Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
|Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lloyd Kaufman
Gabriel Friedman (uncredited)
|Produced by||Lloyd Kaufman
Pat Swinney Kaufman
|Written by||Gabriel Friedman
|Music by||Duggie Banas|
|Cinematography||Brendan C. Flynt|
|Editing by||Gabriel Friedman|
|Distributed by||Troma Entertainment|
|Running time||103 minutes|
Written as a satire of the American fast food industry, Poultrygeist follows a group of people trapped inside a New Jersey fried chicken fast food restaurant – the American Chicken Bunker – which is being attacked by chicken-possessed zombie demons after building an establishment on top of sacred Indian burial ground. At the center of the film is Arbie (Jason Yachanin), an ACB employee trying to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend Wendy (Kate Graham), an activist protesting against the restaurant who has left Arbie for another woman.
Taking six years from script to screen, Poultrygeist was officially released on DVD in 2008 following a limited theatrical run, meeting with the highest critical acclaim of any film in Troma's thirty-five year history.
High school sweethearts Arbie (Jason Yachanin) and Wendy (Kate Graham) meet the day before Wendy's departure to college to consummate their relationship in the Tromahawk Indian burial ground, promising to each other that no matter what happens, they will always stay faithful to each other. One college semester later, when Arbie returns to the spot of his one (and only) sexual encounter, he is shocked to discover two unsettling realities: not only has the burial ground been bulldozed and replaced by an American Chicken Bunker, a mega-conglomerate fast food franchise, but that college has turned his dear Wendy into a "leftist, lipstick lesbo liberal", protesting the construction of the fried chicken menace with her activist girlfriend Micki (Allyson Sereboff).
Disillusioned and out for revenge, Arbie decides to get a job at the American Chicken Bunker. Under the supervision of paranoid manager Denny, Arbie is thrust into the monotony of minimum wage with a variety of colorful co-workers: the effeminate Mexican Paco Bell (Khalid Rivera), the animal-loving redneck Carl Jr. (Caleb Emerson), the burqa-clad Muslim Hummus (Rose Ghavami) and a mysterious 60 year-old man in the restaurant's basement who has worked as the restaurant's costumed mascot all his life and has a virtually identical back story to Arbie.
However, strange things are afoot at the American Chicken Bunker. After the number of employees and customers starts decreasing in increasingly bloody fashions, Arbie begins to unravel a sinister plot involving the spirits of disenfranchised Native Americans and the billions of slaughtered chickens sent to the "concentration coops" who plan on extracting their revenge in the most gruesome ways possible. Now it's up to Arbie to try to save himself, while trapped in the restaurant by a number of possessed customers who are trying to get in.
Cast and characters
- Jason Yachanin as Arbie, the film's dim-witted protagonist who joins the American Chicken Bunker in an act of spite against his ex-girlfriend, though he is still deeply in love with her.
- Kate Graham as Wendy, Arbie's bisexual ex-girlfriend reluctantly participating in a protest rally against the ACB.
- Allyson Sereboff as Micki, Wendy's dyke girlfriend who leads the protest. She is actually one of General Lee Roy's accomplices who is not only faking her vegetarianism, but also her lesbianism.
- Robin Watkins as General Lee Roy, the antagonistic villainous founder of the American Chicken Bunker, modeled after Colonel Sanders. He apparently has a diaper fetish.
- Joshua Olatunde as Denny, the paranoid manager of American Chicken Bunker.
- Rose Ghavami as Hummus, a Burqa-wearing Muslim line cook.
- Caleb Emerson as Carl Jr, a redneck fry cook with a sexual fetish for uncooked chicken carcasses.
- Lloyd Kaufman as Old Arbie, Arbie's future self.
- Khalid Rivera as Paco Bell, a gay Mexican ACB employee.
- Joe Fleishaker as Jared (credited as "Mega Herz"), a beloved national spokesman for a submarine sandwich diet.
- Brian Cheverie as Father O'Houlihan, an Irish priest patron of the ACB who helps fight against the zombies.
- Ron Jeremy as Crazy Ron, a local eccentric who warns the ACB employees that they're all "doomed". He is a parody of Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th.
- Debbie Rochon as Actress hit with beer.
Poultrygeist first began as a spec script of the same title submitted to Troma Entertainment by Daniel Bova around 2002. After a number of re-writes at the hands of several Troma employees, the script reached a final draft in 2004, completed by long-time Troma editor Gabriel Friedman. Then given the title Poultrygeist: Attack of the Chicken Zombies, Troma heavily promoted the film in the mid-2000s in an attempt to gain funding, though ultimately failed to secure adequate financing.
The budget for Poultrygeist was roughly around $450,000, a typical budget for a Troma film. A large part of the film's financing came out-of-pocket from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, while Kaufman and his wife, Patricia Swinney Kaufman, dipped into their personal retirement savings to help fund the film.
Much of Poultrygeist's crew was made up entirely of volunteers who had answered advertisements posted by Troma on such websites as Craigslist and horror-based message boards looking for available crew members. According to Fangoria, hundreds of people applied, and volunteers traveled from as far as Sweden, Germany, Australia and numerous parts of the United States to work on the film, serving in various crew positions or as production assistants. Duggie Banas, who composed the movie's musical numbers, became attached to the film after answering an online ad looking for composers who'd be willing to work on a film for free. Many of the props and masks featured in the film were donations from special effects studios from around the world.
Shot on 35 mm film by long-time Troma cinematographer Brendan C. Flynt, principal photography for Poultrygeist took place during the summer of 2005 at an abandoned McDonald's in the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. Over 80 crew members and 300 unpaid extras worked on the film. A nearby abandoned church was rented out by Troma, where over 70 cast and crew members resided for the duration of the shoot, despite only housing one working bathroom.
As chronicled in Poultrygeist's making-of documentary Poultry in Motion: Truth Is Stranger Than Chicken, the production was plagued with numerous problems, including malfunctioning special effects, delayed and over-scheduled filming, pay disputes with the actors and even the restaurant set being prematurely deconstructed on the last day of shooting. Despite the production hardships, Poultrygeist managed to successfully complete its principal photography by August 2005.
Release and reception
Press coverage of Poultrygeist began even in the earliest stages of the film's production. British publication Hotdog Magazine covered the film in 2005 while filming was still in progress, while Ain't It Cool News, Attack of the Show and Fangoria reported on the film throughout the stages of its post-production, with the latter giving Poultrygeist a full four-page feature in mid-2007.
Poultrygeist received some media attention when Troma picketed the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival held at Manhattan's Village East Cinema, where Poultrygeist's premiere was to be held the following month. Tribeca, who was renting out the venue for the festival, forced the theater to stop playing the film's trailers and remove its posters. In response, a number of Troma employees, including one in a chicken costume, stood outside the Village East Cinema during the days of the festival, brandishing posters, sandwich boards and giveaways in promotion of the film.
Poultrygeist made its first premiere at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film on April 14, 2007, and spent the remainder of 2007 playing international engagements in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Spain, and film festivals including the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival and the Calgary International Film Festival. The film began playing throughout the United States in early 2008, making its official cast and crew-attended premiere in New York City on May 9, 2008.
Poultrygeist's sold-out weekend run in New York earned $10,700 on a single screen, gaining the second highest per-screen average in the country, coming in just short of Iron Man's second week national per-screen average of $12,400.Poultrygeist played in New York through July 3, followed by two-week long run at the Laemmle Sunset in Los Angeles on June 14.
The film continued to make sporadic theatrical engagements throughout the United States up to and even after its official DVD release. On April 17, 2009, Poultrygeist had a wide release in the Midwest, opening simultaneously in 11 theaters in eight states, including two screens each in Wisconsin and Indiana.
According to Poultry in Motion, Poultrygeist received the most critical praise of any film in Troma's 30+ year history. The film has a certified "fresh" rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the general critical consensus being that it "may be relentlessly tasteless and juvenile, but it's also a lively slice of schlocky fun".
Professional critics were generally positive towards the film. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a B+ rating, calling it "an exploitation movie with soul" and noting "it's genuine sick fun, and there isn't a boring moment in it". Nathan Lee of The New York Times spoke of the film as being "as perfect as a film predicated on the joys of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea can be", describing it as "liberating" in a "lowbrow way". Both New York magazine and Salon.com selected Poultrygeist as a Critic's Pick, the latter calling it "disgusting, deranged and thoroughly brilliant". Reading into the film's subtext, The Guardian noted the film as "a wonderfully bold satirical comment on the chemical-industrial food complex that poisons us all", summarizing Poultrygeist as "the movie Fast Food Nation could have been if it hadn't sucked". The Calgary Herald wrote "dismissing Poultrygeist as sheer stupidity – which most will undoubtedly do – is the wrong call...Kaufman has created a rather sharp, if demented, work of political and social satire."PETA called the film "a vegetarian-manifesto masterpiece", ranking it #1 on their list of "Top 10 Movies That Make You Go Meatless".
On the negative end of the critical spectrum, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel felt the film "wears out its joke, like all Troma films, long before that last 50-gallon keg of fake blood is tapped...it's a 40-minute short struggling to escape a 103-minute feature", giving it a rating of two out of five stars.Time Out New York gave the film two out of six stars, claiming its "half-funny" "trashiness" only appeals to horror fans, while Slant Magazine was considerably harsher, rating the film half a star out of four, calling it "superficially turgid" and that its "strangely impressive originality doesn't even close to compensating for its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink midnight-movie awfulness". The New York Post, however, while criticizing the film's poor taste, acting and pacing, described the satire as "wicked" and predicted that its flaws wouldn't stop it from becoming an "underground cult hit".
Connections with previous Troma films
In contrast to Kaufman's previous films, Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, which heavily referenced and relied on the audience's familiarity of Troma films, Poultrygeist is only loosely connected with the "Tromaverse" yet makes numerous background references to their previous films. Arbie can be seen wearing an "I Love the Monster Hero" shirt from The Toxic Avenger in an early scene, posters of Tromeo and Juliet and When Nature Calls adorn the walls of Wendy's bedroom, and DVD copies of Tales from the Crapper can be seen stuffed in a dumpster. Most notably, Poultrygeist features the infamous car flip stunt that was originally filmed in 1991 for Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. and has been recycled for comic effect in every Kaufman-directed film since.
The soundtrack album for Poultrygeist was released on October 3, 2006 through Troma Entertainment, featuring the film's musical segments composed by Duggie Banas, snippets of film dialogue and a selection of punk rock songs from bands including The Dwarves, Zombina and the Skeletones, Scatterbox and Potshot. All copies of the soundtrack came with a bonus DVD featuring numerous special features including trailers and the first five minutes of the movie.
Poultrygeist received its DVD release on October 28, 2008 in an "Eggs-clusive 3-Disc Collector's Edition", which featured the following bonus material:
- Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger than Chicken – a feature-length (82 minutes) behind-the-scenes documentary on the production of Poultrygeist, directed by the film's producer Andy Deemer and line producer Jason Foulke.
- Deleted scenes, including an alternate ending with Ron Jeremy.
- Audio commentary from Lloyd Kaufman and Gabriel Friedman.
- Footage of Poultrygeist's NYC premiere.
- Seven behind-the-scenes featurettes, including "Recording the Songs", "Designing the Monsters", "Filming the Meat Grinder" and "Joe Fleishaker Gets a Head Mold".
The third disc was a "Kara-Yolk-E" supplement, featuring all of the film's musical numbers with an optional karaoke track added on.
On March 31, 2009, a two-disc "Special Egg-Dition" was released, omitting the karaoke disc. On February 23, 2010, the film was issued on Blu-ray.
In an April 2010 interview with Lloyd Kaufman detailing the future remake of The Toxic Avenger, Kaufman noted that he was approached by "some people" interested in making a Poultrygeist remake and that he was "in negotiations".
DVD switch controversy
Poultrygeist made national news on January 7, 2011, when Sidney Klawitter, an eccentric from Orland, California, purchased a DVD cleaning kit from a local retailer, only to later discover the cleaner disc was a disguised copy of Poultrygeist. Klawitter was deeply offended by the film's content, noting "it was horrifying", calling it "a Triple-X rated movie". According to the owner of the store the cleaner kit was purchased from, the item had come pre-packaged from a warehouse distributor in Oakland, California. No charges were filed.
- "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- "Poultrygeist on Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- Deemer, Andy; Walker, Kiel (2005-2008). Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger than Chicken (Making-of documentary film). Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead DVD: Troma Entertainment.
- David (2008). "Poultrygeist: Director/Troma Founder Lloyd Kaufman". Bloody-Disgusting.com.
- Colby, Christine (May 2007). Murder Most Fowl (283). Fangoria.
- Lloyd Kaufman & Gabriel Friedman. Poultrygeist DVD audio commentary.
- Watch Troma's Poultrygeist Online Now for Free!
- Barter, Pavel (October 2005). Fowl Play. Hotdog Magazine.
- "Clucking Picket". New York Post. May 6, 2008.
- "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead release info". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
- Ramos, Steve (May 13, 2008). "Finger Licking Good Debut puts ‘Poultrygeist’ Atop Indie Charts". indieWire.
- Carmon, Irin (May 13, 2008). "Memo Pad". WWD Media.
- "Poultrygeist tops weekend per-screen box office". www.poultrygeistmovie.com. May 12, 2008.
- "Poultrygeist Clucks Into Theaters All Over The Midwest Starting April 17th". www.poultrygeistmovie.com. April 16, 2009.
- Gleiberman, Owen (May 22, 2008). "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead review". Entertainment Weekly.
- Lee, Nathan (May 9, 2008). "Movie Review – Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead". The New York Times.
- "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead review". New York magazine. April 17, 2009.
- O'Hehir, Andrew (May 31, 2008). "Critics' picks – Salon.com". Salon.com.
- Wells, Steven (June 2, 2008). "Poultrygeist rips a new orifice for the film industry". The Guardian.
- McCoy, Heath (October 5, 2007). "Satire beneath the splatter". Calgary Herald.
- "Top 10 Movies That Make You Go Meatless". PETA. June 12, 2008.
- Moore, Roger (February 22, 2008). "Movie Review: Poultrygeist". Orlando Sentinel.
- Rothkopf, Joshua (May 2008). "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead Movie Review". Time Out New York.
- Humanick, Rob (May 6, 2008). "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead review". Slant Magazine.
- Smith, Kyle (May 9, 2008). "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead". New York Post.
- Raffel, Lawrence P. (April 7, 2010). "He Finally Hit Puberty! 'The Toxic Avenger' Remake Confirmed". Fearnet.com.
- Saam, Kelli (January 7, 2011). "Customer Shocked To Discover X-Rated Movie On His DVD Cleaning Disc". KRCR-TV.
- Official website
- Production journals from the Making of Poultrygeist
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at the Internet Movie Database
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at AllRovi
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at Box Office Mojo
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead at Rotten Tomatoes
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead – at the Troma Entertainment movie database