For those of you not in the know, Birdemic: Shock and Terror once upon a time rubbed shoulders with The Room as the crown prince of “so bad it’s good cinema”, which is a term I honestly have some issues with. The “romantic thriller” was an homage to Hitchcock’s iconic masterwork The Birds, by Vietnamese software salesman turned filmmaker James Nguyen. That film feels like a Wakaliwood-eque remake of The Birds with exaggerated drama offset by killer, exploding birds that look like they were summoned from the hell of Microsoft paint. My belief about these kinds of cult films is that they can only be forged when the filmmaker honestly believes in his heart of hearts that he made the best movie he could. After that first film unexpectedly gained near immediate cult status, James immediately capitalized on that new found fame and made a sequel. The problem is it felt a tad insincere, since he just took the rough edges of his first film that audiences responded to and garishly exaggerated them even further for Birdemic 2: The Resurrection.
After that entry effectively killed the franchise, it took a decade and two crowfunding campaigns for James to fund and turn in the third entry in the Birdemic series, Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle which just screened at Fantastic Fest. The film has James going to back to the more DIY aesthetic of the original to tell another tale of homicidal exploding birds plaguing humanity. The arduously paced and improvised first two acts of the film feels less like an actual narrative and more like a series of vignettes strung together about Global Warming. Those acts track two scientists, Evan (Ryan Lord) and Kim’s (Julia Culbert) courtship much like the original, and the first hour of this film is sadly Sea Eagle free. There’s easily a drinking game to be had here, every time someone mentions “Global Warming” — DRINK, Kim asks for a Tesla — DRINK, you see a drone shot — DRINK, or the pair discuss Hitchcock’s Vertigo — DRINK. Both actors are up to the task and come off as extremely awkward and that’s no doubt by design by its director.
The film’s levels of awkwardness in front of the camera are amplified by a technical troubles behind. This had me sometimes questioning the authenticity of the filmmaker’s vision and what he’s been up to in the last 10 years. Thankfully the third act is simply pure Birdemic madness, and that is mostly enough to redeem this film for fans like myself. We even get Alan Bagh back reprising his role as Rod and it’s obvious he is having a total blast, toy gun and clothes hanger in hand, he’s out to kill some exploding birds! It’s around that time James removes any and all restraints and it feels much more fun and basically like a Birdemic film, but sadly nothing more. Sea Eagle honestly feels like three different films spliced together and James indecisiveness here at times is painfully evident — is this a heavy handed message film? Is this a sci-fi romance? Or is this a Birdemic film? While I feel like I can recommend this to fans of the original as more Nguyen madness, I dot know if folks not familiar will get it.