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Film / Birdemic

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Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a 2008 American independent horror film written, directed, and produced by James Nguyen. It's a Whole-Plot Reference to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and tells the story of a romantic couple whose relationship is interrupted by a sudden attack of killer birds, with a very overt Green Aesop.

Made with around $10,000 and vigorously promoted by Nguyen through means including driving a minivan blaring bird noises and adorned with stuffed birds, fake blood and paper signs (some of which misspelled the film title) around the Sundance Film Festivalnote , the film was shown at a couple festivals in 2008 and 2009, and then had a small theatrical run in 2010.

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in February 2011. It got early press attention from several horror sites as well as having its trailer featured on Attack of the Show!, but it was introduced to the wider world by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, and has since become infamous for its So Bad, It's Good nature.

A sequel, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection, was released in 2013. Three years later, Nguyen announced plans to make a third installment titled Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle. Crowdfunding efforts for the film did not go as anticipated — an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $500,000 raised $596, and a subsequent Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $200,000 raised $230. Despite those setbacks, filming began in May 2021, and the film eventually premiered at Fantastic Fest in September 2022 before being released on streaming platforms in January 2023.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • Rick thinks "a day without sex is a day wasted." (This character was reused from another film by Nguyen, Julie and Jack.)
    • Nathalie also mentions more than once that Rod is different from all the other guys she's dated, who were only into her for the sex. So apparently All Men Are Perverts, Except Rod. Even then, it's a Broken Aesop: Rod tries to invite himself in to Nathalie's apartment after their first date. Though, it might be argued that Rod's intents were virtuous and Nathalie didn't want to tempt herself.
  • All There in the Manual: Word of God is the only source of information on the birds' bizarre attributes.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Did you know eagles could hover in midair like hummingbirds?
    • According to Word of God "Global warming has caused [the birds] to be mutant, toxic, and flammable. That's why, when they take a kamikaze drive, they explode, and when they drop bird fluid on some of the cast, they get burned." Genetics and evolution don't work that way outside of X-Men. There's also the spontaneous combustion. Even bombardier beetles don't explode when falling. They also sound like Stuka bombers when they dive, which is a fairly impressive biological feat.
    • The mutated birds all sound like bald eagles, which is ironic considering that bald eagles are almost always dubbed with another species of bird with a more impressive screech.
  • As You Know: At the end of their double date, Rod helpfully points out to the others that the movie they just finished watching was An Inconvenient Truth. It's shoehorned into the dialogue so awkwardly that it's clear Nguyen was desperate to name drop it, and couldn't afford to do anything more subtle, like show them walking out of a theater with the title on the marquee. Considering the film was shot two years after Truth had a theatrical release, Nguyen obviously couldn't afford to borrow a theater and put a title and poster on the marquee.
  • A-Team Firing: The heroes, including a supposed soldier, fire hundreds of rounds at birds and rarely hit any of them. Mind you, birds are tiny, fast targets, and they don't have any birdshot. Though the "fast" part is mitigated by their hovering.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Green Tech – to the point of giving Rod a hybrid Ford Mustang.
    • In Nathalie's photoshoot, she wears Vietnamese fashions like an ao dai. For their date, Rod and Nathalie go to a Vietnamese restaurant (though the sign on the outside says Thai...). Director/Writer/Producer Nguyen is from Vietnam.
  • Author Avatar: The protagonist of this (and those of the director's other two films) are tech salesmen. Guess what profession the director used to work in?
  • Author Filibuster: In the middle of the birdemic, characters are introduced solely to deliver a speech about how global warming will kill us all, then leave never to return.
  • Big Eater:
    • Rod drives to a diner to have breakfast, then goes home and has a second breakfast before driving to work.
    • The group seems to drink huge amounts of water. When the birds attack and they first stop, they get a 24 pack of water. At the next stop, they get 2 gallon jugs of water. That wasn't enough apparently, because they had to stop a short while later to get water from a stream. All of this is in the same day. To be fair, hoarding water is a reasonable reaction to a natural disaster.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends on a shot of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Not once do you see Rod or Ramsey reloading their weapons, and they fire a truly psychotic number of rounds at the birds. Just dozens and dozens of bullets without cease.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A bus full of people are trapped by birds. The heroes "rescue" them. Or try to, as they, and Ramsey, all die within seconds of stepping off the bus.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • After Becky is killed, Ramsey punches his van's steering wheel and angrily yells that "the eagles killed Becky!" — just for the benefit of anyone who didn't hear Nathalie repeatedly screaming that little fact out loud moments beforehand.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After the birds attack, Nathalie doesn't even mention her mother, much less the fact that she's probably dead. Or perfectly fine and safe in her house.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • It turns out Rod's best friend and Nathalie's best friend are dating. This has absolutely nothing to do with how they meet.
    • Later, even though Rod and Natalie have been driving around aimlessly for most of the movie, they somehow happen to come across their best friend's bodies on the side of the road.
  • Cool Old Guy: Dr. Jones, who doesn't let the Birdemic distract him from his job and clearly doesn't fear that the birds might attack him. He still keeps a gun on him, just in case.
  • Covers Always Lie: "From writer/producer/director/visionary James Nguyen The Master Of The Romantic Thrillernote  comes the story of a sexy lingerie model (Whitney Moore) and a successful software salesman (Alan Bagh) on a weekend getaway to a quaint Northern California town. But when the entire region is attacked by millions of homicidal birds,note  their picturesque paradise becomes a winged hell on earth. Can mankind now survive the avian onslaught of BIRDEMIC? Hollywood legend Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock's The Birds co-starsnote  in the global cult movie phenomenon that Videogum says might end up being the greatest film of all time!"note 
  • Crazy-Prepared: Ramsey is either a survival nut or a domestic terrorist, considering how he just happened to have a bunch of loaded guns and tons of ammo in his van when the birds started attacking.
  • Deus ex Machina: Rod, Nathalie and the children are saved by doves who chase off the eagles. Never mind the fact that eagles prey on doves.
    Kevin: It's the Holy Spirit's boys, and they are pissed.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: It takes half the movie for the eponymous Birdemic to appear.
  • Didn't Think This Through: At one point, a man tries to steal gas from Rod and the other survivors at gunpoint. After getting the gas, the man is killed by a bird. Rod drives off, and leaves the gas can, as well as the abandoned weapon on the side of the road.
  • Doves Mean Peace: At the end of the film, as the protagonists are about to be attacked by eagles, a flock of doves swoop in, save them from the hawks, and chase after said birds. Considering the fact that the movie ends abruptly at this point, it could also be argued that the doves helped end the titular Birdemic.
  • Dull Surprise:
    • Tree-hugger Tom Hill casually announces that a mountain lion is approaching. He then strolls off screen in an equally unconcerned way.
    • Rod in many scenes, such as his muted reaction to Nathalie walking out of their hotel bathroom in her underwear, killer birds attacking him and his company, and selling his company for one billion dollars. About the only time he shows any sort of emotion is when he makes his million-dollar sale near the beginning, where he shouts "Whoo-hoo!" while Milking the Giant Cow. He's back to his normal bland self seconds later.
    • Ramsey doesn't seem terribly upset over Becky's death. But neither is the audience, since the suspenseful music is playing for a good 15 seconds before the bird actually kills her.
  • Easy Evangelism: All it takes is one viewing of An Inconvenient Truth to convince Rick to be more eco-friendly. Rod and Nathalie listen to a couple of speeches about the dangers of global warming and accept what they hear without question.
  • Fanservice: Nathalie in her underwear, and earlier, Mai (the "Imagine Peace" girl) in a bikini.
    Kevin: (seeing Nathalie) What were people's complaints about this movie, again?
    Bill: Well, that the acting, dialog, special effects, script, sound editing were all really, really terrible.
    Kevin: Yeah, it is pretty great, isn't it?!
  • Funny Background Event: Unintentional examples. There are numerous points during the bird attack where people, cars, and actual birds can be seen simply going about their daily business in the background. During one scene, normal highway traffic is passing — in both directions — during a scene in which everyone was supposed to have evacuated the city.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The birds have become mutated suicide bombers due to global warming, apparently in the span of a day. They movie even suggests that the birds are intentionally targeting sources of pollution such as cars and gas stations, somehow understanding the complexities of man-made global climate change well enough to know its source.
  • Gainax Ending: Just as some eagles are about to kill the heroes, some doves show up out of nowhere, and somehow convince the eagles to just fly away with them.
  • Green Aesop: Characters speak highly of green technology before Gaia's Vengeance rears its head and various characters assert that global warming is killing the Earth.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first half is a romance, while the second half is a horror movie, mirroring The Birds.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Discussed. While revealing to the protagonists the Birdemic's origin, Doctor Bridge says that It's the human species that's dangerous; menacing terrifying animals.
  • Hypocrite: Ramsey wishes people could "just give peace a chance", but his van is filled with loaded pistols and assault rifles even before the birds attack.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It:
    • Rick thinks "a day without sex is a day wasted."
    • Rod tried to invite himself up to Nathalie's place at the end of their first date. This is despite both he and Nathalie stating at various points that he's not just interested in sex.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • They use coat hangers to fight off the birds in the first scene with them. The coat hangers weren't part of Nguyen's original script. Rod and Nathalie were supposed to grab a shower rod from a room to fend off attacking birds. There were no rods available at the Motel 6 where they were filming the scene, but there were coat hangers. The actors were aware of the narm.
      Whitney Moore: There's not a lot you can do to prepare yourself for something like swatting away non-existent birds with coat hangers. At that point in the shooting, I was pretty much just along for the ride.
    • The actors also use a camera tripod, apparently a spare one from the production.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In spite of their usual inaccuracy, the heroes manage to shoot down a bunch of birds directly between them and innocent people hiding in a bus. They hit nothing except birds.
  • Incorrect Animal Noise: The "golden eagles" and "turkey vultures" make a constant, repeating seagull cry while attacking.
  • Informed Ability: All over the place.
    • Rod is supposed to be a great salesman, yet he's a marble-mouthed speaker. In an opening scene, it's unclear whether he gives the buyer a massive 50% discount or points out that his service is much cheaper than the competition. Neither strategy takes any skill in salesmanship.
    • Rod somehow invents incredibly cheap, efficient solar power between scenes. He never displays the intelligence to pull off such a feat and can barely pronounce the term "solar panels."
    • The actress playing Nathalie is plenty attractive enough to play a model (in fact, Whitney Moore is a model, as is Alan Bagh [who plays Rod]), but for someone who just landed a Victoria's Secret gig, no one seems to have any confidence in the future of her career.
    • According to Nathalie, Rod is intelligent and charming. We never see any evidence of this.
    • One would assume that Rod and Nathalie are both very wealthy, seeing as the former closes a massive contract and starts up an immediately successful alternative energy company, and the latter is a Victoria's Secret model. Yet neither of them show any signs at all of being wealthy, and when they go on vacation together, the best they can afford is a Motel 6.
    • Nathalie is supposedly pulling down gigs so big they gain the notice of Victoria's Secret, yet in the only scene we see of her actually modeling, she's doing a shoot at a 1 Hour Photo hut.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: Dr. Jones is guarding a bridge across two small ponds which would take only a couple minutes to walk around.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: There is a stranger with a gun who forces Rod to give him a tank of gas. As he backs away (from his own vehicle, keep in mind), an eagle slices his neck.
  • Leave the Camera Running: There are numerous overly long establishing shots, and there are countless shots of people walking in and out of buildings, parking and pulling into traffic. The Rifftrax of the film insists that parking and pulling out scenes are the heart and soul of the film.
  • Left It In: There are numerous instances where the characters flub their lines, but behave in such a way like they were expecting to cut and redo them the right way, but were never asked to do so. The worst one is probably Nathalie's mother during her "just keep me informed along the way" line. The actress obviously gets tongue-tied, nervously laughs, and then keeps going as if she expects the director to cut and ask her to do it again. Instead, the completely mangled line makes the final cut of the movie, to be awkwardly enjoyed by all. Alan Bagh regularly misses words or mispronounces them, like "so you're a cats lover" or "part times Eagles fan."
  • Lethal Chef: Rod's bright idea to try and cook a fish without cleaning and gutting it first. Apparently, this leads to Susan getting sick and dying in-between the first and second movie.
  • Made of Explodium: The birds often explode on impact, which the creator has stated is a result of their mutations.
  • Mood Whiplash: The movie shifts abruptly from a romance to a monster movie thriller at the halfway point. Besides the two brief encounters with CGI birds, no suspense is built up prior to the Halfway Plot Switch, unlike The Birds.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Dr. Jones's lecture on global warming is set to rousing, majestic music that lends total authority to his words.
    • The ending scene, which consists solely of the main characters standing around watching the birds fly away, is set to an epic, heroic fanfare.
  • My Beloved Smother: Nathalie's mom, who — despite saying she is happy about her daughter's success as a model and her new job as the cover girl for the Victoria's Secret catalog — is extremely vocal about her belief that Nathalie should give up modeling to go into real estate.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Rod defends Nathalie to Rick, who implies she's a Gold Digger (or, at least, that women are swayed by material wealth).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ramsey "rescues" several people who are hiding in a bus for safety by forcing them against their will into the open, where they're all immediately killed by a bunch of acid SPIT from the birds!
  • No Ending: The movie does not so much end as coast to a stop. After spending the second half of the movie trying to survive the bird attacks, the remaining characters stand by the seashore and watch doves chase the eagles away. Then the closing credits roll.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Rick and Mai are basically non-celebrity versions of John Lennon and Yoko Ono with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. A Caucasian male/Asian female couple who strongly resemble the famous couple physically could be chalked up to coincidence, if not for the part where Mai spends most of the film wearing a shirt with the URL for Yoko's website. Bonus points for Danny Webber, who plays Rick, being a TV music composer.
  • Only Sane Man: The man who tries to rob Rod for gas is probably the only person who displays any hint of survival instinct in an apocalypse situation. Not that it helped him.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The actor playing Tom is obviously wearing a long hair wig intended for a woman.
  • Pixellation: Used inside the convenience store to seemingly attempt to prevent getting sued by the various candy companies for having their products on screen without a product placement legal agreement.
    Mike: Ah, yes, the Blurred Candy Section!
    Bill: Boy this t-Kat snak b-r sure looks good!
    Kevin: So does my S-nikers!
  • Plot Armor: Birds tend to explode on impact with things. If it's near Rod or Natalie, they simply die and lay completely still wherever they impacted, be it the ground or a tilted windshield.
  • Police Are Useless: The police apparently need to be called because they didn’t notice the birds attacking buildings and exploding.
  • Product Placement:
    • Cameron's Pub (where the bar date with Rod and Nathalie took place) has actually received a small popularity boost, and has even held a Birdemic Fest with Nguyen and "Just Hanging Out" singer Damien Carter.
    • Also inverted with many brand logos being blurred out.
    • When we first see Mai, the camera hovers over a hilariously conspicuous poster for she seems to have put up in her hotel room — which apparently enjoys Offscreen Teleportation, since it appears in frame in shots from different angles. Later, the only outfit she is seen wearing includes a t-shirt that's identical to the poster.
  • The Quiet One: The solar panel salesman is unusually soft-spoken and seems to be intimidated by Rod throughout their scene for some reason.
  • Reaction Shot: Neither movie apparently trusts the audience to believe that a character is dead when they've clearly been killed by a bird. In both movies, each time anyone is killed by a bird, it always cuts to a reaction shot of their dead body, as if to confirm for the viewer each and every time that, yes, this character is now dead.
  • Reckless Gun Usage:
    • Rod decides to introduce Nathalie and the kids to Tom by pointing his pistol at them while he names them.
    • Rod also points his gun in the general direction of the young girl when trying to coax her out from under a car.
    • Nathalie also points her gun at Rod when she runs up to the car to tell him and Ramsey that Becky is dead.
    • Rod and Ramsey fire wildly at a double-decker bus where survivors have decided to take refuge. The survivors stand at the windows and wave wildly instead of trying to hide.
  • Right Through His Pants: Apparently how Natalie has sex, given how she wakes up in the hotel. Credit must be given to Rod, though, who apparently had sex wearing a tanktop, slacks, and a belt.
  • Rule of Cool: The hawks make divebomber sounds when attacking buildings. They also cause the buildings to explode.
  • Shout-Out: Several.
    • At one point, the characters go out on a double date to see An Inconvenient Truth – reportedly one of James Nguyen's favorite movies of all time.
    • Ramsey's line, "Why can't we just give peace a chance?" is one to the Beatles.
    • There's also several references to another one of Nguyen's favorite films, The Birds.
      • Both movies start out as romances, then switch into horror films at the halfway mark.
      • Both films have a dead shopkeeper with their eyes pecked out.
      • The male lead is named in honor of Rod Taylor, the romantic lead actor in The Birds. Nathalie's name could also be a reference to the actress who played that film's female lead – Nathalie "Tippi" Hedren.
      • Both films have an environmentalism theme, though Hitchcock's ecological message was subtler by far. Hitchcock had the birds attacking whenever smoke was visible in the background. Nguyen just has random fires and smoke clouds show up.
      • A shot of Tippi Hedren interacting with birds is visible for a moment on a television, from Julie and Jack.
  • Space Whale Aesop: If you contribute to global warming, the polar ice caps will melt, pine beetles will breed out of control, and angry, exploding animated .GIF birds will attack you.
  • Stalking is Love: Most models aren't charmed by tech salesmen following them around. Granted, Bagh's bad acting makes him seem creepier than he might otherwise be, but his behavior is still odd. And during their first conversation, she seems to be humoring him while trying to get away, right up until the point that she hands him her business card.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Bicycle bells are bizarrely used as the sound effect for phones, and birds sound like World War II Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Unintentional example. Becky gets attacked by a bird. Nathalie empties her gun into the bird sitting on Becky's face, then runs back to the car screaming "She's dead! I didn't do anything!"
  • Take That!: Dr. Jones's comment about "playing cowboy with nature" seems like a slap at George W. Bush, who was in office when the film was made, was known for having something of a "good ol' boy" persona and wasn't known for being environmentally friendly.
  • Technical Pacifist: Ramsey says he left the military because he was tired of all of the killing. Yet he keeps a loaded M4 carbine in his van, which is also an unlawful firearm in California.
  • The Unintelligible:
    • Rod gets quite mush-mouthed at times, especially when he's talking about his great inventions, slrpnls.
    • The gas station attendant charged $100 for a gallon of gasoline. The fact that Rod understood what he said (and responded in English) is the only proof we have that the man was speaking English.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nathalie's mother is featured heavily, but once the birds attack, she is never mentioned or heard of again. She's revealed to be alright in the sequel, but then disappears again before the next bird attack.
  • You No Take Candle: Ramsay introduces his girlfriend by pointing to her and saying "girlfriend Becky".

Where's The Stinger?

Alternative Title(s): Birdemic Shock And Terror