Tag Archives: Transgressive

IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2006)

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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 Continue reading IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2006)

CAPSULE: DICKS: THE MUSICAL (2023)

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Dicks: The Musical can be rented or purchased on-demand.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Josh Sharp, Aaron Jackson, , Megan Mullally, Bowen Yang, Megan Thee Stallion

PLOT: Craig and Trevor, two alpha male salesmen, discover they are identical twins separated at birth, and scheme to get their eccentric parents back together to form a family.

Still from Dicks: the Musical (2023)

COMMENTS: If you’re offended by a portrayal of God as a foul-mouthed gay Asian who’s cool with incest, you’re Dicks: The Musical‘s target audience. That is to say, director Larry Charles is targeting you, the way Ron DeSantis targets a Disney princess drag queen elementary school read-along. With consent jokes, vagina jokes, on-screen gay sex jokes, and (lots of) jokes mocking straight white men, Dicks finds ways to shock in this unshockable age.

Dicks‘ desire to transgress is its strength and its weakness. There’s a place in the cinema universe for mid-budget midnight movies in the “I really shouldn’t be laughing at this “mode, and they don’t come around that often. (Rocky Horror made a lot of grandmas blush in its day; the 1999 South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is probably the last major release with a similar traumatize-the-squares strategy.) On the other hand, it can be tiresome to watch a movie that’s this in-your-face all the time. At some point, my face got tired of having Dicks in it. I can’t say I laughed out loud too often, but I did gasp out loud at one grossout scene near the end (I suspect you’ll know which one I’m referring to when you see it). The funniest bit—perhaps tellingly—is a tongue-in-cheek post-credits sequence where Nathan Lane wonders how his showbiz career has come down to him spitting chewed-up lunch meat at puppets.

Despite not looking that much alike, stars Sharp and Johnson are indistinguishable, both to each other in-movie sense and in the function of their characters. They really are two men playing one character: well-endowed (or so they loudly sing) alpha male salesmen who score with the babes but are not-so-surprisingly repressed homosexuals. The real fun to be had here is in watching Mullaly and Lane as outrageously inappropriate parents who would (or at least, should) embarrass NYC’s most shameless narcissists.

Surprisingly, Mullaly is a great singer; equally surprisingly, given his long Broadway career, Lane is not (although he makes up for it with ace comedic timing). The songs are mostly amusing and perfectly serviceable, with Megan Thee Stallion’s “Out Alpha the Alpha” rap (which features her walking men on dog leashes) serving as the show-stopper. With its sneering Black-girl swagger, “Alpha” sounds just like a regular Megan Thee Stallion hit (I assume; can’t say I’ve ever heard a Megan Thee Stallion song).

The movie’s weird credentials come in the form of a pair of running-joke parental eccentricities: Lane’s pet “Sewer Boys,” two troll-like creatures he keeps in a cage and feeds masticated ham, and Mullaly’s detached vagina, which “fell off” one day (and walked away!) but which she now keeps in her handbag. We see it. It ain’t pretty. But Dicks ain’t about pretty, except for “that’s pretty gross.”

Dicks: the Musical is a strange project even for A24, which is now reportedly pivoting to more mainstream fare after the Oscar success of Everything Everywhere all at Once. This outrageous niche release buttresses their image as the studio willing to risk money on bizarre projects, but it’s ultimately a loss leader: the poorly attended theatrical release (a gross of a little over a million against its twelve-mil budget) will be followed by a much sooner than average appearance on VOD starting November 10.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a decidedly big swing and a genuinely weird take on the musical that has its moments, but also feels a bit stretched too thin given its concept. There are absolutely highs to this weird wonderland of genitals and Sewer Boys—especially with that third act—but for a comedy that needs to build and build to this idea justice, Dicks: The Musical too often relies on the same jokes told over and over again with a narrative that can’t continuously build the absurdity.”–Ross Bonaime, Collider (festival screening)

37*. TEENAGE TUPELO (1995)

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“Everything Revealed! Nothing Explained!”–tagline for Teenage Tupelo

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: D’Lana Tunnell, Hugh Brooks, Wanda Wilson

PLOT: Voluptuous D’Lana Fargo is knocked up by local Tupelo singer Johnny Tu-Note. Her mother sets up an adoption, and Johnny wants her to get rid of the baby. D’Lana falls in with a group of “Man Haters” who are fans of stripper/sexploitation filmmaker Topsy Turvy, who is the spitting image of D’Lana.

Still from Teenage Tupelo (1995)

BACKGROUND:

  • Teenage Tupelo was the first (and only) original production released by Something Weird video. It was released directly to VHS but never made the transition to DVD, going out of print and becoming unavailable for decades.
  • Produced by legendary exploitationeer David Friedman, a longtime collaborator of who also produced such oddities as The Acid Eaters (1968) and Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S. (1975).
  • The film was shot on Super-8 for $12,000.
  • McCarthy’s adoptive parents appear as extras in the diner; their younger alter-egos are played by actors.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Almost certainly, you will remember the birth-of-a-baby scene (borrowed from the 1948 roadshow shocker Because of Eve). Even if you’ve seen a live birth before, it’s still shocking to see this sight casually shuffled into a narrative film context—and, accompanied by a tinkly music box rendition of “Frère Jacques,” it comes across as decidedly unwholesome. Viewer beware!

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Battered Johnny Tu-Note serenades vixen; chainsaw devil tattooist

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Teenage Tupelo plays like director McCarthy took Something Weird Video’s entire vintage VHS catalog, ran it through a woodchipper, and used the resulting pulp to sculpt his own phantasmagorical autobiography. It’s utterly unique, history’s first postmodern grindhouse film.

Trailer for the soundtrack release of Teenage Tupelo

COMMENTS: Not too many exploitation films open with an epigraph—even if it does come from a fortune cookie—but Teenage Continue reading 37*. TEENAGE TUPELO (1995)

CAPSULE: A HOLE IN MY HEART (2004)

Ett hål i mitt hjärta

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Björn Almroth, Thorsten Flinck, Goran Marjanovic, Sanna Bråding,

PLOT: A son watches as his father and a pair of actors shoot an increasingly violent and depraved amateur porn movie in their small apartment.

Still from A Hole in My Heart (2004)

COMMENTS: Lukas Moodysson has had a strange career. He began as a poet and novelist before moving into cinema with his debut, Fucking Åmål [AKA Show Me Love], a realistic lesbian romance. After another crowd-pleasing drama, the commune-set Together, he went into darker (but still realistic) territory with Lilya 4-ever, a bleak drama about a Russian girl sold into sex slavery. After this well-received trio, Moodysson was a critical darling with a large home-grown fan base. Seemingly, he decided to blow it all up with the deliberately off-putting experiment A Hole in My Heart.

There’s not much story to Hole. A young man lives with his dad. He rarely leaves his room, partly because the father is using the rest of the apartment as a set to produce a series of amateur porn films with his two live-in actors (one male, one female). In between shoots, the three principals dance and party as the son hangs out alone in his room, tending his earthworms and listening to industrial music on his headphones. The porn scenarios begin as normal sex acts but escalate into pseudo-rapes, force-feeding, and vomit play (the latter somewhat reminiscent of the commune orgies from Sweet Movie.) At one point, the female actor angrily abandons the group, but soon returns to pick up where they left off, acting as if nothing had ever happened. Some character development occurs: the son and father discuss the boy’s dead mother, the actor and male director bond when the latter reveals he has a serious illness (a hole in his heart?) that causes him to occasionally pass out, and the actress flirts with the son, falling short of a seduction but nevertheless producing a bond. Everyone seems to be seeking love, but not finding it. The film ends inconclusively.

The material here is disconcerting enough—the three porn producers block out upcoming scenes using barbie dolls, who sometime lose limbs in the process—but Moodysson deploys infuriating formal tricks to discombobulate the audience. The soundtrack barfs up a lot of grating, staticky noises at random moments. Though the story is ultimately told mostly in chronological order, the editing is often non-linear, crosscutting quiet conversations with sex scenes. There’s a dream sequence featuring crop circles. Moodysson interrupts the flow with snippets of real surgery footage, of both the labiaplasty and the open-heart variety. The entire things is shot faux-documentary style, with indifferent framing, unflattering lighting, and with both product labels and faces of extras fogged out. (At one point, the main cast’s faces are digitally obscured, too, suggesting the characters’ shame and lack of consent to be filmed under these degrading circumstances).

The overall feel of Hole in the Heart is of one of those nihilistic experiments of or . At its best, it approaches a provocation like The Idiots (1998). But Hole fails to generate empathy for the characters inhabiting its squalid setting, leaving little impact other than a dyspeptic stomach. The one thing that saves Moodysson’s experiment from total failure (and a rating) is that the screed does have a particular target, the adult entertainment industry, and it does suggest, through pornographic poetry, how that commercial concern sucks in the vulnerable and distracts humanity from making healthy connections. That’s an intellectually thin message, however, and one that’s largely drowned out by the rivers of blood and vomit on screen.

Moodysson followed up this effort with the even weirder (but less disgusting) Container, an abstract avant-garde movie that nearly cost him all his remaining supporters. Her returned to realism with 2009’s Mammoth, then won fans and critics back with the heartwarming nostalgic coming-of-age story We Are the Best! in 2013. All seven of his features are collected in Arrow’s “The Lukas Moodysson Collection.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…not so much about story as moods, atmosphere and symbolism. At times, its use of sound and flickering images recalls films like ‘Eraserhead’ and the symbolism of early Bunuel. From the beginning, there is a sense of dread and uneasiness, and this feeling only gets stronger by the minute until it feels like the film itself will explode.”–Gunnar Rehlin, Variety (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: PERIOD PIECE (2006)

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BewareWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Giuseppe Andrews

FEATURING: Bill Tyree, Giuseppe Andrews

PLOT: Intertwined stories of a number of absurd characters including a French dwarf who has rough sex with a teddy bear and a perpetually naked old man who has sex with an imaginary woman.

Still from period piece (2006)

COMMENTS: “WARNING: This film contains senior citizen nudity and dead pigs.”

Now, geriatric nudity is no big thing (although when the octogenarian attempts to holds pork rinds between his buttcheeks, you may disagree). That dead pig, though… we’ll get to it.

Period Piece is a series of absurdist sketches that rarely rise to the level of jokes, and never to the level of insights. They aren’t planned out, they are just passing spurts from the brain of director Giuseppe Andrews, whose mind is not filled with classical allusions like a or scathing anti-bourgeois fantasies like a , but mostly with dirty words, bodily function imagery, and trailer park culture. The result is arrested development surrealism, like something made by if he were a complete psychopath.

You get segments about two guys who siphon gas to get money to shoot heroin in a car wash. Two other guys mime eating each others’ farts (which they slice with a plastic knife and eat with a fork, in about the closest the film comes to eliciting a chuckle.) Stop-motion tater tots have sex in front of a shrine to Charles Manson. A guy eats raw hamburger. That kind of stuff. It’s shot in camcorder glare, and the editing is deliberately bad, as if a few “good” fifteen second takes were assembled to make a scene. Sometimes the same line repeats with slightly different inflection. It’s unpleasantly disorienting and visually unflattering, so Andrews does achieve the Americana nightmare feel he’s going for. And just so you won’t be fooled into thinking you’re watching something with socially redeeming value, it opens with a bit where a guy wearing a fake mustache and speaking in a Pepe le Pew accent sodomizes a teddy bear with an industrial sized can of calm chowder. (The repeated, graphic molestation of the stuffed sex slave is an ongoing motif.) Also, a lot of people shoot themselves in ineffective mock suicides. It’s as disgusting as it sounds, and much of the time, it’s repetitive and tedious, but it’s capable of holding your interest—against your better judgement.

Although the climactic dead pig is explicitly named “Society,” the main target of the film’s ongoing and pervasive anger has been women and scarcity of sex. The teddy bear who “likes it rough” seems to stand in for woman as sexual objects. In one vignette a man threatens to kill a “whore” for cheating on him. A father and son leaf through the gynecological displays in well-worn stroke mags, and the son dreams of scoring someday. The naked old man delivers obscene, scatological monologues about vaginas. Although Andrews had  a girlfriend at the time, and there is a woman in the cast, the whole project gives off the vibe of something conceived by poor white guys who’ve lost all hope of ever getting laid. Therefore, when Andrews’ attempt to top Pink Flamingos in the grossout department has the naked old man hack at the pig’s head with a hatchet while screaming insults at it, I was put more in mind of incels releasing sexual frustration than outsiders taking revenge against a system that has marginalized them.

The ending of the film disclaims that “no animals were hurt in the making of this film… they were already dead!” This is not strictly true. What about the human animals in the audience who had to watch it?

proudly (?) picked up Period Piece (and some other Andrews movies) for distribution, despite the fact that it’s much darker (and even cheaper) than their usual fare. The DVD features an incongruously cheerful introduction by , a Kaufman interview with Andrews, trailers for other Andrews movies, an obscene misogynist poem written by Andrews and read bumblingly by Tyree, and the entire 70-minute bonus feature Jacuzzi Rooms— which is literally just an unscripted chronicle of four rednecks drinking heavily in a motel room. Fun stuff, for people for whom nothing matters.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Take John Waters at his shock heights, a sizable helping of Harmony Korine’s Gummo, and a completely amateur visual aesthetic you have a vague idea as to what kind of film your in store for… From frame one you are forced into its full tilt bizarro world. You either get on for the ride or reject it completely.”–Infini-Tropolis (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by Tally Isham, who said “Not sure if I recommend seeing it, but it’s zero-budget weirdness.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)