Poultrygeist is a bad movie. It’s really bad. The premise is dumb, the acting is bad, the production value is laughable, and the jokes are terrible, but for some reason, despite myself, I found that when the movie was over I had enjoyed the experience. Maybe it was the gleeful joy in which the movie embraced its sheer stupidity, but whatever the reason, Poultrygeist is now my favorite semi-musical horror comedy about chicken possessed zombies running amok in a fast food restaurant built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground.
Poultrygeist was directed and co-written by Lloyd Kaufman, a low budget schlock movie icon and one of the men who co-founded Troma Entertainment. Troma has an over 40 year legacy of creating and distributing some of the worst movies in existence, but more often than not, the movies made by Troma tend to be of the “so bad it’s good” variety. Well, maybe not “good” in the strictest sense of the word, but they’re usually fun to watch. Poultrygeist fits neatly into that category and is classic Troma through and through.
Poultrygeist tells the story of Arbie, a high school graduate who returns home after one semester of college to find that his high school sweetheart, Wendy, is now a lesbian. Wendy and her girlfriend are taking part in a protest of a new fast food restaurant that has been built on top of the Tromahawk Indian burial ground. Arbie is understandably upset, so in a goofy bit of logic he decides to get a job at the restaurant in part to spite his former girlfriend, but also to earn enough money so she’ll want him back so he can then turn her down. He gets the job, but his first day doesn’t go very well when an Indian curse begins to wreak havoc at the restaurant and turn people into Indian and chicken possessed zombies (among other things).
So from the description of the story, it’s obvious that Poultrygeist is a comedy first and foremost, and to say that the comedy is juvenile would be a gross understatement. There are massive amounts of gay jokes, penis jokes, fart jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, race jokes, and so on. Pretty much everything a pre-teen boy might find hilarious is in there. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, I’m just saying the comedy isn’t very highbrow. In fact, it’s probably as lowbrow as you can get. I mean, there’s a series of sandwich puns at one point. Sandwich puns. A series of them. So of course, not every joke is going to work for everyone, but Poultrygeist takes the spray-and-pray approach to comedy. Bombard the audience with a massive volume of jokes and some of them are sure to hit the mark. A few landed for me.
A word of warning to people with sensitive dispositions though: Poultrygeist seems to go out of its way to be offensive to pretty much everyone. Regardless of race, class, sexuality, religion, or whoever you happen to be, there are probably at least a few lines that you could potentially find offensive. But it’s pretty apparent that Lloyd Kaufman doesn’t care who he offends, so you probably shouldn’t care enough to be offended either. It’s all done in good fun, if in somewhat poor taste. Besides, comedy that shies away from something because it could be offensive usually isn’t very funny in the first place.
Another warning to sensitive people: Poultrygeist is pretty disgusting. There are gallons upon gallons of various bodily fluids sprayed, poured, and splattered over nearly every square inch of the sets and the actors. It’s so absurdly over the top that it’s comedic, but people not used to or averse to extreme blood, gore, and excrement might want to tread with caution. And it’s not just the liberal use of fluids in the movie that makes it gross, it’s also the situations that the characters find themselves in. There are multiple times where something enters an orifice on a person only to exit out of a different one, multiple exploded and dismembered body parts, and even a scene of necrophiliac bestiality.
The special effects are cheap, silly, and clearly fake, but that really only adds to their charm (I can’t believe I used the word “charm” in describing this movie). I do appreciate that the effects are practical rather than digital. I don’t know if that was a deliberate decision by Kaufman or because he simply couldn’t afford digital effects, but I usually prefer practical to computer-generated whenever possible, and I think it works well here.
The effects in Poultrygeist might be charmingly cheap, but there are other parts of the low production value of the movie that aren’t as endearing. For instance, there are multiple shots throughout the movie that are out of focus. Being in focus is a pretty basic part of making a movie, so it’s kind of baffling that this mistake happens repeatedly. Also, the continuity from shot to shot is almost non-existent at times. Things disappear or change frequently between cuts. I suppose these are minor quibbles, and if you’re watching a Troma movie they are to be expected and don’t really matter anyway.
What matters when you’re watching a Troma movie are plenty of tasteless jokes, over the top gore, and nudity. There are loads of all three of these Troma staples in Poultrygeist (as well as a familiar car crash that long-time Troma fans will recognize), so fans of the company should seek this movie out if they haven’t done so already.
Personally, I have a kind of hit or miss relationship with Troma. There are some movies they produced that I like, but others I don’t. I know I enjoyed Poultrygeist, but it’s kind of hard to put my finger on why. Maybe it was the musical numbers that won me over. The first half of the Poultrygeist is pretty much a musical with multiple songs and dance numbers, though that’s kind of abandoned after a certain point. Or maybe it was just the mindlessness of everything. I was able to turn my brain off for the duration of the movie and just accept the ridiculousness of what I was seeing. I guess that’s what Troma is really all about. I know it’s bad, you know it’s bad, Troma knows it’s bad, but it’s done with a fiercely independent and enthusiastic spirit that doesn’t really care that it’s bad. That’s what makes it good.
6 – Pretty Good
This movie is for people who can laugh at mindless, cheap, juvenile entertainment. Sure, there might be some quasi-political statements about corporate greed, health issues, and race relations at the root of some of the jokes in Poultrygeist, but they’re hidden under so much toilet humor and gore that you can’t really see them, and they don’t matter anyway.
All fans of classic Troma produced movies should enjoy Poultrygeist. People who don’t like Troma and those who are easily offended or disgusted should probably stay far away.
RECOMMENDATION FOR FURTHER WATCHING
It’s not nearly as nonsensical or over the top as Poultrygeist, but Slither has some pretty good gross-out scenes and is one of my favorite horror comedies. It stars Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rooker, and was written and directed by James Gunn. Gunn might be famous now for Guardians of the Galaxy, but he started his career in Troma. Slither pays tribute to his roots in many ways, not the least of which being a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman as a sad drunk in the movie.
Slither is about an alien takeover in a small town where slug-like creatures turn the citizens into hive-minded zombies. It’s silly, and it’s fantastic. Similarities between Slither and Night of the Creeps are obvious, but Gunn cites David Cronenberg’s Shivers and The Brood and the film’s biggest influences.
Title: Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Writer: Gabriel Friedman, Daniel Bova, Lloyd Kaufman
Featured Cast: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham
Run Time: 103 minutes
Availability: Available on DVD and Blu-Ray
(I’d suggest going for the 2 or 3-disc DVD version. They contain a feature length documentary on the making of Poultrygeist titled Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger than Chicken. It’s well worth it, and you can find all versions of the movie fairly cheap.)