By Ian Abell
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a fast food restaurant was built on a sacred Indian burial ground? Probably not, but don’t worry — the good people of Troma Entertainment have already thought of it for you, and they even put it in musical form! The providers of countless oh-so-badly-good classics, most famously The Toxic Avenger series, Troma delivers a film that fits in with all of its malformed brothers and sisters while providing a leap forward in terms of quality.
Beyond its ‘zombified Native American chickens’ logline, the film revolves around Arbie (Jason Yachanin) and Wendy (Kate Graham), two high school sweethearts who are forced apart when Wendy goes off to college. When Arbie goes back, months later, to the ‘Tromahawk’ tribe burial ground where he and Wendy shared their last night, he finds that 1) a giant corporate chicken joint has built over the burial ground and 2) a group of protesters is boycotting the restaurant, led by a dirty college hippie and her new lesbian lover, Wendy (oh my!). Angry over the perceived betrayal by Wendy, Arbie gets a job as a counter girl (yes girl) at the restaurant and suffers the brutality and gag-inducing uncleanliness of coworkers and customers alike.
Yet it’s not long before the ghosts of the disturbed burial ground and the billions of chickens slaughtered by the company seek revenge on the hapless hero and his crew and begin killing customers and staff. Concerned that any mention of the deaths will hurt publicity for the grand opening, the Colonel Sanders-esque owner of the restaurant keeps the deaths under wraps until soon protesters and customers alike are turned into zombie chickens. But not before Arbie meets his future self and a man has sex with an uncooked chicken, because why not?
This is not a film of subtlety. This is a film that floats messages, themes, and parallels about as well as anvils. One minute there is a mocking of false corporate patriotism and protester hypocrisy, the next minute blood geysers and naked breasts. Doing away with inhibition and restraint, the film delights in poking fun at anything and everything political, social, racial, gendered, and polite. It appears that writer/director Lloyd Kaufman (who also makes an appearance as a mysterious chicken mascot) had a rule that as long as someone found it funny it got in the movie.
This drive to include everything funny is also the film’s greatest weakness. When the chicken zombies take over the restaurant, the humor outlasts its welcome as the chickens find ways to dismember and fry up humans like your favorite fast food items. Rather than find creative methods to kill off characters ad nauseam, the film could have used an extra musical number or two to help compensate for the song-heavy first half.
One has to appreciate though, that with so many great gags and lines crammed into a movie, that some of these might naturally miss the mark. Don’t let a few bad jokes dissuade you, this is a very solid film from people who have shaped cult movies for 30 years. Whether you’re a hardcore Troma fan or just want a silly and direct movie, Poultrygeist satisfies that bad movie craving.
Ian Abell is a junior Film & Media Arts and English major at Temple University. Whether it’s an old Scorsese or that cool movie your best friend filmed at a gas station, Ian wants to see it, discuss it, write about it, and put up a blog post about it.