Terror Birds

This year’s Oscars was a bust, with the lowest ratings in eight years, according to Variety.com, despite the #OscarsSoWhite controversy (or because of it). That being said, it is time for the Academy to wake up and get with the times. In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson as the Joker in 1989’s Batman, “This town needs an enema!” – and a candidate is here to shake things up. Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy I give you… Terror Birds.

Directed by Sean Cain and written by Jake Helgren, Terror Birds is the gripping tale of one Maddy Stern (Jessica Lee Keller), who discovers her ornithologist father has gone missing during a routine bird-watching session. She grabs her college age friends, and they head out into the wilderness to locate him. Instead of a simple search and rescue mission, however they wind up in a wealthy mad scientist’s carnage-fueled aviary at the mercy a pair of ravenous terror birds (thought to be long extinct) who begin to hunt them down.

Great hook, right? It has everything you should look for in a movie description. Implied action, menacing monsters, family in danger, hot young college students and the age-old struggle of science versus nature. This film even features veteran actress Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy, The Devil’s Rejects) in a sly turn as a skeptical doctor. Terror Birds is not so much a horror movie as it is a socially aware examination of the human condition and one that asks a very important philosophical question. As a species, capable of great things, how should we be spending our time and intellect? Truly riveting stuff.

Sure, you say, that all sounds fine, however it was clearly stated earlier that it is a horror film, and we all know the Academy treats those movies much like a family would treat a creepy uncle at Thanksgiving. He can come over, but no one pays attention to him and he’s not allowed at the kids table. To that argument the Academy itself has provided the contradictory evidence. The first Oscars were in 1929 and merely three years later Fredric March scooped up the golden statue for his portrayal of the title character in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

scary oscar

Horror would remain in the Academy’s thoughts over the following decades including wins by Ruth Gordon for her supporting role in Rosemary’s Baby; The Exorcist for Best Adapted Screenplay and, of course, the legendary the Silence of the Lambs, a “scary movie,” which ran the gambit and received the awards for Best Picture, Director (Jonathan Demme), Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Actress (Jodie Foster) and Screenplay. There have also been dozens of other Oscars given over the years to similarly themed films for achievements in production, writing, sound, acting and technical effects. Here’s a short list of some: The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jaws, Alien, King Kong, Aliens, Beetlejuice, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jurassic Park, Sleepy Hollow, Pan’s Labyrinth, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Black Swan.

So the movie’s genre is not a problem, but what about the hard core guidelines the Academy puts forth? These include strict run times (over 40 minutes) and initial run rules (must be theatrical first, in L.A. for a week and be released a calendar year before the Oscars it wishes to be included in) not to mention specific format parameters (35mm or 70mm film, or via digital format in 24 or 48 frames per second with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels). These have not been updated to the age of modern media.

And why the hell not? The Academy likes to call itself the Academy of Motion Picture ARTS AND SCIENCES, don’t they? Well, both of those mediums have a tendency to be extremely progressive. With the success of everything from Netflix to YouTube, how can such a plethora of creative outlets be left in the dark come award season? If the Academy wants to remain relevant, then Terror Birds has to be the catalyst for this change. They tell us to believe that anything is possible, that there are no limits when it comes to creativity, and that they do not endorse stereotypes or prejudice based on preconceived notions.

Prove it. Allow Terror Birds to be considered for the 2017 Oscar ceremony.