Movie Preview: Birdemic: Shock and Terror!
James Nguyen first saw The Birds in junior high. It scared the hell out of him then, and it still does now. He hopes you'll be just as frightened by his new film Birdemic: Shock and Terror, which the writer/director/producer/casting-agent/everything-under-the-sun describes as a "great homage" and "modern take" on Alfred Hitchcock's classic. How great? Nguyen returned to some of the same locations in Northern California, and enlisted friend Tippi Hedren (who also appeared in his previous film Julie & Jack) for a cameo. How modern? As its name implies, Birdemic tackles fears of avian flu, environmentalism, organics and sanitation betwixt its tale of feathered terrors. Birdemic also beefs up the birds, mutating Hitchcock's songbirds and seagulls into swarms of CG vultures and eagles. That explode. This ain't your daddy's romantic thriller!
That Birdemic even exists is a small miracle, and a testament to Nguyen's dedication to his craft. Filmed over a period of 4 years, Nguyen wedged Birdemic shoots in Northern California in-between shuttles to Hollywood for business deals and a 40-hour work week back in Silicon Valley. He still hustles up and down the state, financing his filmmaking through a day-job as a software salesman. He's the first to admit "it's tough" to produce films on such a schedule, but the bold filmmaker is never afraid to "work with what [he] has". The scale of his production can't compete with Hollywood (or Direct-to-Vidywood), and some may scoff at the film's outrageous trailer, but that's really not the point. Nguyen is a true auteur, and Birdemic is his passion project. The only word he used more often than "lucky" to describe it was "love".
That attitude kept Nguyen warm through Birdemic's frosty reception on the festival circuit. When Sundance fell in lock-step and rejected the film, Nguyen took to the streets. In a show of shameless self-promotion that would have made William Castle proud, Nguyen splattered blood and feathers all over an old passenger van, touring Park City blasting bloody screams and shocking screeches. He literally lived and breathed Birdemic, sleeping in the van with a blanket of posters and models. Though the Birdemicmobile fit (barely) within Sundance's constrictions on film promotion, it drew the attention of local police; finding nothing illegal, they wished him well and sent him on his way. In his words: "it was fun, it was cold - I got lucky" (there's that word again!).
All that luck comes to a head this Saturday, February 27, when Birdemic soars into the Cinefamily's "Holyfuckingshit 2009" series. The lavish world premiere, hosted by adult swim's connoisseurs of craze-o Tim and Eric, features a Q&A with Nguyen and stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore. Distributor Severin Films plans to warp The Silent Theater into a red-carpeted raptor den, with special effects displays, props and feathers-a-flying. And yes - the Birdemicmobile will be parked right outside, with a fresh coat of gore!
The Birds has suffered a lot of abuse over the decades, from countless '70s nature-gone-wild cash-ins, to '80s Mexican rip-off Beaks, to a mid-90's TV-movie sequel and a forthcoming Michael Bay-ification. It's time a true fan treated the film with respect. Thank God for James Nguyen, and thank God for Birdemic: Shock and Terror!
Article by Edward Yerke-Robins