This morning, Andrea told me that she started to watch a movie but only made it three minutes before she turned it off—it was so bad. That peaked my interest. Andrea has reasonably good taste in films, but she’s also quick to judge and often bases her dislike on minor things. A single aspect of a film can ruin it for her. So I asked what the film was. It was Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. I told her that it sounded fantastic to me and she replied, “I know! That’s why I put it on!” Then she gave me a summary of the start of the film: young couple having sex in a graveyard; zombie hands coming out of the ground; one hand sticks a finger in the man’s anus; it is broken off. That was about all Andrea could take.
On Netflix, the film has a rating of 2.9 stars with a “best guess” of 2.9 stars for me. For Andrea, it gave the film a “best guess” of 1.0 stars. So Andrea’s rating made sense. But what are we to make of my rating being exactly the same as the average? In general, I figure I will like a film if the “best guess” for me is higher than the base, regardless of the rating. After watching the film, I can see why the rating was the same. I suspect that other film viewers who are like me are split on the film: some hated it and some loved it. Because I loved Poultrygeist and I also hated it. But that’s to be expected. It is from Troma Entertainment, the company that brought us such similarly great and repellent titles as The Toxic Avenger and Blood Junkie.
On the bad side, the film is disgusting. There is a whole lot of John Waters in this movie. A perfect example of this is where the morbidly obese Jared has gastrointestinal problems and so we see close-ups of his defecation numerous times. By the end of the scene, the entire bathroom is covered with feces. The film is filled with similar scenes although every other time it is vomit or, much more commonly, blood. It is also filled with a 13-year-old boy’s idea of what sex is all about and a similar idea of what is sexually funny like one character who has a mop handle shoved up his anus (I guess) and out the front of his body so he walks around for most of the film with a five foot long phallus in front of him.
Now that list isn’t that long, but it makes up 70% of the movie. Most of the second half of the film consists of showing various ways that blood and gore can be distributed on a film set. I’m not a big fan of this kind of art, but I was impressed with the creativity of the efforts. Think of all the ways that one could die gruesomely in a fast food restaurant and there is a good chance it is in this movie. And the special effects were quite impressive—undoubtedly taking up most of the $450,000 budget.
On the good side, the film is a blistering social satire. Let me lay out the basic plot: a fast food restaurant (American Chicken Bunker) has been built on a sacred Indian burial ground. The restaurant is owned by General Lee Roy. Get it? The “bunker” owned by the general?! It’s delicious. At one point, the General is forced to eat his own chicken which has been infected with the Indian chicken green bubbling sludge (or whatever). Afterwards, he says, “It’s fine! In fact, it’s delicious! I’m lovin’ it!” The last line, of course, is the McDonald’s slogan. The film is filled with such moments. Of course, after this scene, like pretty much every scene, the General ends up defecating an egg that turns into a chicken and… Actually, I forget what exactly happened to the General except that he died bloody.
The “bunker” was managed by Denny, sort of a black nationalist parody, but without any of the politics. His big scene is a parody of the Indianapolis speech from Jaws:
I saw a bad chicken once. When I was delivering chickens up in Indianapolis. A Japanese import slammed into us on I-90, Arbie. We was coming back from delivering some prime chicken. Grade “A” bird. Well, we boys was the bomb now. Eleven hundred feathers went out onto the road. Our tires went flat in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first chicken for about half-hour. Roster: one-footer. You know, they say you call always tell the size of a cock by staring it down from its beak, all the way to its tail feathers. Nobody knew we was out on I-90 that night. No distress signal had been sent. Didn’t have cell phones back then, and well, I couldn’t afford a pager. When they got the signal, the chickens went cruising. And that was when me and Larry, that was the guy who was riding with me, we formed ourselves in a tight circle, and prayed the chickens didn’t see us. Sometime a chicken would go away. Some times it doesn’t. That’s the thing about a chicken, Arbie. It’s got dead eyes. Black, like a sex doll. Then there comes that terrible high pitched cluck…
And then a chicken bites Denny’s head off. The film’s like that: it has brilliant bits throughout it. And then there is a gore fest, because ultimately that’s what the film is all about. And actually, the gory scenes are the funniest things in the film. They go so far past the point of any real idea of gore to pure silliness, although I will admit, most people would not find this aspect of the film funny.
Oh! Did I mention it is a musical? Or at least the first half of the film is a musical. The second half of the film pretty much isn’t. At the very end, they throw in a song. But apparently, they didn’t want to interrupt the gorefest for a song. And that was probably a good call. The songs are actually rather sweet, if puerile in content like the rest of the film.
I always want to judge films on their own terms. And I don’t see how this film could be any better for what the filmmakers were trying to do. For me personally: I would rather watch something else. But the good in it made wading through the rest worth it. The filmmakers add a great deal of creativity and wit to a tired genre.