Much less transfixing than its predecessor, this sequel takes far too long getting to its slender amusements
The advertising tag — “You asked for it” — is the best thing about “Birdemic 2: The Resurrection.” Its 2010 predecessor, “Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” was one of those rare instances of filmic ineptitude so distinctive it could pass as inspired folk art, winning the biggest midnight-movie following since Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” Lacking the bizarro-world charisma of that film’s auteur/star, however, James Nguyen’s sequel is a much less transfixing whatsit that takes far too long getting to the slender amusement of its ludicrous “action” scenes. Nonetheless, fan curiosity should propel this self-distributed follow-up on a niche road that’s already scored various midnight and one-off showings across the U.S. and Europe.
Nguyen instantly re-establishes his signature style with a long opening credits sequence in which simply capturing a protagonist walking down a street — in this case, Hollywood Boulevard — mightily challenges the acting and directorial skills on tap. Bill (Thomas Favaloro) is a successful indie director whose career has stalled since his last film, a mainstream Hollywood flop. Arriving at a restaurant for a meeting, he promptly sizes up waitress Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo) as a possible leading lady in what seems like a sleazy casting-couch manner, though there’s no indication Nguyen sees it that way.
Bill’s lunch dates are the first film’s leads: old friend Rob (Alan Bagh), a Silicon Valley-enriched millionaire, and Natalie (Whitney Moore), his model-turned-aspiring-actress gf. Rob commits to funding Bill’s comeback feature about the struggle to make it in Hollywood, the protags expressing awe that the subject’s never been done before. That settled, the four of them (now including Gloria, cast in the lead) traipse off to enjoy themselves at various Los Angeles attractions; these include the La Brea Tar Pits, where, for reasons murkily attributed to global warming, prehistoric eagles and vultures arise from the muck to attack humans.
Trouble is, getting to this active point consumes more than half the film’s runtime, an excruciating buildup dominated by dialogue intended to show off Nguyen’s deep knowledge of how Hollywood and indie filmmaking work. But any seventh grader who reads IMDb News could do as well, or better. With Doris Wishman-like attention to irrelevant detail and people doing trivial things at boring length, these first 40-plus minutes are strikingly amateurish without being much fun.
When the horror content finally arrives (following umpteen blunt references to Hitchcock’s “The Birds”), things do get livelier. The spectacle of actors waving wildly at laughably obvious f/x raptors is amusing for a while. Ditto the crazy basic-logic gaps: Why don’t these people seek indoor shelter? Why do characters disappear/appear at random points? (Obvious explanation: They’re day players who didn’t stick around.) Why do “South Park”-styled fake explosions sometimes accompany bird attacks for no reason whatsoever?
But Nguyen’s partial self-awareness of his new movie’s camp value — encompassing brief incorporation of zombies — only makes it an effortful, half-understood in-joke rather than the guiltily pleasurable unintentional joke that was “Birdemic: Shock and Terror.” The sequel also falls pathetically flat in finding any kind of narrative ending.
The attacking-bird sequences are as outrageously primitive as before. Otherwise, the pic is marginally more pro in general packaging and design contributions, which isn’t saying much. “Birdemic 2” does make one thing perfectly clear: Mr. Nguyen has a thing for blondes, invariably cast as wannabe actresses who’ll do whatever to attain “stardom.” In a film less authentically dumb, this misogyny might actually be offensive. But one thing one can say for both “Birdemic” pics is that their unique qualities arise from a filmmaker who truly appears not to know any better.