Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Poultrygeist- Night of the Chicken Dead
“You had me at shit covered mongoloid”
Jarv’s Rating: 3 Changs out of 4- I fucking love Troma.
God Bless Troma. It’s hard to believe, but the kings of low-budget schlock have now passed their 30 year anniversary. How the fuck did they manage this? I mean, it isn’t as if the vast majority of their output has a snowball in hell’s chance of breaking even and the Toxie money can’t last forever. Is there really a dedicated fanbase for shit like Nympho Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, or Femme Fontaine: Killer Babe for the CIA, because I don’t believe there is, and as much as casual viewers like myself may enjoy their films, I’m not going to rush out and buy all the merchandise.
Poultrygeist is Troma’s most recent film. I’m livid that Toxie is being remade, but really, that kind of thing is to be expected from Troma, as they clearly need the money. Diversions aside, Poultrygeist is one of the most willfully offensive films made in the last ten years. It’s rude to muslims, lesbians, the left wing, the right wing, corporations, fast food chains, Middle America and hippies. It’s got more gore than a butcher’s floor, is laced with enough profanity to make Tony Montana blush, and has enough gratuitous nudity to send the teenage population of Leeds blind. It’s also got song and dance numbers.
Poultrygeist is about the disastrous consequences of building a chicken restaurant on an Indian Burial Ground. The film opens with Arbie and Wendy doing the nasty in the graveyard, when undead hands pop out of the ground- one of which loses a finger in Arbie’s ass. Wendy is understandably traumatised by this and runs away to college. One year later, she returns with her friends in the Collegiate Lesbians Against Conglomerates (or CLAM) to protest the opening of a redneck chicken shop on the site.
She outright rejects Arbie, who in retaliation takes a demeaning job selling fried chicken to the masses while dressed as a girl guide. Soon enough all hell breaks loose, with the people turning into chicken zombies, before a satisfyingly messy conclusion.
This film is fucked up.
This is one of Troma’s best films in years. It’s sharp, witty, gory and gratuitous. No group is left unoffended and no film is above parody. The writing is both intelligent and savage with razor-sharp dialogue interspersed with superb moments of visual satire. There’s one sequence in particular with Miki (chief lesbo) berating the evils of corporate America while drinking from a Starbucks cup. Poultrygeist is full of instances like this- and it actually came about as Kaufman’s retaliation after McDonald’s opened a restaurant next door to the Troma offices, resulting in such lax sanitation that, in Lloyd’s own words, Troma now have “rats the size of raccoons”. There’s one instance in particular with Paco Bell (hehehehe) masturbating into the mincer that’s aimed directly at the obviously low standards of hygiene in these restaurants. The main villain is also clearly Colonel Sanders (I don’t care that they call him General Lee Roy), and is portrayed as a racist redneck fuck with a fetish for dressing like a baby and shitting himself. He actually gets one of my favourite lines in the film, the simply wonderful:
Oh, it’s just as my old grandpapa used to say: “Hey junior, get over here with them matches! This cross ain’t gonna burn itself!”
The other characters include a Muslim woman in full burka called Humus (who sheds her burka to reveal a hot blonde type wearing skimpy gear), Paco Bell, a black manager called Denny and Kaufman himself as an old failure who’s been working minimum wage service industry jobs for a long time and ” was going to be an alienated employee who kept to himself and then went on a murderous rampage this afternoon.”
Aside from the obvious consumer satire, Poultrygeist also feels the need to sink its claws into as many big budget Hollywood films as it can. There’s the Jerry Maguire spoof I used for the quote for the start of this review, a reference to Aliens, an almost straight parody of Quint’s epic speech from Jaws and other such parodies. All of these spoofs and other verbal gags (the dig at Dick Cheney is a cracker) aren’t gratuitous- the point of this film is satire and Troma aren’t exactly renowned for subtlety, what with having the touch of a Catholic Priest in an orphanage and are more inclined to use a hammer when a scalpel would do. Nevertheless, the satire is fun, and it makes a pleasant change for Troma to actually use their brains rather than slinging viscera around as an alternative. Not that they’re shy of slinging guts and gore around:
Troma being Troma, they also aren’t shy of tit shots. There’s fucking thousands of them. Wendy drops her top at every opportunity, as does Miki and there’s a whole scene with about 10 different women topless in a room while Arbie sings along. This is necessary and to be expected, and actually serves to provide some of the many laughs of the film. The lipstick dykes themselves are clearly in it as a comic device and I particularly like the exchange between the lesbians and the General which includes the line: “Eat my meat, you vegan whores”. There’s other great innuendo’s as well, such as Wendy’s “How could I ever love somebody that asks me to eat cock” or this exchange between Mike and Arbie:
Arbie: They are very slowly approaching the entrance!
Micki: They’ll break through faster than the five minutes it took me to turn Wendy into a full blown lesbian!
Arbie: Damn it! Well we need action before they turn the glass into lesbians!
All of which brings me neatly round to the acting. Astonishingly for Troma, it’s actually acceptable. Jason Yachanin and Kate Graham in the leads are never going to take the world by storm, but they can both carry a tune and seem to be really enjoying themselves. There’s the usual Troma cameos, although in this case it’s someone that’s already famous: Ron Jeremy. However, the star turn is Robin Watkins as General Lee Roy- if Colonel Sanders existed today, I bet he’d be just like this. All the other support is professional- this may be the only Troma film I’ve ever seen with no bad acting in it.
Needless to say, it isn’t a perfect film. The song and dance numbers for one start out as amusing, but really do go on too long, and in a few cases to the absolute detriment of the scene. There’s a gleeful over the top quality to everything Troma does, but in this case, less would clearly have been more. There’s also a dreadfully unfunny gag with Paco being reincarnated as a talking sandwich that looks like shit that they keep reusing. The film does also completely run out of steam towards the end with repetition replacing innovation and some juvenile sight gags that just aren’t as funny as they think they are (the guy with a broom rammed through his rectum and out the front being a prime example).
As for the special effects, well, they’re variable. On one hand, Troma are excellent at using fake gore, and all of this looks great. Unfortunately, they aren’t good at costumes and they’ve clearly never got any money (this was made with support from volunteers and filmed in an empty McDonald’s) so the costumes do tend towards the shit side. The chicken zombies in this case were clearly always going to be an ambitious thing to make with no money, and some of them look like people painted inexplicably blue with fake beaks, while others are full-blown man-in-suit costumes and look vastly superior. This is a bit nit-picky, because I don’t watch Troma for consistency, but it does stand out.
Overall, would I recommend Poultrygeist? I have to say that I really, really would. It’s hugely entertaining stuff and far smarter than it pretends to be. I really do believe that Troma do have a place in the world and that cinema would be a lesser beast without them. Unfortunately, Poultrygeist hasn’t got a UK release (fuck’s sake), so getting it in this country ain’t easy, but if you persevere then it’s more than worth the effort and one of the more amusing evenings that I’ve had recently.
Until next time,