FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Apr 15, 2010

"The birds...they're acting funny."

When I bought a VHS copy of The Birds II: Land's End (1994) for a dollar, I was pumped. Not only was it, you know, a dollar, but this wholly unnecessary sequel has the reputation of being a big pile. "It's supposed to be terrible," I told a friend. "I can't wait!" She thought that was an odd reason to buy and/or look forward to a film, and on the one hand I agree: I mean, I do want horror movies to be good. On the other hand, though, bad animals run amok movies are my soulmates. Directing duties on The Birds II are attributed to Alan Smithee, which had me even more excited. In case you don't know, "Alan Smithee" is a pseudonym used by directors who want to disavow any involvement with the film s/he directed for reasons that, per the rules of the Director's Guild, cannot be disclosed. The man behind the Smithee in the case of The Birds II is Rick Rosenthal, who also helmed Halloween II. Use of the pseudonym was abolished in 2000, and frankly that's the only reason I can think of why Rosenthal wouldn't use it to distance himself from the abysmal Halloween: Resurrection, which he wrought upon the world in 2002. But! That's neither here nor there.

Ohhhhhh how I want to punch Halloween: Resurrection in its stupid Michael Myers Dot Com face despite the Katee Sackhoff and Busta Rhymes-ness of it.

Sorry, it's just that Resurrection is one of those movies that makes my blood pressure rise. For the good of both my health and staying on topic, I should really start talking about The Birds II.

The film begins as an official-looking man pulls a bird of the water that looks like a leftover from the Exxon Valdez disaster. He gets out some official-looking beakers and vials and starts to do some science, but he's interrupted by a brutal bird attack. They take his eyes and his dignity as action music blares; the music and the copious blood remind us that we're not in Hitchcock territory anymore. Of course, you may have assumed that from the start.

Brad Johnson stars as Ted, patriarch of what is surely the most irritating family ever to walk the Earth. His wife May (Chelsea Field) is alternately angry and insipid. Their daughters Something Starts With 'J' #1 and Something Starts With 'J' #2 are straight-up brats. They fight, call each other names, and bitch about having to spend time at an old house on the beach at Land's End. Even the dog in this family is annoying. Really, Ted is the only one who's fairly tolerable, and that's because he spends most of his time quietly moping about their son who died five years ago. At any rate, they're all at Land's End on some sort of "work vacation" for mom and dad. The "How was your day?" questions and the incessant whining of the girls were a constant reminder that family life is a fucking drag.

Look, I'm gonna save both of us a lot of time. A bunch of nothing happens, and then the birds get frisky. They start dive-bombing people here and there, scratching a forehead or biting some hair. Ted thinks is this wholly unnatural behavior and he should know- he's a high school biology teacher. He tries to warn the Mayor that something hinky is going on, but in typical politician in an animals run amok movie fashion, the Mayor won't do anything about it because doing so may negatively affect the town's Fishing Industry Parade Festival and economy. However, two people believe Ted: a weird old dude who live in a lighthouse, and Tippi Hedren. Well, not Tippi Hedren, exactly, but rather Helen, the character she plays. That's right, Tippi Hedren is in The Birds II, and she's not portraying Melanie Daniels. I hate when that happens.

The birds increase their numbers and get more and more bold. Flocks of them enter The Ted Family's home (sorry, they don't have a last name) and make with the pecking and the scratching and the nom nom nomming. They cut the phone line and the power, and the scene is not at all unlike the siege scene you've seen in any number of zombie movies- it was rather Night of the Living Dead, actually. There's a bitchin' dog vs. bird fight, and later the weird old dude falls from the lighthouse sans eyes after a bird attack.

In typical politician in an animals run amok movie fashion, the Mayor learns too late that the threat is REAL- like, he finally gets it when hundreds of birds take on hundreds of people near the marina. He tries to assemble a shotgun-wielding posse, but it's an idea that was doomed from the start. The Ted Family takes a little boat in an attempt to get back to the mainland, but then the birds take off and try to beat them to it. The (abrupt) end.

Now, I realize I haven't made the best case for The Birds II: Land's End here. Surely Rick Rosenthal's use of "Alan Smithee" doesn't make a good case for it, and neither do the ubiquitous reviews that give it 1.5 stars at most. I got it expressly because I thought it was going to be terrible, and yet...I did not find it to be terrible. Why is this? Hmm. It's a question I've been pondering since I rewound the tape. Earlier that that, perhaps, for even as the birds were doing their thing, I found myself shocked at the fact that what I was watching wasn't making me laugh or want to kill myself.

Is it because mere days ago I saw Birdemic: Shock and Terror, surely the worst movie ever created, and now I've gone numb? This may be a part of it, especially considering the fact that both movies are about [SPOILER ALERT] birds.

Aside: I'm going to write about Birdemic, but I'm not sure exactly what yet, nor am I sure where the writing will end up. I will say this much: if it ends up at a theater near you, GO. You think Troll 2 is the worst movie ever? Think again. You know how I've thought for YEARS that Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is as amazingly good as bad movies get? I WAS WRONG. There's a new King.

Aside Over: On the other hand, there's no denying that The Birds II isn't actually much good. There's far more melodrama and talk than action, but still- I found that enjoyable in a made-for-TV sort of way. I was most pleased at the fact that the birds were not made out of computer. Imagine that! Animals run amok movies may be more popular than ever thanks to the schlock churned out by the SyFy Channel, but I get tired of the CGI-ness of it all. These were real honest-to-goodness birds a-peckin' and a-flappin', and I was thankful for it.

Because I am really in the minority regarding the merits of The Birds II, I can't really recommend it: after all, your brain not be as soft as mine apparently is right now. Honestly, I hope Birdemic has ruined all moviekind for me, raising my tolerance for crap to the point where everything is shrugged off with a casual "Well, it wasn't as bad as Birdemic..." I don't know, I might be way too forgiving of animals run amok movies for a time. We'll just have to wait and see. I know enough, however, to say that I realize The Birds II isn't good, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it...and that's okay. A dollar well spent, I say!

18 comments:

Geoff J said...

I saw this on cable about 15 years ago, the only thing i remember was how it ends just as it gets exciting (for the only time) when the birds fly off to attack the city. I declare The Birds 2 as a complete tease.

stephisdead said...

Wait a minute, Tippi doesn't play Melanie Daniels? I'm looking up at my prized Melanie Daniels Barbie doll and shaking my head in disgust. Maybe the lovebirds got her after all.

Chicken Wire, the Harbinger of Heavenly Annotation said...

There's a bitchin' dog vs. bird fight...

It's been roughly thirteen years since I've seen this film, but I do recall thinking that the dog vs. bird scene was one of its only redeeming features.

MaxTheSilent said...

Not to mention we have the Platinum Dunes remake of THE BIRDS to look forward to. Supposedly starring Naomi Watts, who should know better.

I'm sure they'll justify it by saying their standard line of crap like "Oh, well the problem with the first movie is that you never knew WHERE the birds came from. So that's what we're gonna do because it's scarier."

I so want Andrew Form and Brad Fuller to die a fiery death.

Hopegiver said...

Your "Well, it wasn't as bad as..." line is one I use often when watching horror movies. For me, the terrible movie I would use to line the bird cage with is "Quarantine"...*Shiver*

spazmo said...

Can't wait for the poop on Birdemic! You sure know how to whet a reader's appetite.

Glad you survived your Human Centipede ordeal - any chance this thing will turn into a franchise? (Human Millipede, Human Gigapede, etc?)

Sandisan said...

I'm with you completely on the hate for Resurrection. I watched H2O and loved it, I fucking cheered when she lopped off Michael's head (yes, alone in my apartment, all the lights out, cheering - I am a NERD). Then I saw there was a sequel and I knew, KNEW I should stay away, but I had to see it. And it can't be unseen!! It completely ruins the awesomeness of H2O and not just cuz Jamie gets offed. It was a fucking cheat like when Annie gets all upset in Misery.

Anyhoo, I will probably not see Birds II but I added Birdemic to my saved queue on netflix cuz anything worse than Troll 2 must be witnessed. I only recently saw Troll 2 and while I was watching I said, "This is awful. I love it!!"

Stacie Ponder said...

There is a sequel to Human Centipede in the works. This one is subtitled First Segment and the next will be The Human Centipede (Full Segment). I'll be posting about it tomorrow...but yes, I'm still here. Either Birdemic really DID melt my brain, or it simply wasn't as hardcore as I was expecting...

Prospero said...

That clip from Birdemic was so painfully bad, I can't wait to see it...

JA said...

Birdemic's been playing here in NY for awhile now but only Midnight shows. And I am a fragile elderly person with bones made of paper-mache, so I've hesitated about going yet. I should risk it then?

Andreas said...

I remember hearing about The Birds II as a child, and it sounded almost mythical in its unavailability (and total superfluousness). Thanks for finally dispelling the mystery!

As for Human Centipede: ewwww! Also, is it just me, or is the beginning of the trailer a lot like Rocky Horror? "So you got caught with a flat? Well, how 'bout that!"

Stacie Ponder said...

JA- It's ABSOLUTELY worth it, and I really think that's how the film should be seen- in a theater, with the type of crowd that goes to midnight shows...especially if it's been playing awhile and there are repeat audience members. I'm the oldest of the old, and I saw it at a midnight show. There was a Q&A with the director afterward, which I stayed for; I didn't get home until about 3:30 and it really didn't matter. If you can get into a good bad movie, you'll have the time of your life.

*cue Jennifer Warnes*

thomwade said...

"Halloween: Resurrection"

The main reason I did not hate Rob Zombie's Halloween.

Stacie Ponder said...

Aww, there's enough hate in my heart for both. There's even some left over for The Cavern and, like, racism and stuff.

thomwade said...

Eh, racism, misogyny, child abusing priests... those are nothing against the crime called Halloween Resurrection.

Emily said...

This totally brings back memories of recording anything on cable that sounded horrific. I remember this one pretty much as you said: some decent bird action, a cool ending, and a whole lot of lame family drama. Good to know memory don't lie.

Carl (ILHM) said...

Ive never even HEARD of a sequel, Im all in now, it should have a warm spot on the shelf next to AMITYVILLE 4 in my collection

Stacie Ponder said...

Oooh, good call. I loves me some Amityville 4!