Friday, April 2nd, 2010
22

Horror Chick: Why We Should Rejoice for 'Birdemic,' AKA ‘The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made’

YUP.It's tough to make bad movies in the Age of Irony. Once you reach a certain level of badness, it raises a slew of questions: is it an "ironically bad" movie, where the director is tossing us a wink-wink-nudge-nudge with every line of face-clawing dialogue? Or is the whole debacle a deliberate attempt at "look at our reverential homage" bad? (Cough cough, Inglourious Basterds.) Or maybe it's "look at how bad this is but it's so bad it's actually good, and if you don't think so then you don't 'get it'" bad? The whole thing gets so confusing (I have had it with this motherfucking irony in these motherfucking films!).

But what we can't handle is the notion that a movie is JUST THAT BAD. The implication is too astounding: a human being actually made a sincere effort to produce something good, that resulted in a bottomless maw of pullulating awfulness. The idea throws us into a tailspin. How could the poor schmuck who made this frothing crockpot of pigshit not REALIZE how awful it was? How could he keep going? How could he not know how relentlessly he'd be mocked on the Internet if this catastrophe got released? The notion that such an un-self-aware person exists is too much to process — and as such, when someone does succeed in being so utterly guileless and making a movie that is UNGODLY BAD AND HE HAD NO IDEA, then we turn it into a cult classic out of sheer disbelief that such an earnest, non-jaded human still exists.

Which brings us to James Nguyen. He's the living embodiment of everything Internet-addled snarkomatics love to tear down: a mid-level software salesman in Silicon Valley, in a Men's Wearhouse suit, with a buzz cut high and tight, who one day woke up with the epically bad idea to make a low-budget horror movie. He then spent a hefty chunk of his free time and money writing, directing and producing one of the deepest pits of raw sewage ever shown onscreen. And, my dear irony addicts, after four years, he finished it.

The result, for those who don't faithfully spend their Friday nights reading horror blogs (ahem) is Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and its infamy is growing. The plot — oh fuck it, there is no way I'm discussing this movie seriously. Just watch the clip.

So yeah. It's bad. Break-the-fourth-wall bad. "I cannot physically take another second of this without asphyxiating in a pool of my own pancreatic juice" bad. Don't believe me? Go see the entire thing at IFC this weekend (it's there for a VERY limited engagement).

And yet at the heart of all that awfulness, there is something pure. At some point, the badness transcends itself and becomes a metaphor for human possibility. Nguyen's cluelessness knows no bounds — dude drove a bus up and down the street during Sundance demanding that people watch his (summarily rejected from the film festival, since Sundance judges are a generally sane lot) film. And yet there's something inspiring about the unlikeliest of filmmakers spending FOUR YEARS of his time and money creating a movie that so unequivocally sucks.

Why? Because, while we may laugh at him (I mean, not to be a bitch, but Jesus have you seen that clip???), we also reserve a little bit of awe — at the end of the day, it's hard not to admire someone who can exist so entirely in his own universe, free from the persecution and perceived criticism of others. There's no fear, no damning inner dialogue that floods him with doubt after every abysmal take: "But everyone will laugh at me! The Internet will erupt in practiced disdain, and bloggers will spew verbal giblets of well-honed snark and boil my self-esteem in peanut oil!" Just think how many books/movies/albums/Tumblrs/Youtube clips/LOLcat captions weren't finished, sometimes weren't even STARTED, because of that mental conversation? Just think how many of those sloppily aborted projects might have been GOOD! I once heard a brilliant writer say he'd written a novel, but banished it to a drawer after reading a blog comment saying his writing was "watery and subfuse." I don't know what the fuck that means, but it had this poor dude writhing in a millpond of creation-stomping self-hatred and throwing years of work on the fire.

But none of that exists for Nguyen. He floats above the bounding main of criticism, nestled in his determination and refusal to quit. There is only his dream, and a cashed-out 401K, and a crew of actors fired from Valtrex ads, and an unyielding desire.

So yes, Birdemic really is that bad. But at the end of the day, Nguyen wrote, directed, and completed a feature-length horror film, and now all the cool Internet kids are talking about it. So who's the moron now?



Melissa Lafsky has got principles of pleasure.

22 Comments / Post A Comment

Scum (#1,847)

No way this movie is worse or better than zombi 5: killing birds.

Ingrid Cruz (#3,771)

OMG those special effects, you guyz! Top that, Cameron!

conklin (#364)

Enjoy it–this will never again happen in our post-iPad world.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Call Me Guano

BadUncle (#153)

On the plus side, it looks like the "fashion model" was wearing Princess Tam Tam lingerie in the love scene. Which is a tasteful counter point to the richly awful acting.

ugarte (#484)

Didn't the world already have Coven so we could learn to appreciate pluck in the form of crap?

It's pronounced "Co-ven".

refractor (#3,009)

Of course it's bad. They used Arial in the titles.

jfruh (#713)

I think the ™ after the phrase "romantic thriller" might indicated a teensy bit of self-awareness.

HiredGoons (#603)

'I was hoping we could keep in contact.'

'1 million dollars'

etc.

gaytheist (#929)

oh god, he is from my home town

gaytheist (#929)

UMMMM:
http://www.movieheadpictures.com/Bogdanovich_Nguyen_PR.html

I'm starting to think there's no way this is real.

HiredGoons (#603)

Is it bad that I think he is kind of cute? And that his relative stupidity makes me think more so?

I kind of want to hate-fuck him.

@HG: Now you know how I feel about Sarah Palin.

"How could the poor schmuck who made this frothing crockpot of pigshit not REALIZE how awful it was? How could he keep going? How could he not know how relentlessly he'd be mocked on the Internet if this catastrophe got released?"

You just described my life.

And is that Ron Swanson at the beginning of the clip?

Just think how many books/movies/albums/Tumblrs/Youtube clips/LOLcat captions weren't finished, sometimes weren't even STARTED, because of that mental conversation?

Yes! This conversation is precisely why I comment so rarely here, and it's a conversation that I just ignored to post this comment.

LondonLee (#922)

Battlefield Earth is JUST THAT BAD. I can handle that truth, some people just suck at their jobs.

riotnrrd (#840)

Patton Oswalt expresses similar feelings upon watching the movie "Deathbed: The Bed That Eats People":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01l1WIC9mBo
It is astonishing that anyone ever finishes anything, and it's both amazing and sad that people can really devote themselves to finishing awful, awful works of art.

Horror Chick (#1,677)

Death Bed actually has a great story – the director made it, never released it, and went about his business. Somehow a VHS tape of the movie started circulating around Europe. After literally a decade, it had gained this huge (well, big) cult following. And now it's a "so bad its good" staple.

dikwad (#2,308)

I can only hope this is on the same level as The Room. That's some quality shit.

Matt Baume (#3,974)

I'm so pleased to see James getting some attention! I interviewed him about five years ago, when he was starting work on Birdemic, and I can assure you all that he is ABSOLUTELY SINCERE.

http://sfist.com/2005/11/09/entrepreneur_filmmaker_and_space_tourguide.php

The thing that surprises me most about the coverage of Birdemic and James Nguyen is that nobody seems to be aware that he is building a spaceship.

Gargantua (#4,398)

LOL! Are they fighting off birds with coat hangers? I think the only true statement listed from the critics has to be "must be seen to be believed."

Post a Comment