Saturday, September 05, 2009

Poultrygeist - Night of the Chicken Dead

Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead
Directed by Lloyd Kaufman
USA, 2006

Comedy /Horror, 103min
Distributed by: Troma Entertainment Inc.

Life is rolling on for young Arbie as he completes his summer of love by finally laying Wendy and being fingered by Native American Zombies in the cemetery. But in just a semesters time his life is turned upside down when he runs into his girlfriend Wendy, who is back from college to protest the newly erected American Chicken Bunker franchise in Tromaville. Arbie realizes that Wendy has turned lesbian during her time at college and devastated, he takes a job at the same fast food joint that Wendy (and most of Tromaville) are protesting against. But little does he stop to think about the fact that the fast food joint has been built upon the sacred Native American burial ground! Low and behold as Teenage lust, Indian burial grounds, Zombies and Fast food blend into the gore fest orgasm called

Being a fan and friend of
Lloyd Kaufman and Troma for a very long time, it’s only obvious that I at one point in time have to slip in the latest offering, Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead into the DVD and see if it holds up to the previous installments of Kaufman’s celluloid legacy. Keep in mind that Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead is a movie that I have feared for quite some time…

Well to be honest,
Poultrygeist isn’t The Toxic Avenger, it isn’t Terror Firmer, it isn’t WAR, it isn’t Citizen Toxie, and it sure isn’t kosher in any way at all, but then again that’s part of the reason that you turn to Troma; for fast, violent, laughable, gory schlock entertainment, and I mean that in the most positive and respectfull way ever. Nobody can make blood-soaked carnage as hilarious as Lloyd Kaufman.

No matter how wild and crazy these movies get, you can never ignore Lloyd Kaufman’s engagement and statements, as each movie takes the time to criticize, mock and raise awareness for the topic of discourse, even if it's done sublimely and suggestive. Don’t start ranting on about how sexist these movies are and what a shitty view they take on women, because if you do, you are out of your league. I can’t think of a company that makes movies that celebrate sexuality, male, female or in-between as respectfully and interestingly as Troma. The Toxic Avenger was in many ways a poke at the health craze of the eighties, Class of Nuke Em High a raised fist against the dumping of toxic waste (themes also used in Toxic Avenger of course), Troma's WAR was a poke in the eye the arms dealers and US involvement in overseas conflicts, the second and third instalments of the Toxic Avenger series: Toxic Avenger Part II and Toxic Avenger Part III : The Last Temptation of Toxie both shot back to back in 1989 are obviously comments on global corporations and the era of the sharp dressed, backstabbing cold hearted businessmen. And then there’s Terror Firmer which made Lloyd the poster boy for his whole getting off your ass and making your own damned movie mantra as he shows that even a blind man can get his stuff in the can.

And this is why I say that you can't ignore
Kaufman’s movies, as he goes after his topics and nails them by the balls to the wall. As the name indicates, Poultrygesist is a comment on the fast-food industry and the franchise globalization of the world. You can’t miss it, unless you are an idiot, and this is one of the finer points of Troma movies, they do have a message, even if it lost on the masses.

Needless to say the movie is effective, I avoid chicken products like the plague, (especially those fast-food grinders and anything that isn’t sliced and diced by my own hand) and this movie definitely makes one even more hesitant to chicken. There’s so much chicken carcasses, ground chicken, chicken slime, chicken sliver and chicken guts that you may never want to eat chicken again. So yeah, this movies message is loud and clear, and definitely comes across without any misinterpretations at all.

Also the fact that
Troma have pioneered so many fields and areas that they have been completely ignored for that it is a crying shame.

Years before putting a new spin on the classics, like the recent
Jane Austen vs. Zombies / Cthulhu fad of the past year, Troma and Kaufman where already light years ahead of their time., with films like Tromeo and Juliet 1996, at one point in time I recall Citizen Toxie was referred to as The Tale of Two Toxies. That’s TROMA and William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens! You don’t get that reference in your average schlock horror, but Troma knows their classic story telling and that’s why their movies, especially the ones written and directed by Kaufman himself, all rise above the average corny horror that is force fed onto fans of the genre. The last horror/comedy I tried to watch got shut down and slipped back into the case before I even got half way through, and that was the critically acclaimed Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. But never has a Troma movie been halted by my hand, and probably they won’t either, because as I said, there is a heart and soul to these movies no matter how you twist and shake it.

Secondly, technology! Back in the late nineties when other studios where still writing “animated menu” as an extra feature on their DVDs,
Troma where dishing up exclusive audio commentaries, extended cuts, an amazing amount of extras so that you never, NEVER felt screwed buying a Troma DVD. And just look at the DVD titles they release today! The majority of their own movies all come with a complete extra disc of exclusive feature length documentaries giving a full insight into the movie making process and how it’s all done. So for a few bucks you are in fact getting your film school education while you laugh your ass off! Now you can’t complain about that now can you!

In many ways Poultrygeist is a great Troma movie, high on Troma values. Ass jokes, nudity, lesbians, fantastic effects, dorky protagonists and all round cheesiness (what’s not to like about that?) The fundamental narrative is here, the classic Troma storyline: The dorky underdog who comes out on top and saves the day. Yeah, everyone loves an underdog and that is probably why it’s always been Troma's main plot device, but Poultrygeist didn’t quite leave the impression I wanted it too. Sure it is a hillarious movie, all the regular Troma “guest actors” are there, the jokes and gag’s are up to usual Troma standards, and there’s even the craftsmanship of the story, yeah I said story, and even though YOU may not expect to find one in a Troma movie, it’s in there and if you have missed them, then that’s just proof of your ignorance, the underdog and the fight against unfair callous corporation! Remember I pointed this out earlier, there’s social criticism in these movies!

If you want another example of the genius of Mr. Kaufman here you are; all the major characters are named after US fast-food chains! Arbys, Wendys, Paco Bell and so on, and also if you fail to see who Robin Watkins General Lee Roy is supposed to be they you must be blind. See it’s all very sublime and highly effective! Perhaps it was the song and dance numbers that didn't work for me, as I can’t stand S&D numbers (apart from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Grease that is…) and I definitely don’t want singing in my lesbian romp scenes, it just confuses me. But the soundtrack will have you singing the theme over and over again for the next few days after seeing the movie, so it's not all bad is it.

The story obviously focuses on Arbie [Jason Yachanin], yet another
Troma underdog fighting for the good stuff and right values in life. It’s a pretty uncomplicated tale of how he tries his darnedest to regain the one true happiness he ever had, Wendy [Kate Graham, possibly the most “Girl Next Door” ever in a Troma movie], and how life constantly has other plans for him forcing him to take actions outside of his underdog, geek character trait.

The subplot of Arbie meeting his “Older self” [played to masterful perfection by director Kaufman himself] is great, and echoes the; if you really want something, “get off your fat ass and make it happen” mentality associated with Troma. A guide line for the entire “Make your own Damned Movie” philosophy that Kaufman and Troma stand for. Do it! If Troma have been able to make movies for 35+ years, then so can you!

And finally the one to bring in the final laughs, the one scene you always will find in
Kaufman’s movies, the car flip – explosion scenes that cost them a million dollars back in 1990 when they shot Sgt Kabukiman NY.P.D. Ever since then that scene has been masterfully woven into all of Kaufman's movies and has become almost like Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo, you know that at one point during the movie, it will be there. In Poultrygeist it fills a very nihilistic and ironic function tossing the movie into dark ground and making it the The Unbearable Lightness of Being of horror comedies, as happiness is once again punished with ironic sudden death. Cherish what you have as it may be gone tomorrow.

You can huff and you can puff, but you can not blow down the house of Troma, an impressive institution that has been making independent movies since 1974 that’s over 35 years of real independent film making, 35 years of supporting independent filmmakers, and 35 years of showcasing that anyone who really wants can make a movie. And herein lays one of the inspiring magic of them, their passion for what they do and their ambition to make others get up and be active. Get away from the dronish dream state of fantasy, get off your asses and make your own damned movie. Then give Troma a call, and who knows they may even distribute it for you and give you that break you never thought you would get!

[And buy their movies right now, as even true independance has a price!]

Anamorphic Widescreen

Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Well as I stated above, Troma DVD’s are packed with extras, this one no exception; There’s the full length commentary track by
Lloyd Kaufman and co-writer Gabe Friedman (no stranger to Troma himself), there’s the trailers for all your favourite Troma movies, music videos outtakes and loads of greet stuff, then there’s the stunning disc two with the feature length Poultry In Motion - Truth Is Stranger Than Chicken documentary on the making of Poultrygeist (see here’s the film school Troma style again) and also a shit loads of great stuff to, deleted scenes, further exploration of how to make a movie. Like I said, loads of stuff to keep you happy and satisfied, so go get it now!

J of Cinezilla with the always charming Uncle Lloydie in 2006.

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