3 mins to read

Birdemic: Shock and Terror – $10k film stands to win big

Tue, 13 Apr 2010

One of the most absurd things in advertising is people using the word “viral” as a noun. Really, it’s an adjective. (Noun = thing word; adjective = describing word.)

The phrase “we made a viral” makes my blood boil. I don’t even want to get started on what it does to MC Grammar. (Smoke, ears, bulging vein in forehead. You know the drill. It’s not pretty.)

Fact is, you simply can’t predict the success of viral content. You can make something you hope will be passed on, but there’s no way of knowing what will strike a chord with consumers.

Case in point: Birdemic, Shock and Terror.

If you do nothing else this year, I strongly urge you to get a copy of this movie and sit through it. It’s widely accepted as the worst movie ever made and I’m not arguing with that judgement. (Watch the trailer, in which you can see the hand of the distribution company attempting to make it better, or cause yourself suffering with this excerpt.)

In fact, it’s so bad that I’ll give you another piece of advice: watch it in fast-forward. You won’t really miss anything in terms of plot – because there isn't one – and you’ll get through it sooner.

Of course, you may want to slow it down again to get the full impact of the highly unrealistic “CGI” effects of pseudo-Hitchcockian attacking birds, which the characters fend off with – yes – coathangers. The birds essentially look like they’re GIFs pasted onto the screen. Sometimes they just hang there, suspended in space. Lazy birds. Clearly, responsible for the obesity crisis.

The dialogue is wooden and laughable, the “romance” stilted, and the whole film reads like the sublime fantasy of an overexcited virgin schoolboy.

The film has hit cult status overseas in spite of its hang-wringing awfulness and the director, James Nguyen, is simultaneously envied and lampooned. You know someone’s reached lofty heights when their Wikipedia page has been protected from creation due to “persistent attack”. Onya, Jimmy.

Nguyen spent just $10,000 making his film, which is a lot of money to waste on something so painfully bad, but he stands to get much more back since it was picked up by a distribution company. It’s sold out cinemas in the US and more money has been spent on marketing it than on the film itself. (Not that that would be difficult, as such.) Small investment, big payoff.

While cinemagoers laugh at the film, Nguyen will be laughing too – all the way to the bank. He’s gotten the sort of coverage that money just can’t buy.

So how did he get enough publicity for the film to be noticed in the first place?

He tried to enter it into the Sundance Film Festival and was declined. In a display of courage and persistence, he showed up anyway and used a decorated SUV featuring a stuffed eagle, fake blood and bird droppings to get attention. Bird noises emanated from the stereo and the word “Bidemic” was emblazoned across the side of the vehicle. Yes, that’s right: Nguyen even misspelt the name of his own film. But even MC Grammar has to admit it's worked.

He’s beaten the conventional titles considered “worst film”, such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and anything featuring the Mothra. He’s either a savvy operator or just one lucky bastard.

Stay tuned for his next features. There’s a sequel called Birdemic: The Resurrection, and the brilliantly titled Peephole, the Perverted.

Yes. Birds. Coming to get you. Shock! Terror! Perverted peepholes!

© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror – $10k film stands to win big