There is high trash and low trash, and then there’s Troma Entertainment, which is trash in a class by itself. More than cheap, more than squalid or tawdry, the films of Troma have a special over-the-top rancid glee. The company enjoyed a moment of mainstream visibility in the ’80s, when it put out The Toxic Avenger, a midnight mutant bash that remains its signature film. With the occasional exception, though, Troma’s titles have skipped theaters to line the grimy back shelves of video stores. Dr. Hackenstein, Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, Star Worms II: Attack of the Pleasure Pods…you get the picture.
Now Troma is back on the big screen — and, I’m glad to report, badder than ever. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is a soft-core scatological zombie kitsch musical complete with social commentary. It was directed and co-written by Lloyd Kaufman, the company’s fabled president, who packs every skeevy genre in history into this mad, mod exploitation mishmash. Poultrygeist is as savage as Dawn of the Dead, as slapstick nutzoid as Evil Dead 2, as gag-on-your-popcorn gross as Pink Flamingos, and as dementedly foulmouthed literate as a Kevin Smith raunchfest. It’s genuine sick fun, and there isn’t a boring moment in it.
The movie is set at a fried-chicken franchise outlet that’s been built atop a Native American burial ground. As the demon fowls come home to roost, Kaufman mocks everything and everyone: the PC protesters in the parking lot (”Collegiate Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerates” — i.e., CLAM), the wage-slave losers in the kitchen, the disgusting neck-and-beak chicken-grinding machine, the gay Hispanic dishwasher who gets turned, literally, into a talking sloppy joe. (Yes, it’s that kind of movie.) Jason Yachanin, as a rubber-faced geek, and Kate Graham, as a pigtailed porno babe, are terrific in the film’s surprisingly catchy musical numbers, all of which help to make Poultrygeist that rare and insane thing: an exploitation movie with soul. B+