“A flock of sea eagles attack the coastal town of Santa Cruz, California. Why did the birds attack? Who will survive?”
The Birdemic series has been a guilty pleasure of mine, having stumbled on the first one slightly before it gained notoriety as one of the ‘best’ worst films ever made. I watched it more times than I care to mention, having sat through it alone only to force it on a few different friend groups and then revisited it when the guys over at Rifftrax put their own spin on it in both commentary and a live experience. Despite any harsh critique in the following article, Birdemic is and forever will be, in my holy trinity of enjoyable bad cinema and I am a fan of the work of director James Nguyen.
Birdemic put director James Nguyen on the map as an infamous director of ‘so bad it’s good cinema’ who like many other notable names jumped into the industry with money to back their projects but little experience in making movies—think Tommy Wiseau or Neil Breen. Similarly, Birdemic showcased both Nguyen’s enthusiasm for wanting to be an auteur, as well as his utter ineptitude at being able to do so. That said, the first Birdemic is more than deserving of its cult status due to its peculiar approach to CGI birds, NPC dialogue, and baffling choices in cinematography/editing/sound design.
Now entering into the third in the series, it is difficult to say if Nguyen is in on the joke, or thinking that audiences just want his, now, signature style. While both are true to a degree, the lack of improvement and the continued obsession over the same themes has left the question of how self-aware Ngyuen is as to how his films are being received. Questions like whether or not he thinks his commentary on global warming is actually making a difference, and whether the CGI birds that explode are a joke or a metaphor to further push the perils of global warming is uncertain. From all accounts, Nguyen seems sincere in his approach and messaging, but at three entries deep into the series it does raise some questions as to his intent in these films and whether he is making films for himself or his perceived audience.
Birdemic 3, contains the signature slip-ups that have dominated the previous work of Nguyen. On a technical level, the film is utterly inconsistent with constant changes in audio and lighting throughout every scene. The editing is equally atrocious as all scenes are too long and when they do end, they linger in awkward silence for a few seconds before cutting abruptly to the next scene. Other shortcomings, which are arguably more a case of stylistic choice, come from stilted dialogue where everyone is overly obsessed with global warming or the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Unsurprisingly, there is also the inclusion of “hanging out with my family” singer Damien Carter who has serenaded the audience through all three entries, this time singing a love song that touches on the threats of, gasp, global warming. Birdemic 3 has all the tedious trademarks and callbacks one can expect from the similar approach Nguyen took with Birdemic 2.
While the above may pose the film as a tedious wreck, and make no mistake it is, there is an undeniable charm to the work of Nguyen and his career path. Birdemic 3 is essentially the same film as the previous two but with a bigger budget, not for the birds mind you, and audiences will either find themselves inexplicably drawn to the wreck or revolted at the mangled mess of a movie.
One thing for certain, is that the Birdemic series has lost some steam on its inability to evolve, and while I did enjoy Birdemic 3 more than the second one, it still pales in comparison to the magic of discovering Birdemic: Shock and Terror for the first time. Perhaps, Nguyen is worried about moving past the series and moderate fame the Birdemic name has attracted, but I would love to see him move onto a different project and perhaps play with more themes—even exploring his other passion of tech and doing a new spin on his debut film Julie and Jack would be a welcome switch-up.
Regardless, Birdemic 3 is still a joy to pick apart and get caught up in the uncanny flow of conversations. Nguyen knows how to entertain his audience and if you can vibe with his obsessive approach, it is a real treat. Watch it with a crowd, preferably with a few like-minded friends and one that will hate you for bringing them to see the film.
We Watched Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle as Part of the 2022 Fantastic Fest Line-up
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