Wings of Disaster: The Birdemic Trilogy [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Intervision Picture Corp.
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (9th April 2023).
The Film

"In 2010, writer/producer/director/software salesman James Nguyen harnessed the powers of action, adventure and environmental awareness to ask, “Why did the eagles and vultures attacked?” Nguyen’s groundbreaking Birdemic: Shock and Terror soon became a global phenomenon and launched his career as The Master of the Romantic Thriller™. In 2013 Nguyen returned with his biggest budget to date for Birdemic 2: The Resurrection, never-before available on Blu-ray and exclusive to this collection. Nearly a decade after his original classic took flight, the auteur The New York Times hails as “a latter-day anti-genius” brought his extraordinary saga full circle with Birdemic 3 - Sea Eagle. For the first time ever, Wings of Disaster: The Birdemic Trilogy gathers Nguyen’s complete avian epic on 3 discs with 13+ hours of Special Features for a cinematic vision that remains unlike any you’ve ever seen."

Birdemic: Shock and Terror: After young tech company salesman Rod (Alan Bagh) reconnects with unrequited high school crush now working model Natalie (Evil Bong 888: Infinity High's Whitney Moore), he is determined to make changes in his life for the better. When his company is bought out, he cashes in his stock options, goes green, and starts developing a means of providing solar power to the masses. He and Natalie – who has just landed her big break with a Victoria's Secret campaign – start dating and, as fate would have it, consummate their relationship just as the planet is assailed by a legion of eagles that global warming has mutated into killers racking up a body count through pecking, clawing, gouging, kamikaze explosions, and even projectile acid. Rod and Natalie are thrown together with "let's give peace a chance" ex-marine Ramsey (Chastity Bites' Adam Sessa), his girlfriend Becky (Catherine Batcha), and orphans Susan (Janae Caster) and Tony (Colton Osborne) who take to the road pursued by the birds and encountering more dangers animal and human.

Written, produced, and directed by software salesman James Nguyen who sighted as his inspirations The Birds, Apocalypse Now, and An Inconvenient Truth, Birdemic: Shock and Terror may be a horror movie, but it has far more in common with Tommy Wiseau's The Room than Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity in terms of self-funded passion projects, both in its splash on the cult film circuit rather than landing a mainstream distributor, and in its utterly stupefying yet disarmingly earnest execution. Promoted by the director as a "romantic thriller" rather than a "when animals attack" film, Birdemic: Shock and Terror follows the Hitchock film's model of developing the relationship between its two protagonists, but this film's protagonists are flat self-insertion characters and the touches of foreboding are blatantly that without being disturbing or compelling. It is nearly forty-seven minutes until the birds' abrupt attack, and somehow it seems unlikely that we are to read anything into it coinciding with the couple consummating their relationship in the manner that critics suggested an underlying Oedipal angle to the Hitchcock film. The digital effects are about as laughable as much of the acting – stilted as it is by the actors not being allowed to vary from the scripted dialogue a la Troll 2 – but one gets the impression that an experienced writer/director's adherence to the three act scripting structure has as much to do with the pacing than an attempt to bring the film up to ninety minutes as a no-budget filmmaker wanting to make full use of resources (including a full song performance by Damien Carter who appeared in Nguyen's Julie and Jack from which he repurposes a Tippi Hedren scene for a cameo here). From the bird attack onwards, the film become episodic, and one wonders how the film might have fared as a web series versus a midnight movie. The entire affair would be quite unwatchable if not for just how sincere Nguyen seems about his green message, like a less-talented filmmaker using "when animals attack" to make an ecological statement rather than an opportunist filmmaker using en vogue ecological concerns to make an exploitation film. For better or worse, Birdemic: Shock and Terror has made a cultural impact even if it may not be the one Nguyen intended; as such, it only makes sense that the director would then "exploit" that impact with a sequel.

Birdemic 2: Resurrection opens in Hollywood when struggling auteur filmmaker Bill (Thomas Favaloro) "meets cute" with waitress/struggling actress Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo) and convinces her to give it another go just as she is about to jump on the bus back home to the midwest. Her big break comes along with his when old school friend Rod (Alan Bagh again) agrees to put up $100,000 to make his passion project "Sunset Dreams" – in exchange for giving roles to his model wife Natalie (Whitney Moore again) and her mother (Patsy van Ettinger returning from the first film) – and help him find investors for director James Nguyen's favorite number "one million dollars!" In between pre-production and the shoot, the quartet stroll around Hollywood, dance to another full Damien Carter song, and visit the La Brea Tar Pits with their adopted son Tony (Colton Osborne again) – sister Susan having died from tainted fish – where they run into ornithologist Dr. Jones (Rick Camp also returning) who tells them that the chemical make-up of the tar pits has preserved not only the bones but also the flesh, blood, and DNA of the creatures caught up in it. When an acid rain shower hits the city – following Bill and Gloria consummating their relationship – Bill, Gloria, Rod, Natalie, and struggling screenwriter Will (Thuan Luu) are on the run not only from killer eagles but also prehistoric birds, a couple of cave people (including Birdemic: Shocka and Terror's Danny Webber), terrorized topless slsaher film-within-a-film victims, and a graveyard of zombies.

Pretty much a slicker rehashing of the first film with some reflexive and self-aware touches, Birdemic 2: Resurrection is the more watchable film; and not just because it is the shortest. Performances are somewhat more naturalistic despite some stilted dialogue, the four leads are likable, and the film's episodic action moves along at a good clip. The effects are still laughable – including a Jaws hommage (one of two) involving a pair of dangling legs and a jellyfish brought inland by global warming – but audiences seeking it out are probably more in on the joke. The environmental concerns are still there but feel less tangential, even when the four protagonists stop to learn about returning "Tree Hugger" (Stephen Gustavson) and his wife's (Playboy Playmate Carrie Stevens) discuss how they have turned their green lifestyle into a reality show; indeed, far less so than ending in which the leads take less notice of the birds once again just deciding to fly out to sea in order to note the Sunset Blvd. hommage fate of one of their companions. Nearly a decade would pass before the world would hear from Nguyen and his killer eagles again.

2022's Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle backslides as handsome gerontologist Evan (Ryan Lord) sets eyes on fetching scientist Kim (Julia Culbert) on the Santa Cruz pier where she has determined that the acidity of the ocean is causing cancer in the local marine life. The pair bond over Evan's career ambitions to develop youth supplements to extend life indefinitely, her ecological concerns, and their mutual love of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and a visit to Mission San Juan Bautista leads to the consummation of their relationship and yet another attack by killer sea eagles that sends the couple fleeing into the woods where they run into Rod (Alan Bagh again) and his new lady love Katie (Victorya Brandart) – Natalie described as a "a lady I used to know" and her absence explained as "She decided to go her own way, and we departed as friends," said breathlessly as they flee the birds – and various victims whose bodies they scavenge for weapons and transport as they head towards the sea to see the birds off again when they tire of the mayhem.

On one of the three commentary tracks for Birdemic 2: Resurrection, cinematographer Bobby Hacker notes that devoted fans of the first film did not consider the second an official film because with a higher budget and a crew came compromises including denial of the final cut to director Nguyen (which was ironic since the film's filmmaker protagonist got the opportunity of creative freedom over his passion project). Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle sees cinematographer/editor/writer/director Nguyen once gain creatively unfettered – given apparent carte blanche by Severin's David Gregory and Carl Daft who are credited as producers – and the results are worse than the first film. The dialogue is not only extremely stilted – Nguyen's commentary tracks on all three films demonstrate that his dialogue style is also his own manner of speaking including multiple reiterations of context – so much so that one hopes that the extremely poor performances of the two leads is either the result of unfortunate novice actors having difficulty with the material or non-actors who were just ticking something off their bucket lists (it is similarly difficult to gauge whether or not Bagh is hamming it up for the franchise's audience). The plotting is just as episodic, with each meeting with a secondary character being another bullet point about global warming, while some sequences are just excruciatingly interminable like a five minute master shot of the couple observing a group of monotonously-chanting environmental protesters or the extended dance scene which encompasses the entirety of two songs (one less catchy one by Damien Carter and the film's second full iteration of the upbeat theme song by Chris Dale). The greater slickness of the cinematography is a technical upgrade – along with some picturesque drone shots – rather than creative growth, and the film once again just barrels along until it runs out of steam. The ecological concerns seem just as sincere here as in the other films, but Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle might just inspire a disgruntled viewer of means to invest in aerosol.


Previously released on Blu-ray and DVD by Severin Films in 2011, the Blu-ray disc of Birdemic: Shock and Terror in this boxed set is identical to the previous disc, but it would be naive to expect a "new transfer" of a film shot using near twenty year old HDV compression – the film was shot with the Sony V1U which applied pulldown to 1080i video for a 24p look and then converted to actual 24p for exhibition – with a lot of available light and guerilla-style coverage in which is it is sometimes difficult to tell with the resolution if some shots just have shallow depth-of-field or if they are actually shot against digital composites of backgrounds it would have been easier to shoot in (for instance, a sequence late in the film set in a convenience store that looks no better than a YouTuber's greenscreen background). The image fares best in bright scenes but shadow detail is as variable as the lighting conditions between different shots within a scene.

Birdemic 2: Resurrection only merited a DVD release from MVD Visual upon release in 2014 so Intervision's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray is a step up with the Super 35mm sensor-sized Sony FS100-lensed, generally more technically-proficient photography providing a cleaner background for digital effects for which they were probably not pre-planned. Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle makes its debut here on Blu-ray, and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.00:1 widescreen photography – the matting does not really serve the film visually, but one of the commentaries suggests it might have actually been done to cover a continuity error in some reshot scenes – and the 4K-originated image's greater crispness and pop of colors is more a matter of correct exposure than creativity, and there is an instance of stuttering during a panning shot is more likely to have occurred in the editing program rather than a disc encoding fault.


The audio of all three films were primarily captured with the on-camera microphone according to the commentaries with seemingly some lavaliered bits but none or very little in the way of ADR, so the audio levels are constantly fluctuating during exteriors and adjustments to levels in post makes exchanges sound even more uneven (most of the interior dialogue scenes fare much better). The first film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks sound the worst in this respect while the second film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 tracks sound better because post-production was out of Nguyen's hands and it seems as though the technicians were able to better meld the production sound with music and effects. The third film's DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is similar to the first in terms of dialogue recording but the music track is much more boisterous and the cries of the birds are effectively ear-piercing (in a few rare instances comparable to the sound design of the Hitchcock model). Only the second and third film feature optional English SDH subtitles.


Birdemic: Shock and Terror is accompanied by two commentary tracks while Birdemic 2: Resurrection and Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle feature three commentaries each. This may seem like overkill – and it is in only one instance – but they offer an intriguingly Rashomon-like look at different recollections of the same events. On the three commentaries tracks with director James Nguyen, things seem to have gone swimmingly – his only conflicts are those of a filmmaker struggling against the system to realize his vision – as he waxes on his love of Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, his experiences of living in the Silicon Valley and the Hollywood, finding locations and depending on the good will of people, and his discussions at length about global warming. It is difficult to tell if his glowing comments about his cast and crew are "delusional" or resulting from the responsibility of a no-budget filmmaker to speak positively about people who give a lot for little in return.

The first film is also accompanied by an audio commentary by stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore with a moderator who at first seems a bit facetious but finds his jokey comments answered seriously when it comes to Bagh and Moore noting just how particular Nguyen was about their performances from line readings to the way Bagh walked (indeed, the walking styles of the male protagonists becomes a running joke in the other tracks). Bagh reveals that he had to rent the car his character drove himself while Moore recalls having to wear gel inserts in her bra, and both recall with humor and embarrassment the means Nguyen utilized to shoot in public locations without permits.

The second film also includes an audio commentary by producer Jeff Gross and actors Alan Bagh and Thomas Favaloro in which they reveal that the opening "five minutes of walking" through Hollywood was a reference to Saturday Night Fever, that Turnbo had to dye her hair because Hitchcock acolyte Nguyen "only sees in blonde", several of the featured extras were fans of the film – one tatted guy during the dance scene may or may not be an actual porn star – Gross took it upon himself to work with Osborne to come up with a reason for Susan's absence – attempts to fix the audio in post, and Nguyen's dislike of B-roll shooting like some much-needed cutaways. The audio commentary by cinematographer Bobby Hacker and actress Whitney Moore is an even saltier exposé with Moore revealing that she did not want to do the film but did not want to be the only holdout when she heard about others returning, how the script gave her very little to do – with Nguyen discouraging Moore's and Turnbo's attempts to make something more of the apparent rivalry in the script of casting Gloria in the lead and Natalie in a secondary role – while Hacker reveals that he had been working on a documentary on Nguyen for a few years and offered to the producers to shoot the film if they let him shoot material for himself between scenes and had access to all behind the scenes material, the credited casting director was the manager of the film's Playmate models, Nguyen nitpicking his work, and attributing the knowing winks to the post-production team who also digitally-inserted visual references to their earlier film Another Yeti a Love Story: Life on the Streets (in which Moore starred).

The third film supplements Nguyen's track with an audio commentary by cast members Ryan Lord, Julia Culbert, and Alan Bagh in which Lord reveals that he got the role by responding to a Craigslist ad, shot the drone footage himself, and was often called upon by Nguyen to assemble a dolly track of which the director only made minimal use while Culbert reveals that Nguyen edited the film but used her initials for the editing credit because she was initially going to edit the film before he changed his mind, that friends of hers were supposed to do the film's digital effects before he changed his mind – the credited casting director was also her agent and only cast her – and a shared frustration with the others for the amount of scenes Nguyen shot but did not used (as well as shooing real birds away from scenes where they could have provided some foreboding). Bagh also reveals his reluctance to do the film while not wanting to disappoint the fans and to have a trilogy on his resume. Also present on the track but more soft-spoken are Severin's David Gregory who appears to be learning for the first time just where some of the money was misspent. Of much lesser value is the audio commentary by Birdemic 2: The Resurrection background actor/four-time "Jeopardy" champion Andy Wood and his neighbor Tony moderated by that film's cinematographer/Nguyen documentarian Bobby Hacker who decided to experiment by doing a reaction track to the film with two people who had never seen it. He provides an introduction to the track in which he notes that he is "not proud of it," and it is the least interesting of the set's extras.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror also includes a pair of deleted scenes – one he reveals in an optional commentary was shot to provide a reason Osborne was absent from a day of the shoot while the other is a blooper – the "Birdemic Experience Tour" (12:02) featuring a Q&A with Nguyen during the touring of the film, an excruciating cable access interview "James Nyugen on Movie Close Up" (27:05) in which the interviewer seems deadly serious in discussing the film as a "romantic thriller", a teaser for the documentary "Moviehead: The James Nguyen Story" (1:05), and a promotional gallery including the "Birdemic Experience" (2:12) touring show trailer, a teaser trailer (1:52), theatrical trailer (2:31), and electronic press kit (2:35), along with trailers for five other Severin titles.

Birdemic 2: Resurrection also includes cast and crew interviews (19:30) in which Favaloro discusses his first lead role, Bagh discusses returning for the sequel, producer Gross recalls discovering the first film and optioning the sequel – which Nguyen apparently took to a major studio – and Nguyen (apparently filming himself since he gets up and walks out of the frame after answering each question) recalls how the first film's cult success did not make raising funds for the sequel or any other projects any easier. The highlight of the behind the scenes (4:46) is Nguyen snapping at Gross for trying to keep him on schedule with awkward reactions of the cast. The disc closes with a theatrical trailer (3:16).

Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle includes an introduction by director James Nguyen (2:59) in which he describes the film as his favorite of the trilogy and reiterates glowing remarks about his collaborators, while festival highlights (6:36) is another Q&A during the film's premiere at the 2022 Fantastic Fest. The theatrical trailer (2:29) closes the disc.


Each disc is housed in its own case with its own artwork - Birdemic: Shock and Terror's sleeve is the one from the original Severin release while the other two films feature the Intervision logo on their artwork – and packaged in a slipcase with lenticular artwork.


With Wings of Disaster: The Birdemic Trilogy, "The Master of the Romantic Thriller™" James Nguyen joins exploitation luminaries like Andy Milligan and Al Adamson with a Severin boxed set, but are the results as pleasurable or at least as diverting?


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