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DIRECTED BY: Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sereboff, Joshua Olatunde, Robin L. Watkins

PLOT: When a ravenously capitalist fast-food chain builds a franchise on an old Indian burial ground in the fair burg of Tromaville, the spirits of dead Native Americans and dead chickens conspire to turn the poultry-eating populace into fluid-spewing zombies.

Still from Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

COMMENTS: What are you doing out there on the front porch? Get in here, darn ya! Sit, sit, we’re just about ready to serve. The stuffing is on the table, the onions on the green bean casserole are crisp, I’ve got a spoon for the cranberry sauce… oh, and here’s the bird. Would you like to carve? Just be careful with the knife, because once you cut into that crispy seasoned flesh, you’re liable to be sprayed with an unholy onslaught of blood, bile, vomit, feces, and any number of disgusting fluids. Go on, dig in!

Yes, it’s a Thanksgiving here at 366 Weird Movies headquarters, and even though it’s chicken and not turkey on the menu in Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, the film is suffused with the spirits of the two oppressed populations who have made our modern American Thanksgiving possible: Native Americans and domesticated fowl. If Troma Entertainment has taught us anything, it’s that failure to pay the proper respects will result in terror of the most disgusting and ridiculous nature imaginable, so choose your words carefully when you say grace.

What can one say when reviewing the most review-proof organization in show business? A rave would be an endorsement, while a pan is a badge of honor. I will suggest, then, that Poultrygeist is, in Troma terms, an almost perfect object. It’s got everything you expect, by the bucketload: deep stupidity, rampant nudity, crude insults that punch up and down in equal measure, and so much fluid being sprayed like a fire hose. Consider that a character named after a certain submarine sandwich pitchman/convicted sex criminal isn’t merely fat in defiance of his processed food diet; he’s morbidly obese, and we’re treated to an in-toilet POV shot of his unfortunate encounter with a haunted meal, a sight so appalling that even the Troma braintrust has seen fit to slap “CENSORED” bars across the screen. If you have even a passing familiarity with the Troma House of Moviemaking and that’s your bag, you will not be disappointed.

Liquids aside, Poultrygeist is a satire, but of the everyone’s-a-target variety. Voracious capitalism comes under fire, but so do self-righteous protesters and mawkish bleeding hearts. The cynical people who make fast food are hardly worse than the mindless hordes who eat it. Ridicule is ladled out in copious amounts at women, gay people, Muslims, American Indians, whatever you’ve got, but each targeted group is given a moment of relative redemption (the gay fry cook is reborn as an enlightened Sloppy Joe sandwich, while the cleaning lady in a burqa is unveiled as a hot lingerie-clad sexpot). The philosophy is that if everyone’s offended, no one can be offended. So in theory, carnivores and vegans can each enjoy the delights of Poultrygeist.

Perhaps that’s why the jokes are so on the nose. All the characters bear names referencing fast food chains. The movie parodies famous scenes from horror classics like Night of the Living Dead, Jaws, and even Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. (Olatunde, the film’s standout actor, delivers a near word-for-word recitation of the legendary USS Indianapolis monologue, with chickens subbed in for sharks.) Zombies with beaks and feathers get their revenge by running their victims’ faces through a meat slicer or shoving their heads onto the grill and into the fryer, leading one patron to declare with his dying breath, “This restaurant is terrible.” Uncharacteristically, one of the movie’s most subversive jokes–a restaurant chain themed to military fetishism–is underplayed, but that’s the exception. Most of the time, the only thing missing from the screenplay is himself staring into the camera and declaring, “That’s another joke, folks!”

As to what distinguishes Poultrygeist from its Troma brethren: the chicken milieu is definitely a fresh source of material, but the biggest difference is the movie’s sudden and unexpected transformation into a musical. Yes, in the midst of all the blood-spewing mayhem, we get songs. They’re not good (one called “Milk Milk Lemonade” is precisely what you’re expecting), but there’s something charming about the game efforts of the cast to sell them, as though they’d been given the tunes on the spot and had to make them work in the moment. This is certainly true of the centerpiece number, “Slow Fast Food Love,” in which leads Arbie and Wendy warble about their lost romance while Wendy’s unhealthily thin lesbian love crawls all over her and a chorus of unclothed Busby Berkeley-wannabes stumble around in a vague approximation of choreography. It’s inept, but that’s all part of the plan.

Poultrygeist is gross and crude with a lowest-common-denominator sense of humor. That’s everything Poultrygeist aspires to be, so if that’s to your taste, you’d have to mark it as a success. But it remains all those things, which doesn’t make for much of a meal. If you’re looking for something substantial this Thanksgiving, you might want to look elsewhere. But Poultrygeist is ideal for another holiday tradition: leftovers.


“Quite possibly the world’s first horror-musical-sex-comedy, the strangely impressive originality of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead doesn’t come even close to compensating for its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink midnight-movie awfulness.” Rob Humanick, Slant Magazine (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Chelslyn. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

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