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  • Rev Horror


Dir. Nate Dushku (2023)

A birdwatcher with a strange fetish takes up residence at a queer nudist camp in New Hampshire.

I liked in Maine for a while, and while I did not particularly enjoy my time there, I can definitely see the appeal of that upper-Northeast living and the region's larger desire to be free. Nowhere is this mindset more apparent than New Hampshire, a state just to the south of my former abode, whose state motto is the amazingly to the point and slightly aggressive "Live free or die." It's also the perfect setting for a movie about a gay birdwatching serial killer who sets up shop at a nudist camp, and while this sounds like the setup for a screwball comedy, Birder is anything but.

Kristian (Michael Emery) begins the film having killed his lover, burning his belongings in a campfire at their spot on the lake. He then proceeds to head to a queer nudist campground, where he finds a group of people who desire to live as free as he does. Freedom looks differently for different people, however, and Kristian's fetish involving consent and murder is about to wreak havoc on this unsuspecting group of campers. Lotus Cove now has a serial killer, one who pushes the boundaries of consent while those around him try to push the limits of societal expectations.

An eccentric group of characters highlight this psychological horror/drama, led strongly by Emery's portrayal of the sociopathic Kristian. The commentary on queer life and acceptance is an interesting one, though it could certainly be argued that Birder is much more about a libertine lifestyle and the limits of consent and freedom than it is about being gay. It's a clever film, one that plays with the potential comedic elements but avoiding becoming a dark comedy overall. It's also gorgeously shot, with large swaths of the film being just as concerned with framing the beautiful scenery as it is with the events at Lotus Cove.

The writing is very good, as are the majority of the performances, though neither will draw in a crowd that will likely already be turned off by the synopsis. This is a difficult film to sell, for sure: if "queer nudist camp" doesn't sell you on it, it likely prevents you from watching altogether. It's also very slow, with very little action present through a lot of the runtime, while what action there is becomes almost entirely not safe for work. Despite its shortcomings, which are very much intentional and particularly well-done for an indie drama/horror, Birder feels very much like a film that could be a festival favorite.

I've never seen a film quite like this one, and I mean that as a compliment. It's not a film I would seek out to watch, but I'm also glad I did. It's also a perfect time to watch it, with Pride Month in full swing and society as a whole moving in the direction of acceptance and love. It's a difficult film to watch, and sometimes its philosophical message becomes a bit larger than its plot. Nevertheless, it's a very well done indie horror that stretches the boundaries of filmmaking as much as its characters do that of civil society. If you're into queer cinema, this one could be right up your alley. Live free and die, indeed.

Who this movie is for: Psychological drama fans, Queer horror lovers, Libertines

Bottom line: Birder is an interesting psychological drama with a tinge of horror and black comedy, a mishmash of genres that works perfectly well with its indie roots. The performances are good, the direction is good, and it's got the type of beautiful cinematography that will strike a chord with indie film aficionados. It's still a hard film to recommend, however, and it's a movie that will only likely be a hit amongst queer cinema appreciators. If you are, though, I definitely recommend giving it a look.

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