As long as I live, there are few moments that I will cherish forever. Graduating school is one. The births of my niece and nephew are others. And now, the amused, confused and sometimes horrified reaction of my friend as she was inducted into the world of Rifftrax and the sheer awfulness that is BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR.
First, a little background. Rifftrax is a website set up by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, the crew who helped make MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 a thing. And if you need me to explain to you what that was, I’m afraid you’re going to be terribly lost. Rifftrax started out as audio commentary tracks that you could purchase from their website. Instead of a standard commentary, they would make fun of big movies like X-MEN, TWILIGHT or RED DAWN, just to name a few. Along the way, they also started offering audio-video downloads of public domain shorts or B-movies. It’s like having the old gang together again. The demand got high enough that they would host live events of them ridiculing some poor travesty of a film in front of a theater audience. These events are piped through to hundreds of movie theaters across the country, due to an arrangement with Fathom Events. It’s a way to enjoy the experience along with like-minded people.
On October 25th, Rifftrax hosted their newest live event, a riffing on the film BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR. They had already offered a commentary track for this film at their website and it became one of their most popular offerings.
Why? Well, because BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is so incredibly horrible. It is incompetently directed by James Nguyen, a man with true delusions of grandeur. He shot the film as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic THE BIRDS, but really it’s more of an insult. Half the film does not even involve birds. Instead, it’s about a bland person who becomes a success in the field of software sales, just like Nguyen did. I guess the idea is “write what you know,” but that rule should probably be mooted if what you know is incredibly boring. Our hero meets a woman who has just been named the Victoria’s Secret cover model, impressive for someone who has her photos taken at a One-Hour Photo shop.
Finally, after nearly an hour of endless parking scenes, dating scenes and lectures about the dangers of global warming, we’re treated to the “birdemic” of the title. Eagles, represented by some of the most hilarious digital effects ever created, begin attacking populated areas of people. They dive, the explode and mostly they hover threateningly. There is a reason BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is considered one of the new contenders for worst film of all time.
I have seen BIRDEMIC several times. Twice, I have seen it without any accompaniment whatsoever, mainly because I’m a masochistic lover of this kind of thing. I have also watched it once through with each of the two audio commentaries and also once with the previous Rifftrax experience. This new Rifftrax Live event featured all-new comic material, with a few callbacks to the previous riff. Few things got by our hosts unscathed. Whether it be the director’s insistence to keep rolling after people obviously flubbed their lines. Or our heroine’s unlikely supermodel career and the fact that no one takes it seriously (An instance in which Nguyen revealed some surprising misogyny). And of course, those special effects, so terrible mere words cannot do them justice.
Probably the most hatred was doled out to our hero, who seems unable to walk properly and never appears to be even half as intelligent as Nguyen would like us to believe he is. One of the biggest belly laughs revolved around how he gave a lavish business presentation about solar panels, without being able to pronounce “solar panels” correctly.
The film itself was preceded by a short film about a put-upon businessman. He never talks, only groans and life keeps treating him like he was a walking toilet. NORMAN CHECKS IN was another film featuring a character the group previously lampooned in their previous live event a few months earlier. The sight of this depressed, middle-aged man soaping himself up in the shower seemed to be an appropriate opening act to our feature presentation.
BIRDEMIC, with our without the jokes, is a major endurance test. Thankfully, the group kept things lively. If you were in the audience for this, chances are your gut began to hurt from laughing so much. I had the opportunity to watch this with my good friend, a friend who did not know that films like BIRDEMIC could be released without someone serving some sort of prison term. Everyone had a great time at this event, whether you were a B-movie fanatic like me or someone new to the Rifftrax experience.
The Rifftrax guys do one of these every few months, each time for a different movie. So, if you can take it, you’re encouraged to check it out.