For decades Troma has prided themselves on making their particular brand of anti-PC, trash epics and unleashing them on an unsuspecting world with all the subtlety of an infant who’s just learnt their first dirty word.
However, despite their trademark onslaught of nudity, gore and heapings of faecal matter, their movies usually feature a hero of allegedly strong moral fibre to offset the cartoonish social commentary such as the legendarily sweet Toxic Avenger or the virginal couple from Class Of Nuke ‘Em High; but in their 2006 release – the self explanatory Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead – head honcho Lloyd Kaufman pulled out all the stops to make his new movie as unrepentant as possible when it came to skewering as many subjects as it possibly can in a quest to be as offensive as possible. Mission accomplished, Lloyd…
High school sweethearts Arbie and Wendy vow to each other while dry humping in a Native American graveyard that their rapidly approaching college years won’t change them and they’ll steadfastly remain in love no matter what. However, one year later and Arbie is heart broken to discover that Wendy has discovered her LGBTQ roots and is in a steamy lesbian relationship with avid protester Mickie who has a membership with C.L.A.M. – Collegiate Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerations. Outraged at her betrayal, in an act of spite Arbie decides to get employment at the very establishment that’s being protested against, a new branch of the Amercan Chicken Bunker restaurant which has been built on the site of the old Native American graveyard.
Meeting his varied workmates, the paranoid manager Denny; burqa wearing muslim Hummus; gay latino Paco Bell and redneck beastiality enthusiast Carl Jr., Arbie settles in quickly within his new surroundings – but things are about to take a foul turn.
Coinciding with the arrival of American Chicken Bunker owner, General Lee Roy, the spirits of the disgruntled spirits merge with the spirits of all the dead, mistreated chickens to create a pandemic that turns it victims into ravenous chicken/human/zombies who violently tear through the population of Tromaville like a greasy, fried chicken dinner whizzing through my intestinal tract.
As the mutilated bodies start pile up, the survivors realise that if they don’t find a way to halt the invasion of these feathered freaks, this Kentucky Fried contagion will undoubtedly end up clucking up the rest of the country…
Despite being an old grizzled veteran of Troma’s particular brand of entertainment, I have to be honest that even I was taken aback at how deliriously unrestrained Poultrygeist actually is. After all, any movie that elects to start on a zombified hand plunging it’s middle finger directly up the anus of the male lead while he’s having sex which then breaks off is obviously not fucking around; but the fact that it keeps pushing that bad taste boundary as hard as it does is both hugely impressive and weirdly distracting.
Director and co-writer Kaufman seems adamant in keeping the gross out stuff as extreme and as regular as possible (regular is an accurate word to describe the endless stream of shit jokes too as the movie seems to be having way more of it’s described amount of fibre per day…) and after a while the extreme filth starts to actually become numbing no matter how spectacularly gruesome it is. The sight of a lunatic axeman graphically wanking over a pair of stolen underwear, only to have a zombie hand ram up his ass, emerge from his mouth, grab the shorts and then pull them back through him is utterly jaw dropping for various reasons, but by the end of the movie when an absurdly buff Hummus jacked up on meat steroids flexes her muscles so hard her eyes pop out it’s actually tough to feel anything regardless how funny you may find it.
Weirdly, despite the title riffing on Romero and Poltergeist and the basic concept borrowing liberally from any number of zombie films and The Amityville Horror, the movie Poultrygeist most resembles ultimately is the second half of Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn – if From Dusk Till Dawn featured a scene where Quentin Tarantino shat himself uncontrollably for five straight minutes. The single location and siege plot is a given, but the creatures processed by poultry (and therefore technically are only thinking with their cock) also exhibit weird mutations that vary from creature to creature – not unlike Tom Savini’s illogical but cool tranformation into a rat monster – most just turn into beaked zombies but one guy actually turns into a huge egg and hatches a hulking chicken creature where another grows a sentient elephantine phallus with a face that looks like Dwayne Johnson’s arm palming a basket ball. Yet another thing Poultrygeist has in common with From Dusk Till Dawn is it’s astoundingly gory, showstopping massacre that mirrors the chaos of the bar fight of that tex mex vampire blowout. Simply put, in a movie stuffed tighter chicken’s butthole with endless gore, semen and shit, this scene manages to surpass them all and the gore hound in me has to admit… it’s pretty fucking awesome.
However, in a weird turn of events, some of the way the film treats it’s more stereotypical characters is a little meaner than I’m used to seeing from Troma who’s past portrayal of minorities, gays and other cultures always seemed more dopey and less spiteful than this. Some of the jokes are quite clever such as Paco, the gay character after falling into a meat grinder (or should that be Grindr) is turned into a sandwich because he’s a sub – geddit? However others, such as the portrayal of the town’s sole Native American as a constantly vomiting drunk, just seems lazy and is trying too hard to shock. Plus, the whole musical aspect of the film (oh, it’s a fucking musical as well, didn’t I mention that?) just isn’t that funny and was done far, far better when Troma released Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s cracking student movie, Cannibal: The Musical, back in 1993.
With all that being said – kudos have to go to Kaufman for pulling off something of this size and scale (the gore and monster effects are copious and very well done), especially considering that he’s acting in the fucking thing as well….
While some of the jokes inevitably feel dated (when a crucifix doesn’t work holding the bloodthirsty mothercluckers back, a priest produces a copy of Passion Of The Christ instead) and it obnoxiously doubles down on beating you about the head with it’s need to offend (the fact that they hold off from making the Muslim character a suicide bomber until the end of the film shows impressive restraint when you consider this is a Troma movie), but while the gore content is magnificently through the roof, a lot of the good spirited nature of the Troma of old has seemed to flown the coop.