DIRECTED BY: Carter Mays
FEATURING: Isabelle Gardo, Michael Palaniuk, voice of David Schweizer
PLOT: A chicken convinces a beautiful woman to participate in a fake reality TV show, hoping to seduce her.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s got a sociopathic chicken, which is something you don’t see everyday, but it doesn’t have enough weird huevos to crack the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies ever made.
COMMENTS: Bad Chicken sets me to wondering about the dilemma of low-budget filmmaking. What can you do to set yourself apart from big-budget pictures? Bad Chicken is well-shot, well-lit, well-edited, with a good score (by Schweitzer, who also voices the main chicken) and an accomplished credits sequence; technically, it’s television show-quality affair (thankfully, it doesn’t stoop to mimicking the handheld production values of the reality shows it mocks). I could imagine some steroid-fed variation on this idea playing in theaters, with 3-D CGI chickens and a second-tier comedian like Kevin James voicing the bird.
A comedy about cute puppets engaging in politically incorrect bad behavior would have been an underground outrage in 1989, but in the 2010s, after Seth McFarlane’s Ted, it’s straight cineplex stuff. With bad taste mainstreamed in the post “South Park” world, there’s less and less the underground can give us that Hollywood isn’t be willing to supply, only with bigger names and higher production values. Bad Chicken has a decent enough gimmick and it makes for a watchable enough comedy, but it doesn’t push the outrageousness meter to the lengths it would have to go to get noticed. Sure, there’s a (non-explicit) montage of Charlie Chicken picking up hookers for hotel room trysts, and a scene of two chickens dueling with dildos, but there’s nothing here you couldn’t see done better on a cutting edge TV-14 sketch comedy show. The situation is absurd, but the big punchlines never arrive (there are no poultry-based puns, which seems like a gamble in a chicken comedy).
On the plus side, starlet Isabelle Gardo (not pictured) ruffles some feathers with her satirical turn as a shallow, celebrity-obsessed bimbo; she appears to have a minor orgasm from reading an email announcing that she has been selected as a reality show contestant. Her performance, however, is mainly impressive in the sense that it makes you hope to see her in something a little bigger. This is the dilemma low-budget independent films find themselves in: it’s not enough to be just as good as regular entertainment. They have to be better, weirder, or at least make your blood boil when you watch them. They have to have zero restraint, they can’t leave any bad taste on the table. Bad Chicken isn’t a bad watch—it’s a painless way to kill ninety minutes—but it works better as an advertisement for its makers’ potential to move up the production ladder than it does as on its own as a wicked cult item.
Bad Chicken was picked up for distribution by Gravitas Ventures, which specializes in video-on-demand distribution. The film can be screened digitally through Amazon, Itunes, etc., and can be rented on a number of American cable networks. DVDs can be purchased directly from the makers at the official site.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…part media satire and part hallucinogenic weirdo comedy.”–Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image (contemporaneous)