Rifftrax Live: Birdemic Reviews
My normal partner in crime for attending Rifftrax live events is my good friend Cara, who lived down the hall from me in the dorms, when I first started at Evergreen. For the most part, we don't talk during the show. In part, this is because we are so busy laughing. When we saw the Christmas shorts special, there were only a handful of people in the theatre, but earlier this year, the theatre was packed for [i]Manos[/i]. Unfortunately, Cara had other plans last night and was not able to make it. I missed her greatly, because at least half the fun is sharing your favourite bits back and forth after it's over. There were lines I loved, places where I was shaking with laughter, and the only way I was able to talk it over was by talking to strangers, and the audiences for these are not always inclined toward that. We share the moment while it's happening and break apart, which is a bit out of the spirit of [i]MST3K[/i], in my opinion.
While we started with further adventures in the life of cultural icon Norman, the real draw here was [i]Birdemic: Shock and Terror[/i], a 2010 "homage" to Alfred Hitchcock's classic [i]The Birds[/i]. Crossed with [i]An Inconvenient Truth[/i], those boring films about business some employers make you watch, and the crazy website some guy on the bus keeps ranting about. Our Hero, the hapless and uncoordinated Rod (Alan Bagh), drives to a restaurant. He then runs after a girl he sees there. She is Nathalie (Whitney Moore), a former high school classmate of his who is now a Victoria's Secret cover model but not yet totally famous, somehow. Rod makes a business deal that he's excited about but the audience was aware was a terrible one. He talks cheerfully about "sola pals." He takes what he calls an early retirement but seems to be more a couple of months off. Rod and Nathalie hit it off and dance badly to bad music. And, eventually, badly CGI-created birds start attacking.
They never really had to say anything about those effects, because we were all laughing so hard at every shot already. Yeung Chan is credited as creating the special effects, but I hope for that person's sake that it's a fake name. I wouldn't want to be associated with this. There's a "forest fire" at one point that's just the same tiny fifteen-year-old website decoration of fire dropped at random over the image. The birds hover. They are eagles, and they hover. The makeup is actually relatively convincing, if you don't know what attack by an eagle should look like, but it's the best part of the movie. The script is terrible, taking at least half the runtime to get to the thing we're all there to see. The actors aren't. I can't believe Nathalie as a model for Sears, much less Victoria's Secret. And I confirmed with Graham--if Rod is paying $20,000 for solar panels, Rod is getting ripped off but good. According to Graham, the figure is off by two orders of magnitude!
Of course, we're not there for the feature, not really. I am not inclined to watch "so bad it's good" on my own, though I'll occasionally do so in a group setting. However, I will spend hours watching these guys talk over movies, and shorts, and whatever the hell those "Norman" things are. I am somewhat interested by the fact that they are more bawdy and come closer to swearing now, but the dialogue is still, for the most part, the sort of thing you can watch with your kids. There are still cultural references not everyone gets; in the pre-feature trivia scroll, they even asked people to let them know if anyone in the theatres around the country had actually laughed at one of the jokes. (I'm not sure anyone did, in our theatre.) It's also true that some of the references call back to other Rifftrax Live events, or indeed episodes of [i]MST3K[/i]. They know that we are still trading the episodes that aren't available on DVD, after all.
It is a curious truth that nowhere in [i]The Birds[/i] does it ever explain why birds have gone crazy and started attacking people. (And indeed, some of the birds in the original film were actual birds, making the whole thing an extremely unpleasant experience for Tippi Hedren. This movie never even used stuffed birds, just bad CGI.) This movie shows at least partially why that was such a good decision. Here, there is a ridiculously lengthy explanation that doesn't actually help. We don't have any more understanding of the situation after the explanation than we did before. In fact, we are left with the impression that we the audience know considerably more about science than anyone in the movie, including the guy implied to be a scientist. Indeed, the movie leaves the impression that we know more about literally everything than James Nguyen, the writer/director/producer. I do not believe you have to be able to do something better than another person in order to criticize what they've done. I do, however, believe that just about anyone can make a better movie than [i]Birdemic[/i].