Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A New Candidate for Worst Movie? The BBC Discovers BIRDEMIC

The BBC reports the emergence of a new bad movie cult around a $10,000 opus called Birdemic: Shock and Terror. This cult is news to me. I follow a lot of blogs, but I can't recall reading anything about such a film before tonight. It just hit New York City last month, earning this write-up from the Times. No "bad movie" has gotten this much attention since The Room, as far as I can recall.

Severin Films has picked the film up for distribution and has uploaded an official trailer to YouTube.

I smell a rat. This has too much of an on-purpose quality to it, and not enough of the naive inspiration that makes the truly great bad films things to treasure. Perhaps I'm just refusing to believe that someone would put those bird attack scenes on screen and expect people to be thrilled or scared by them.

Birdemic is the third feature written and directed by James Nguyen, a professed Hitchcock fan, and it currently boasts a 2.1/10 rating from 127 reviewers at the Internet Movie Database. A film needs 1500 votes to make IMDB's all-time worst 100, but if it maintains its current batting average over time, it would be tied with such worthies as Lawnmower Man 2 and Son of the Mask in history's rankings, somewhere in the sixties.

By the way, now that I've examined the list for the first time in a while, I notice a bull market in Coleman Francis. Night Train to Mundo Fine (aka Red Zone Cuba) and The Skydivers are part of a logjam at the exalted nadir of the list, sharing a 1.4 average with five other films. For the record, the film named by Michael Adams as the worst of the worst, The Maize, is only 31st on the list, though his third-worst film, Ben and Arthur, is worse in the IMDB reviewers' eyes, ranking 9th. My own candidate for worst film, Midnight Movie Massacre, only has 91 votes and a 2.7 score -- out of the running for the Worst 100 even if it had the minimum number of votes.

If you're looking for the truly worst movies of our time, you probably have to look outside the predictable genres. It's too easy now for someone to put together a put-on with bad effects and joking actors that would, in some sense, be worse than bad. I still haven't seen The Room, but it seems sincere in its apparent incompetence and it isn't just a cheap, contemptuous genre film -- which is what Birdemic looks like at first glance. People who've seen it can correct me if they think the whole film has a more authentic badness than the trailer and clips suggest. But right now it looks like a triumph of exploitation in its postmodern form, with badness as a form of ballyhoo, a promise that the product can't deliver. There's a kind of madness in the most memorable bad films, but Birdemic merely looks stupid.

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Gary Giddins has something interesting to say about bad movies in his new collection, Warning Shadows:

If DVDs testify to the endurance of cinema as art, they also underscore the differences between movie art and literature and music. Bad books become unreadable and bad music unlistenable. But many if not most bad movies, even some that were unwatchable in their initial release and for decades later, in the fullness of time become curios that allow us mild pleasures of performance, photography, dialogue, costume, set design, and documentary evidence of another age -- not because the movies show us the way the world really was but because it lays bare the way it imagined itself to be.

That part of a paragraph could be a credo for this blog. Whether the anointed bad movies of the present will have the same effect in the future may be inherently impossible to say, but sometimes I have my doubts.

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