Cinecast Review: “Birdemic” is Only Watchable via RiffTrax

review

Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this piece I wrote November 7, 2012, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else. 

Rifftrax Live: Birdemic, original movie written and directed by James Nguyen, riffed by Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson. Rifftrax MP3 commentary released 2/22/2011, DVD of live event hopefully soon to be released. More information (and the ability to buy the MP3 commentary and VOD version) at rifftrax.com.

There are so many movies out there that are so bad they’re good that TV Tropes has a whole section on it. (And yes – some troper has listed Birdemic as an example.) The fun of making fun of these movies has probably been around since movies were first made (just look at Singin’ in the Rain, where the first talkie made by Gene Kelly’s character makes is openly mocked for the bad dialog), but it was a little public access television show that made the concept so popular that the phrase “MSTing” has entered the general lexicon as the unofficial definition of this concept.

As with many of the people my age, I found Mystery Science Theatre 3000 when it was on Comedy Central, although since this was back when you had to tape a show in order to watch it and I never remembered when it was on, I only caught it occasionally. It really wasn’t until they moved to the SciFi Channel that I started watching it regularly, and have thankfully been able to re-discover the show now that many of their shows are on Netflix Instant Play. Rifftrax, of course, is one of the spiritual successors to that show.

I caught Rifftrax Live: Reefer Madness on Hulu a few months ago, and loved it. The ability to not only see the movie while hearing their riffs but (like my experience with Prarie Home Companion) to also see them do it (with added bonus of crazy hats and interactions) made the riffs that much more entertaining. I unfortunately didn’t have the cash when they did Manos live via satellite, but was overjoyed when I heard they were going to do a live show via satellite again.

The atmosphere of the movie theatre was the first thing I noticed. When I had done these live screenings before (both Prairie Home Companion and Company), there wasn’t much of an audience and I was given odd looks when I reacted as though it was really live in the theatre. When I walked into this movie theatre, however, the place was nearly packed (and I even showed up early), and the audience was very interactive, reacting to the pre-show ‘trivia’ and haikus that the Rifftrax crew had compiled specific to this production. I knew this was going to be a great show.

The trio started out with a short (apparently a continuation of the one watched with the Manos live – in fact, there were multiple references and inside jokes to the Manos live production).

Going in, the only things I knew about Birdemic was what the Rifftrax people had in their marketing materials: that it was a movie (loosely) about a bird attack, and that it had “horrible” special effects. I put horrible in quotes because I know, especially after reading parts of Kevin Murphy’s A Year at the Movies: One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey, that they are kind of movie snobs, typically being much harsher on the films than I am.

But oh, dear sweet crispy walnuts were they right about Birdemic. The first time the ‘birds’ appeared on film, I thought it was actually something the Rifftrax guys had put up there as part of the joke – the CGI is THAT bad and THAT noticeable! The sound quality was worse than YouTube videos with only one mic used, dropping in and out with background noises uneven. And don’t get me started on the plot and acting. The pro-environmental theme was so hamfisted in that even I, a ‘treehugger hippy’, wanted to go out and burn plastic in retaliation.

Want some samples of why this movie is so bad? Go here (Wikipedia’s listing of Birdemic among the list of films considered the worst), here (Birdemic‘s IMDB page, with trailer), and the sample above. The trio did an outstanding job of riffing, making the movie hilarious in its horribleness. Nothing is sacred: not lead Alan Baugh’s apparent inability to walk like a normal person; not the opening credits scene that seems to last half the movie as we keep driving, and driving … and driving; and definitely not the inanity of the plot. There were laughs a plenty, and the audience interaction just made it that much more fun.

I eagerly await for Rifftrax to do it again, and hope to have the funds to attend. Highly enjoyable, and I really hope they release this live performance on DVD (to go along with the ringtone and postcard I was able to download as a digital audience member). If it does, check it out.

Like this? Then check out my podcast Geek Out with Angie Fiedler Sutton: An Interview with Mike Nelson here.