The phrase, “Get ’em while they’re young”, is exactly how I entered into a loving relationship with Troma Studios. Walking into a local video store when I was in high school, I saw THE TOXIC AVENGER sitting on a shelf and instantly, memories of THE TOXIC CRUSADERS cartoon came flooding back to me. Of course, I bought it, if only for nostalgic purposes, and soon after, realized what I had been missing out on all those years. After seeing POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD being advertised for a few years now at various conventions, I have been waiting with baited breath for a chance to see the film on the big screen (which, coincidentally, would also be my first in-theatre Troma experience). Well, I’m happy to report that not only do I think POULTRYGEIST is destined to become part of the already egg-cellent Troma canon, I think it’ll become an all-around cult classic to be held in very high esteem.
The tale of fast food gone fowl centers on Arbie and Wendy, two high school graduates who become separated by Wendy’s choice to attend college (“My mother is a retard and my father’s blind” is Arbie’s excuse for not going). Reuniting after several months by way of a protest rally in front of the American Chicken Bunker, Tromaville’s newest fast food establishment, Arbie is heartbroken at Wendy’s choice to become a lesbian with Micki (the fast food puns don’t stop here folks!). Determined to piss them off, Arbie gets a job at the food joint as a “counter girl”, working alongside Paco Bell, Humus, Denny and Carl Jr.. One grand opening and several deaths later, the crew and protesters find themselves warding off the chicken dead.
The best thing about Troma, and especially this film, is that their artistic vision is never compromised. You can always walk into a Troma film (especially their in-house productions) and know exactly what kind of greatness you’re getting yourself into. It’s not the watered down and extremely putrid PG-13 garbage that is infesting our local megaplexes. When watching stuff like POULTRYGEIST, I wonder to myself how the latest Adam Shankman film can get green lit in a heartbeat and be on 3,000+ screens, while Lloyd and co. struggle to get stuff made. It’s a damn shame.
The humor, as with all Troma films, is what makes the film work. Along with the fast-food franchise names for every main character, the film features some of the funniest racial jokes/gags I’ve ever seen put to celluloid. I’m sure some people will get real cracked up about the politically incorrect nature of POULTRYGEIST, but it’s all for the sake of satire. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we can’t say anything humorous for the sake of offending someone, and I’m just glad someone like Lloyd is around to not care enough to sacrifice his film. But, that’s the ballsy nature of Troma films. The comedic gore gags are also superb, offering up some of the best puppetry I’ve seen in years (especially a small chicken zombie that attacks several crew members). With most websites reporting the film’s budget to be around $500k, and Lloyd jokingly reporting it somewhere above $30 million, the fine people on the production team really made their money go the extra mile. I could honestly tell you that the film looks like it was made for, at least, a couple million. And yet, underneath all of the humor, the film still manages to relay its message of corporate greed and the destruction of private enterprise, while not being ham-fisted, which is something that can’t be said of other recent horror films with in-depth social commentaries (I’m looking at you, DIARY OF THE DEAD).
For those who haven’t ever experienced a Troma production, this a great jumping-off point. Filled with gratuitous nudity, over-the-top Grand Guignol gore set pieces, hilarious social commentary, musical numbers and a talking Sloppy Jose sandwich, POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD is everything you ever wanted from a Troma film and then some. With films like this, it’s no wonder that Troma remains the definitive and only relevant indie studio in this day and age.