Nate Dushku’s gay erotic thriller Birder may not be particularly thrilling, or erotic, but it does provide an abundance of nudity on screen. Think of it as The Talented Mr. Strip-ley.
Kristian Brooks (Michael Emery, who put me in mind of James Norton with the voice of Jonathan Groff) is a drifter, lurking around campsites under the pretense of being a bird-watcher. When he makes his way to Lotus Cove, a clothing optional queer campground by a lake in New Hampshire, his handsome face and tight tattooed body make him an instant hit. As the sex positive campers indulge, Kristian starts to entertain his darker fetish…postcoital murder!
Queer film lovers are likely to be instantly reminded of Alain Guiraudie’s 2013 French thriller Stranger by the Lake, in no small part because this is a queer thriller… about a stranger… by a lake… but there is little suspense to Birder. It’s hard to tell if Dushku is aiming for campy or creepy, but Birder hovers between both. While Amnon Lourie’s dialogue screams Showgirls, the shooting style and gorgeous natural setting, hint at a more serious, sinister vision.
Ultimately, Birder is a fun ride and I couldn’t help but enjoy it for all its over-the-top dialogue and ridiculous plotting. The performances convince and the woodland scenery is stunning. If you want to see plenty of wood on the big screen, get yourself to MQFF33.
By Chad Armstrong
Birder receives its Australian Premiere at the 33rd annual Melbourne Queer Film Festival on Saturday, November 11th, 2023. MQFF33 runs November 9th-19th. For the full lineup and to purchase tickets head to mqff.com.au.