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The Movies of the Future

by Andrew Green

In previous entries, I've briefly mentioned the production company, Troma Films.

Troma holds a special place in the hearts of bad cinema lovers everywhere. It's a company that makes and distributes ultra low budget horror and comedy pictures, many of which take place in the fictional town of Tromaville, and are distinguishable by the liberal use of novelty store-quality gore effects. Run by B-movie guru Lloyd Kaufman, Troma has pumped out several shock-horror films each year since 1974, building up a cult following but rarely tasting mainstream success. 1985's The Toxic Avenger was by far the company's biggest hit, and Troma has also gotten some notoriety over the years for its involvement in the very early careers of actors and filmmakers who later went on to be successful (the company picked up and released South Park creator Trey Parker's first two movies -- the great and hilarious Orgazmo, and the not so great Cannibal: The Musical). Apart from those occasional brushes with greatness, however, the company has always operated well below the Hollywood surface.

Every so often, I'll get a Troma release through Netflix and, although I'm not a HUGE fan of the company, I do in some ways consider the arrival of such DVDs a special occasion. Its movies run the gamut from twistedly brilliant to shockingly terrible, and I never know what I'm going to get when one shows up in the mail. Usually, the films that the company apparently did NOT make itself, and simply distributed for someone else (Dumpster Baby) are beyond bad...but the actual 100 percent Troma-made "Tromaville" productions (Class Of Nuke 'Em High) are a treat to watch.

Now, most of Troma's stuff is done on video, and is simply too low-grade to have any kind of theatrical run (Redneck Zombies, for example, looks like it was shot on a camcorder); but once in a while, Lloyd Kaufman will somehow scrape together enough financing to make a REAL, shot on 35 mm, FILM. This is the case with Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

Netflix description:

"What happens when a fast-food chicken franchise is built on a sacred Native American burial site rife with restless spirits? Zombie chickens! Now it's up to high school grad Arbie to find a way to destroy the featherless fiends. Or will the fowl beasts turn the hungry drive-thru customers into the insatiable undead, too?"

As Mr. Lloyd Kaufman himself tells us in the intro to the DVD, Poultrygeist was a long time in the making. Troma shelled out a (for them) rather substantial sum of money to get this film made, and it shows. This is a BIG Troma production, with multiple sets, GOOD actors, decent special effects, and even well-written musical numbers. Was it worth Lloyd's while to empty his retirement account for this effort? I say YES!

Poultrygeist is a triumph of gross-out zombie mayhem. The concept is simple: a fast food company builds a chicken restaurant on an Indian burial ground, and all heck breaks loose. Now, things do admittedly start off slow -- the first 30 minutes or so are mainly dedicated to our hero Arby's attempts to win back his high school sweetheart, who has now gone off to college. Her first taste of independence has led to a new life of radical anti-corporate activism, and there's no room for Arby to join her. So, he takes a job at the new American Chicken Bunker restaurant on campus while he plots his next move. The fast food joint is of course a perfect setting for Troma to give us the kind of over the top vomit-inducing kitchen imagery we'd expect.

Well, one thing leads to another, and soon the restaurant's staff has been transformed into zombie half chickens (this stands in contrast to the usual Troma zombie scenario -- in most of the company's films, the zombie outbreak is caused by the carelessness of the Tromaville nuclear power plant management; this time, though, it's Indian magic). Arby, his ex-girlfriend, her new lesbian lover, and a few others must now put a stop to the disaster.

I REALLY started to like Poultrygeist once the zombie choas began. There's a scene maybe 70 minutes in when the first real bloodbath goes down, and it is EXACTLY how undead pandemonium should be depicted. Gallons of multi-colored bodily fluids gush in every direction; the zombies employ creative methods for killing their victims (one guy's face is shoved into a deep fryer); and some humor is dashed in. From that point on, the movie is great.

The first two-thirds, however, do come close to dragging a bit at certain points. Luckily, there are enough laughs (and some of these jokes are actually SORT OF WELL-WRITTEN!) to carry us through, and the musical numbers are surprisingly catchy. It's also during those scenes in which the actors have a chance to shine. Jason Yachanin, as Arby, shows as much charisma as any other break-out comedic actor of the last few years, and Kate Graham as Wendy is instantly likable (hey, any actress who can seem that comfortable doing a five-minute duet while completely topless has got to be a good sport).

Lots of great cameos (Lloyd Kaufman, who also directs, shows up for a fairly substantial role as a skirt-wearing gun nut...and legendary adult movie star Ron Jeremy plays a random customer), plenty of witty and intentionally offensive gags (like a female Muslim coworker who totes a suicide bomb and declares jihad on the zombies), and more gross-out bits than you can shake a drumstick at carry this movie through to the end. As is always the case with Troma productions, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is not for everyone, but I, for one, thought it was a hoot.

4 out of 5.