Greetings from Death Ensemble! Tromaville has taken over the site, as Phil has found himself Toxified, in the midst of a whole slew of Tromatic pieces. His latest is a review of POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD, Lloyd Kaufman’s latest clucking awesome flick! Read it as avowed vegetarian Phil heads off to write a draft of TOXIC AVENGER 5: THE TOXIC TWINS!
A lot of horror fans despise Troma movies, claiming they’re gross out pieces of trash that don’t belong on film. They’re half right; they’re definitely gross outs. But where they’re half wrong, they do Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz a major disservice. The fact that Kaufman’s films involve torn limbs, head crushing, rape and scores of other in-your-face atrocities belies that they’re also the most socially conscious horror movies this side of George Romero. Going all the way back to THE TOXIC AVENGER, an attack on littering, the join a gym phenomenon and the mishandling of toxic waste, Kaufman’s scripts have always contained social commentary. Lloyd’s actually quite concerned about social causes, and credit him for it or not looks to make the world a better place. Fortunately, this holds true in his most recently released flick, POULTRYGEIST, which critiques fast food establishments and our reliance on them.
Not that Lloyd expunges all the gross out stuff, as the opening scene firmly indicates this is a Troma film. Arbie and Wendy have come to the Tromahawk Indian burial ground to fool around. As Arbie gets hot and bothered, an ancient Indian’s rotten finger inserts itself… well, I’ll leave that for you to find out. Flash forward a few months later, as Wendy has returned to Tromaville from college, now a full-blown lesbian and member of C.L.A.M., a militant organization out to stop fast food franchise American Chicken Bunker from opening their newest store on the Indian burial grounds. Frustrated and angered that Wendy now has new girlfriend Micki, Arbie uses what little wits he has and takes the straightest path to revenge: he gets a job at the Bunker. Through a series of events brought on by a number of typically eccentric Troma characters, the Bunker eventually comes under attack by possessed chicken zombies who threaten the Bunker, all of Tromaville, and possibly the world. Or wherever they find fast food places.
Oh, and it’s a musical. Following the lead of Takashi Miike’s THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, Kaufman infuses songs throughout that reflect on lesbian demonstrations, the dangers of growing old without any goals in life, and heavenly slow fast food love. The songs don’t always work—it’s especially painful when Kaufman croons as older Arbie—but it’s nice to see that Kaufman’s still willing to experiment even at his advanced age.
As they do in all his better films, Kaufman’s leads anchor the film. Jason Yachanin is pitch perfect as the dimwitted Arbie, who actually gets dumber as the film progresses. As Wendy, Kate Graham is adorable, yearning for Arbie but confused by her new missions, both social and sexual. Together, they have great onscreen chemistry, and I found myself rooting for them to get back together as the world collapsed around them. Kaufman also elicits some nice acting from the secondary actors, including Allyson Sereboff as Micki (in a role that clearly would’ve been played by Debbie Rochon a decade earlier) and Robin L. Watkins as the nefarious corporate tool General Lee Roy. It will be a struggle for them all as they try to survive the night of the chicken dead.
Troma fans will likely most enjoy the chicken zombie siege on the Bunker near the film’s end. Lloyd finds clever ways to use the implements of a fast food joint, including a meat slicer and a deep fat fryer. There are buckets full of blood onscreen, in what may be Kaufman’s goriest scene as the chicken zombies get their revenge. Earlier scenes that involve Joe Fleishaker’s character Jared getting sucked out from his own anus, and Paco’s fateful meeting with a meat grinder while masturbating will get gore hounds through to the siege.
Look, either you’re a Troma fan or you’re not. I am, and so I vastly enjoyed POULTRYGEIST. It fits in perfectly with TOXIC AVENGER and CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, and delivers everything a Tromite would want. My only quibble… please don’t disown me, Lloyd… is that the chicken monsters aren’t zombies. As a disciple of Romero, I’m firmly entrenched in the understanding of what qualifies, and these chickens don’t. They’re really more like possessed hybrid chicken beasts, even if they can assemble and dance like the zombies in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. I’m sure if I had this conversation with Lloyd, he’d tell me to “cluck off.” And that’s cool, as those who haven’t spent the last half decade devoted to zombie flicks won’t notice or care.
You can always expect lots of extras from Troma, and the POULTRYGEIST 3-disc set doesn’t disappoint. Start off with the commentary from Lloyd and co-writer/longtime Troma editor Gabe Friedman, who used to work at fast food places. They discuss the genesis of the film, as well as many of the problems in shooting (as no Troma shoot is every easy), and how Lloyd almost screwed up having independent cinema goddess Debbie Rochon in a role. Complementing their chat, the documentary “Poultry in Motion” gives a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, and confirms this shoot encountered a multitude of problems. It’s a great doc that shows why you should never want to be in chicken makeup for 16 hours.
There are also deleted scenes, including an unused song by the character Humus, and an alternate happy ending with Troma staple Ron Jeremy. There are far too many extras for me to cover thoroughly. Just know that Troma did a superb job in delivering the… eggs. Most importantly, The Radiation March graces the disc, and is the package’s true highlight.
Looking at the IMDB page, I find there are first time Tromavilleans who started off with POULTRYGEIST. Though CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH will always be my favorite, I hope my review here leads others who have no idea what “the Kabukiman car flip” means to watch POULTRYGEIST, which is a fine starting point into the Troma catalogue. It’s full of the aroma du Troma, and if you dig it, you owe it to yourself to check out the rest of Lloyd’s films. As far as being socially conscious and including tons of gore and lesbian chicken zombies, POULTRYGEIST is clucking awesome. So go enjoy POULTRYGEIST. It’ll keep you occupied as I head off to write a draft for TOXIE 5, Lloyd’s next great Troma effort.