…back with two reviews from a test screening of POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD.
All that needs to be said is that this film has a heavy musical component, is about zombie chickens, and is directed by Lloyd Kaufman . That’s good enough for me!
Here’s Nameless Numberhead Man with the first review...
Last night, Troma had a test screening at NYU of a rough cut of their new masterpiece POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. As you can no doubt already tell from my word choice, I am a big fan of this flick. It's like FAST FOOD NATION meets SHAUN OF THE DEAD.
The movie is far from finished -- what they screened was a video output of the film, although it was shot on film (no shoddy TALES FROM THE CRAPPER DV filmmaking here). Also, at about two hours, it is currently way too long for a chicken zombie movie.
Where to begin describing it?
I guess I could give you a little of the plot. Arby and his girlfriend Wendy graduate high school. Wendy goes off to college, while Arbie stays in Tromaville to take care of his retarded parents (who we never see). Arby goes back to the old Indian graveyard where Wendy and he spent their last night together, dry-humping. Only now the graveyard has been replaced by a fast-food chicken restaurant, the American Chicken Bunker, and Wendy, thanks to college, has turned into a "lefty lipstick-lesbo liberal" (as Arby puts it) who is protesting the restaurant with her new girlfriend Mickey (I don't remember them saying her last name, but I'm guessing since almost all the characters have a fast-food restaurant chain for a name, her last name probably begins with D. Get it, Mickey D?).
To get back at Wendy, Arby gets a job at American Chicken Bunker where he meets all sorts of colorful characters like Denny, the sassy black manager, and Paco Bell, the gay Mexican fry cook who masturbates in the food, and Carl, Jr., the redneck employee who is into bestiality (even if the chickens are dead, yiccccch!), and also Hummus, the birka-wearing Muslim character who dreams of being a suicide bomber like her father.
As you can tell, Troma is not afraid of pushing anyone's buttons, and the movie addresses a lot of political and social issues with a lot of fearless satire, even though the main idea of the movie is just to see a bunch of chicken zombies (infected with the combined spirit of the pissed-off Indians from the graveyard and the pissed-off chickens from the restaurant) massacre people (and when they do later in the film, it's an amazing extended set-piece). However, the writing balances enough smart ideas with sophomoric poopy humor (there is one shit scene that will no doubt scar anyone who sees it for life -- in a good way) that I dare say that this probably is Troma's best movie yet.
Troma chief Lloyd Kaufman directed this one, and he also has a role in the movie (whenever he popped up on screen, the audience in the screening went bananas -- people love this guy). Also, he wears a thong during the movie (long story) and his balls make an appearance onscreen in close-up. For my one friend, his balls were too much to take, but my other friend thinks it's the funniest part of the movie.
Another major thing I can't believe I didn't already mention is that the movie has a bunch of musical numbers. In an interview I read, Lloyd Kaufman wanted to stress that the movie wasn't a musical, but that it just had musical scenes, like in Miike's HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS. And I can see what he's talking about. The songs seem to be focused largely in the first half of the movie, before the zombies appear, and then there is only one short song at the very end after the zombies have come. So it's not quite ROCKY HORROR, which was a full musical.
It's more like the songs are there to spice up the slow building set-up of the movie, because while the filmmakers do figure out a way to get some good gore in the first half, the chicken zombies don't appear until the second half. My one friend (the one who didn't like Lloyd's balls) thought the singing was kind of lame, but my other friend and I -- who have both love KATAKURIS as well as Troma's CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL -- thought it was a hilarious touch.
Overall, the chicken massacre section is a gorehound's delight, but there's enough other stuff going on that this isn't like FX-porn for nerds. This is a fully realized (and currently, a bit overlong) feature film that might -- just MIGHT -- find an audience much larger than the Troma cult.
Now, here’s Fabfunk with another write-up…
It's directed by the great Lloyd Kaufman, and it's current subtitle is "Night Of The Chicken Dead", proof positive that this is not anything close to a new Troma approach. I understand that a "Fast Food Nation" film is being released later this year, and if it's half as topical as this zombie chicken odyssey is, I suppose it will be quite successful.
This completely gruesome, extremely tasteless and hilarious stew uses the conflict between hypocritical anti-corporation liberals and dishonest opportunistic capitalists as a backdrop for an all-out zombie-chicken orgy. Seems as the ancient Tromahawk tribe isn't happy about a new fast food fried chicken chain opening on their burial grounds, and together their souls team with the spirits of dead chickens to infect the food and cause all who eat it into chicken-faced flesh-eaters. Our hero is an inept fool who joins the American Chicken Bunker corporation in order to defy his ex-girlfriend, campaigning against the torture of innocent chickens with her new lesbian girlfriend, though he soon finds that he's leading a dead-end life trying to support his "retard mother and blind dad."
"Poultrygeist" touches on the franchising of economic America, the workforce struggles of America's youth, sexual identity, the current immigration debate, Muslims and racism post-9/11, the affect of alcohol on the Native American population of the country and atheism- no wonder the damn thing runs far too long at over two hours.
Still, it's nothing a little editing can't fix. As per Troma requirements, all actors seem to be non-professionals, and they play to the cheap seats, though everyone onboard is having a great time. For the lack of shine given to Troma's productions, there's a let's-put-on-a-show spirit that underlines all of their efforts, whether they are asked to smear shit on their faces or take a zombie finger up the ass- indeed, in this cut, there's more assholes than the Republican National Convention. Do we really need to see morbidly obese Troma regular Michael Herz taking a shit from the toilet's perspective?
Once the zombie chickens kick in, there's a sequence with a solid twenty to twenty five minutes of unbelievable zombie chicken action. In my time as a zombie film afficionado, this audacious, often surprising sequence is the closest we've come to the final onslaught of "Brain Dead". It's that cool- I hope they don't cut any of it.
Some of it is just plain silly, some of it actually achieves disturbing status, but the best of it- a zombie tearing off a woman's face, then eating it in front of the victim's husband, saying, "I know it's fattening, but I love the skin!"- does both. Soon after a near-brilliant "Birds" homage, things grow slack and too self-referential but it finishes with a clever bit that had the audience cheering. Though they could stand to lose the Ron Jeremy coda.