-pressed to remember much about the average RomCom a week after I’ve seen it, but there are scenes in Birdemic: Shock and Terror that are going to stay with me throughout the decade. Hopefully the James Nguyen fun doesn’t stop here.

His home base is Moviehead Pictures and he also wrote, directed, and produced two other films, Julie and Jack and Replica.

Julie and Jack is a Romeo and Juliet riff that tackles the ever-burning question of “Can there be love without sex?” It’s the philosophical debate of the century, to be sure. Anyway, you can find Julie and Jack on Netflix, but here’s an in-depth review (Via B-movie Heaven) if you can’t even wait that long. I certainly couldn’t.

Unfortunately, Replica has yet to find distribution (boo hiss). Count me in as someone who will risk the wrath of a thousand mutated CG eagles to see this film, because Replica promises a biopunk romantic thriller of epic proportions.

I’ve compiled a few links of interest for all of you potential James Nguyen connoisseurs:

Oh, and one more thing. I hear a mountain lion! I gotta get back to my house and you better get to your car!


Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.

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