“Birdemic: Shock and Terror”: why deliberately making a bad movie is cheating

When the press release for “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” rolled in, it had our attention. We see bad movies for a living, after all, and this flick was hailed as the “best worst movie of all time,” which puts it in some illustrious company. Then we watched it, and they weren’t kidding: it’s a terrible movie all right, filled with bad acting, bad dialogue, bad sound, bad editing, bad special effects, a cut & paste score, continuity errors, etc. You name it, it’s here.

There is just one problem with it: it’s bad on purpose. And if you ask us, that’s cheating.

Anyone can make a bad movie. Anyone can deliberately underwrite and overact something, and piece it together like they had hooks for hands. Praising “Birdemic” is like applauding the 1919 Chicago White Sox for finishing the World Series after they had already decided to throw the games for money. Forget that; give us a movie that someone assembled because they thought it was a great idea and had tremendous emotional depth, only to be horribly, horribly wrong. The best bad movies are that ones that are desperately trying to be good. Like, say, “Troll 2.”

Now, this movie is spectacularly bad, the true heavyweight champion of good bad movies. There’s even a documentary about it, “Best Worst Movie,” made by the film’s then-child star Michael Stephenson, and its best scene comes when the film’s director, Italian B-movie veteran Claudio Fragasso, attends a screening of the movie, and doesn’t understand why people are laughing at parts where they shouldn’t be laughing. He truly has no idea how bad his movie is. Isn’t that beautiful?

The same goes for “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats,” a 1977 film so bad that it went unreleased until 2003, and thanks to Patton Oswalt discussing the movie on his album Werewolves and Lollipops, the movie is now a cult classic. Still, George Barry was not trying to make a bad movie. To him, the idea of a demonic tree, who then turned into a breeze and then human form, possessing a bed and devouring anyone who dared sleep on it, seemed like a good idea. He even threw in commentary from an artist trapped in a painting on the wall, you know, to class it up. It’s ridiculous, but it thinks it’s terrifying. Definitely the hallmarks of a good bad movie.

Then there is “The Human Centipede,” which could go either way. Director Tom Six claims the idea was inspired by a joke (that child molestors should have their mouths stitched to the ass of a fat truck driver), but doesn’t appear to be kidding about the movie’s plot and is even convinced that such a procedure could actually be done. Everyone we know who’s seen it, though, says the movie isn’t bad so much as it’s boring. It’s bad too, but mostly boring, which makes it ineligible for Best Bad Movie, since it’s lacking in the unintentional humor department.

“Black Sheep,” on the other hand, is funny, and bad, but it’s also in on the joke, which disquallifies it from Best Bad Movie status as well. The truly good bad movie does not know its weaknesses, and lacks self-awareness.

Which brings us back to “Birdemic” – the damn thing is just lazy. Had they tried to make something good and then filled with crap special effects, that would have been a movie worth watching. But writing 40 seconds of score, and clumsily looping it over a five-minute title sequence? That joke was old after the second spin. “Birdemic” does not qualify for the Best Bad Movie discussion – it’s just bad.


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