Monday, October 12, 2015

Spooktacular Savings #12: Troma's POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD

"That's strange. Nobody said anything about thunderstorms in windowless basements."

A movie like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead in a very odd way could be similar to a Twilight movie or Transformers in one respect (movies that Lloyd Kaufman would be I'm sure proud to take a massive diarrhea-splatter-mess-disaster-apocalypse shit all over like in a particular scene in this): it's critic proof.  People who see it are going to see it, all based on the brand that is Troma entertainment. 

Yes, I can tell you how much I laughed at certain parts of the movie (I did), and if there was a test screening where I was the sole subject and my laugh-meter and face registering disgust and 'eww-gross' faces and 'WTF' moments, it'd seem like this movie was a total blast.  But can I actually dissect its messages or its unique vision or how certain shots were composed and the mis-en-scene of the thing?  Uh... let me think... NO.  So, is it any *good*?  Let's see...

If there's one thing about Poultrygeist that I can tell you is that, more than Toxic Avengers or Class of Nuke 'Em High or even Tromeo & Juliet, there is no change in tone throughout the movie.  It hits 11 right at the first scene and doesn't stop, where the main couple - Jason Yachanin as Arbie and Kate Graham as Wendy (GET IT, oh, there's more) - are dry-humping in a cemetery and the loose-rip-off set up from Poltergeist is established with groping arms and hangs that come out from under the ground (that there's an Indian burial ground, and once it gets bulldozed-over and a fried chicken franchise is set up, the chicken will rise from the dead).  Oh, not to mention in that scene a guy gets anally-invaded and the demon-chicken or whatever it is (was that it?) comes out of the guy's mouth, underwear in tow.  So, in other words, excess is not only the name of the game, it's all Lloyd Kaufman has got here.

You wanna see a guy (a big fat-ass named Jared ala Subway, a joke that in 2015 now has a different connotation) shitting out diarrhea all over the walls in such a way that is amusing just for how much it goes for (I don't like shit jokes unless the actor themselves, i.e. Jeff Daniels in D&D, can sell it), and THEN followed up with the demon-chicken-whatever making him implode/fall into himself and a skinny man covered in blood pop out of his body?  Here.  How about a musical number (one of several) where the now lesbian Wendy sings with Mickie (Allyson Sereboff) about what it means to have the highs of, uh, Lesbian love?  Or what about a talking sloppy Joe (sorry, 'Jose') that tells about what these un-dead chicken demons are going to do?  Or about 2912938109103223912020103 other things that this movie fucking does?  Good almighty Christ!

I think I actually can, and will, genuinely criticize the movie on a couple of points.  Kaufman and company set up early on this will be a musical.  This didn't totally thrill me, as the songs are mostly just bland and have to be bumped up by the "MESSAGE" of the lyrics (they're obvious for good reason, as is everything else in the movie, but not as clever as they'd like to be), but hey, it's a musical, let's see where they go with it. 

But after about 45 minutes in, and certainly when shit really starts to hit the fan in the last, oh, 40 minutes when it's just a gigantic action scene with little moments of Arbie (not) figuring things out quickly, the songs stop.  Sure, there's a soundtrack with some sporadic alt-rock songs, but with the exception of one sort of half-assed-half-way song near the end involving one of the undead-Chickens, it stops being a musical.  It should've made up its mind, but the problem is that the songs that are here are kind of weak and the performers are mixed (Graham can sing OK, while Watkins, as the "General", has a number that flatlines) - that said it is fun to see Kaufman, as the elder Arbie, having a song AND dance number with Yachanin. 

I know it's not intentional, but how weird would it be if that young guy was actually the kid from Moonrise Kingdom a few years later? It's the same outfit...
The other thing is that, yes, we should throw all logic out by the time that the undead-chickens start attacking and people come back from the dead and sprout chicken heads and grow beak-noses and things like breasts popping out with devil-chicken-eggs coming out (and the little baby birds need to be fed while attacked to the breasts, of course, silly).  But certain characters just come back and it would seem like they should be dead.  Hell, even Kaufman coming back for the climax doesn't make sense, as he is meant to be the 'vision' to Arbie of his future self.  Why is he there for everyone to see?  Well... I should let that one go.  After all, how many times in cinema history do we get Lloyd Kaufman plugging away with a machine gun at a guy in a zombified chicken outfit?

Not Lloyd Kaufman.... yet.  Watch out, Caitlin Jenner! You got competition coming!  But I digress...
See what I mean by trying to criticize it though?  I will say one more thing: the movie is sporadically very, very funny, in large part due to ridiculous puppet work, or for things like a man, fucking a chicken in the back, getting a broom-handle so far stuck in his ass that it comes out through his dick (yes, the dick-head is at the end of the broom handle.  But other times it just tries way, way too hard - yes, and I'm saying that about a goddamn, motherfucking crazy-ass shit-diarrhea-storm like a 21st century Troma movie. 

Some of that I put on the actor Yachanin, who is so grating that for as much as the movie can try to appeal to the inner 13-year old in me, he's ONLY appealing to 13 year olds comedically.  And while some of the racial jokes have some over-the-top merit - i.e. Humus and the jokes about 9/11 and Jihad clearly making fun of racists, what about near the end where (spoiler, but really, do you care) it's revealed that she's really a hot white woman with a.... bomb that's been strapped there all along?  And this after already hulking out on Meat-Steroid juice that made her die and.... Oh, nevermind.

I've seen a mix of reactions on IMDb and other places - on Rotten Tomatoes, the sort of unofficial arbiter of all critical taste it seems these days (didn't check Metacritic), the movie has a 64% rating - some calling it Troma's best movie, while others calling it their worst.  And it's interesting to see the reactions from these people, at least it was for me, just based on who had seen previous Troma movies and didn't like it (or loved it), and those coming to it cold, likely seeing the title and premise and hoping to get a trashy guilty pleasure.  Some say it's a bat-shit crazy masterpiece, while others come away wondering who could've made such appalling

Ultimately, with Poultrygeist, I came in somewhere in the middle: I had some pleasures watching some of this, and when the big HOLY SHIT (first) climax happens at the restaurant and the undead chickens wreak havoc, it actually got disturbingly gory and gruesome, which I didn't expect.  But there is a certain point where it's overbearing with its political message - and yes, it has one, which is, uh, fuck the world really, and both lesbian liberals and corporate fatcats are ruining everything, not to mention Mel Gibson with his Jesusy nonsense.  Of course it does revel in wanton chaos and mayhem, and we expect that coming from Kaufman/Herz's work on Toxic and Troma's War and so on.  But is there a point where one can say 'enough is fucking enough, guys', or 'We've now seen that same car crash for the 19th time!'

For them, I picture dying on set covered in fake blood and green slime while a girl is yelling and dancing with her boobs out and rock music plays on the background.  That's Troma: it's stupid, it's gross, it's obnoxious, it's in-your-face, and it MEANS IT kind of punk rock filmmaking at its most, uh, Troma-iest.  

PS: The final 'Poultrygeist' theme song over the end credits IS really catchy

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