“You asked for it” says the promotional material for this film, and that simple sentence is right on both levels. The original “Birdemic”, as screamingly awful a film as has ever been released, became a cause celebre of the bad film elite – Rifftrax did it, How Did This Get Made? did it, and Tim and Eric hosted a series of midnight showings of it. So, after deciding that playing along with the joke was better than being laughed at all the time, director James Nguyen decided to make a sequel and cash in.
This, of course, causes a problem for the reviewer who wants to write something other than “it’s hilariously bad!” Is the poor stuff in this film – and boy, is it crammed full of poor stuff – merely the work of a director who’s learned nothing, or is every awful bit of sound, every bargain-basement special effect, every rotten performance, the careful result of someone aiming to make a bad film?
I hope you’ll be able to guess what I thought from this review, but here goes. We start with a 5 minute walking scene, where Bill, who looks quite a lot like the hero of the first film is just strolling through downtown Los Angeles. Those criticisms of the first film for having travelling scenes seemingly set in real time clearly didn’t get through to Nguyen, unless it’s a “screw you, I love these scenes!”. So the guy flirts with the waitress in the crappy bar he’s in, and we think these two young lovers may be the stars of part 2…but then Rod and Nathalie from part 1 walk in. Turns out Bill is a director, who made a great independent film before being sucked in by Hollywood and making a bad one, then getting cast out by the system. He tells Rod and Natalie that there have been great films about the film industry made inside the Hollywood system, but none made by independents. This isn’t true, of course, there have been literally thousands of indie films made about it, so I’m already confused.
Whitney Moore (as Natalie), the sole half-decent actor in both the first film and this, allows her real feelings to wander across her face occasionally during the scene. When she looked disgustedly at Rod, I was right with her there.
Rod made a ton of money with stock options and setting up a renewable energy company in B1, so he agrees to fund Bill’s unique vision to the tune of $1 million. Bill finds an actress on the street and begs her to come for an audition, and then Bill and Rod go to get some funding for their independent film from a couple of money men. It’s at this moment that I started getting a bit annoyed. There are a lot of scenes throughout this that are effectively cover versions of scenes from B1, and despite what I said before it appears that he’s trying to make the first film again, only better.
Criticism: the newsreader in B1 is a tiny face at the bottom of the TV and talks garbage
Sequel: it looks like an actual news broadcast
Criticism: the “we all made millions of dollars from stock options” scene goes on an insanely long time
Sequel: celebrating getting funding for their film still goes on a tiny bit longer than is strictly necessary
Criticism: when they’re dancing in a nightclub, they’re the only people there
Sequel: they must have put out a twitter call for people to come and be extras, because when they’re dancing (in roughly the same way, to exactly the same singer from B1) they’re surrounded by grinning hipsters.
And so on, throughout. There’s still rotten stilted dialogue used for exposition where it’s really not needed, godawful special effects and character motivation that makes no sense whatsoever…but I’m getting ahead of myself!
If you think I’m being a bit over the top about the similarities between the two, then I’ll give you a few examples. They meet a bird-scientist on a bridge in part 1, who stops the film for a few minutes to talk about global warming. While at the LaBrea Tar Pits in part 2, they meet the same scientist, also stood on a bridge, who stops the film again to talk about global warming. Huh? There’s a sex scene in a hotel again; the “tree-hugger” from the first film has relocated to wherever the hell they are, and they again run into him and his new wife and get a lecture about the environment and about how iPads are better for it than books, which is rubbish (books aren’t made using Chinese slave labour and metals that need to be mined, ruining the local environment – the only difference is Apple’s PR has fooled idiots like him).
You’ll be pleased to know that the actual bird attacks don’t start til the halfway point of the film (again), and this time we get some extras. A couple of cavemen from the LaBrea tar pits come out along with all the birds when the (acid?) rain falls and does its environmental damage…and when that same rain falls on a graveyard, we get…zombies. It was at that point that I stopped even trying to pretend to take the film seriously. I did try for a bit, honestly!
So, what have we got? A film which is remarkably similar to the first, with the burgeoning relationship between Rod and Natalie replaced with the making of the entirely unique film. People still make jaw-droppingly dumb decisions in the face of danger (if you’re in a car, and it’s safe, stay in it! Stop getting out every time you see some idiot on the street!) Minor throat cuts remain instantly fatal, birds still explode and guns still have infinite bullets. Oh, and birds from B2 are every bit as easily distracted as those from part 1, attacking people and then just sodding off for no reason other than the director wanted to stop making the film.
I haven’t even talked about the special effects (the scene of one of the actresses going for a swim in the ocean, and the ambulance that comes to help out afterwards, is an absolute masterpiece) and the gay subtext. But the question remains – how much of this truly rotten film, 80 minutes in which five minutes are taken up by a man walking to a meeting, is deliberate?
I don’t think it really matters, but I think this film was made because James Nguyen, by all accounts a very serious “green” believer, wanted to get right what he got wrong in the first film. I think he put in a few sops to the so-bad-it’s-good crowd (like the flashback to caveman times, and famous LA venue Cinefamily and the 2012 Birdemic-Fest appear on screen briefly) but there are too many scenes which are direct ripoffs of those from B1, just done with slighty better effects, and too many awful decisions that aren’t played for laughs, that all this film really is, is bad.
It’s not fun-bad, no matter what the advertising will tell you. It’s worse than B1 because he doesn’t have the excuse of being a first-timer with no money, and in the intervening time appears to have learned absolutely nothing. He’s again hired people who can’t act worth a damn (with the honourable exception of Whitney Moore and a few others)…but if he was trying to make a bad film that people could laugh at, he failed. The sense of utter futility pervades every frame, the pointlessness of doing a sequel to a film because idiots on the internet seized on it and made it famous…and just doing the same crap as before.