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Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Troma // Unrated // February 23, 2010 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 21, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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"Evil spirits...?! I'll believe in the supernatural when I see it, Talking Sandwich. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to serve the priest a penis-free Sloppy José."

Before the counter's even ticked up to the four minute mark, we're lookin' at a sex scene in a graveyard, a zombie buttplug, a masturbating axe murderer, a retard joke, a gag about the blind, panty sniffing, zombified anal fisting, and complete disembowelment. So...yeah. Kinda goes without saying that we're talkin' about a Troma flick here.

The good! Tromaville now has its very own American Chicken Bunker franchise. The bad! They, um, built it on an ancient Indian burial ground. The General's recipe used to just have two herbs in it, but now it has a new secret ingredient: ancient spirits pissed off about the whole sacred land being desecrated thing, and they're baked into every delicious bite! Half the staff has been hacked into bloody, Fun Size chunks, and I've kind of lost count of how many hundreds of flesh-eating zombie-chicken-people are skulking around outside. It's up to just a few plucky survivors -- Arbie (Jason Yachanin), Wendy (Kate Graham), chicken magnate General Lee Roy (Robin Watkins), the, um, other Arbie (Lloyd Kaufman), and burka-burka Humus (Rose Ghavami) -- to keep the chicken dead from clucking over the rest of civilization as we know it. Or something.

What better way for Troma to ring in their first Blu-ray release than with geysers of vomit, explosive diarrhea, a white supremacist fast food overlord, a small army of lesbians, half-defrosted chicken boning, a couple hundred fart jokes, and who knows how many thousands of 'cock' puns? Oh, and just when you think you've nailed down the formula for a Troma flick, Poultrygeist whips out a song and dance number because -- that's right! -- it decides every once in a while that it's a musical too (and a ridiculously catchy one, believe it or not). I grew up devouring everything I could track
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down with the Troma logo on the cover, and Poultrygeist crams everything about the movies that warped me so much in high school into the space of an hour and a half and change: all the sex and shameless nudity, barrel drums of splatter being sloshed around, and a completely demented sense of humor.

Sometimes the gags are right up front, such as a frozen chicken chomping off the dick of the redneck who was screwing its head-hole, and then a burqa-clad badass skewers the poor bastard with a mop that plows clean through his ass and out the other end. A bunch of other jokes are lurking in the background, like that box marked "Vietnamese Children" in the storeroom. In one musical number, Lloyd Kaufman riffs on Bob Dylan with his balls hanging out, and I'm trying to remember if this is before or after the talking Sloppy Joe sandwich. I'm kinda surprised by just how witty Poultrygeist is too. I mean, all of Troma's usual fart and shit jokes are packed in here, yeah, but there's a lot of genuinely clever humor too, and Poultrygeist kept this lapsed Tromite cracking up a lot more than I ever would've guessed. It also sports what might be my favorite Jaws spoof this side of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Poultrygeist has a pace that screams ahead the entire time, but the movie really gets batshit-unhinged once its last half hour rolls around. Not only is there pretty much wall-to-wall decapitation, dismemberment, and cannibalism, but the kills are clearly the brainchild of a cacklingly depraved imagination. You'll get zombified-chicken mud wrestling in one shot, and then the camera will cut over to some poor bastard's balls being tossed in the deep fryer or a broad's head being shoved through a deli slicer. I'm impressed by how great the effects wind up looking, really, especially considering that most of 'em were put together by fans working for free. Yup, these fanatics from every corner of the world flew to New York on their own dime, piled together in an abandoned church in the middle of gangland, and put together the sets, costumes, and effects without collecting a cent. Kinda shoves "by fans, for fans" into a whole new light, and as miserable as the movie apparently was to work on, that sort of passion and dedication still really shines through. Poultrygeist scored Troma by far its biggest success with critics in more than three decades at the whole microbudget schlock-cinema thing, so maybe they're onto something by letting their fans do so much of the heavy lifting. 'Course, it doesn't hurt that the movie has a pretty great script, the most talented cast Troma's probably ever assembled, and a soundtrack teeming with so many infectiously hooky songs too. Thank you, Troma, for making us laugh about love...again.

I guess
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the drumroll kicks off somewhere around here, right? This is Troma's first stab at Blu-ray, after all, and anyone slogging through this whole review probably just wants to know what one of their flicks looks like in high-def. The answer's...yeah, pretty much what you'd expect. To rattle off all the technical stuff first, though, Poultrygeist is belted out here at 1080p24 and sports an AVC encode. I guess the movie made the rounds theatrically at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and the mattes have been opened up a bit to 1.78:1 here. Troma didn't spring for a BD-50 disc, but the many, many hours of extras are in standard-def and have all been encoded with AVC too, so it all still fits pretty comfortably on a single layer Blu-ray disc.

The presentation itself, though...? Yeah, it's pretty upconvert-y. Poultrygeist doesn't lob out the sort of grain structure or fine detail you'd waltz in expecting from even the lowest-rent 35mm flick. The palette doesn't have that extra kick that Blu-ray usually serves up either. I don't have the DVD handy to do a direct comparison, but I'd throw down a few bucks to bet that there's not any meaningful difference between 'em. (If there is, that probably says more about the mastering of the DVD than anything about this Blu-ray disc...) For what it's worth, though, Poultrygeist still looks okay. Sure, the chintzy film stock makes it look more like the movie was shot in 1989 or something, and the transfer is really dusty and speckled, but it's still more detailed and better defined than any of the dozens of other Troma DVDs I have on the shelf. A lot of the shots near the end look pretty great, even, showing off the buckets of splatter and impressively elaborate make-up effects once the climax starts to roll around.

I was kinda hoping that Troma's first high definition release would be...y'know, in high definition. I mean, if Poultrygeist isn't a standard-def master upconverted to HD, it's somewhere over in the same zip code. It's DVD quality or close enough to it, yeah, but while that's a drag, at least it'd be a pretty good looking DVD by Troma standards, and that's gotta count for something, right?

Troma didn't shell out for a lossless soundtrack or anything this time around. Nope, Poultrygeist rehashes the same Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps) track from the DVD, and again, it's pretty much what you'd expect. Meaty? Full-bodied? Every last element of the mix rendered with startling distinctness and clarity? Gleaming with crystalline highs and foundation-rattling bass? No, not so much. There's a lot of really great music on the soundtrack -- the actual musical numbers as well as a bunch of licensed songs -- but some of them kinda limp along in the mix. The recording of the dialogue's all over the map too, and one scene in particular is drenched in hiss. You can still make out what everyone's saying, so you can chalk that up as a win. C'mon, it's Troma.

Other than the commentary tracks, the bullet points for the audio pretty much begin and end right subs, no dubs.

  • Intro! (5 min.; HD): Since Troma's diving
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    headfirst into Blu-rayBrown-Ray with Poultrygeist, Lloyd Kaufman rings in this epochal event with a high-def intro. "Michael Herz" and a random Tromette pop up to help Uncle Lloyd show off the differences between DVD and high-def.

  • Poultry in Motion (82 min.; SD): Yup, Poultrygeist is lugging around a feature-length making-of documentary. I really can't even rattle off the highlights since every last second of it is amazing. I'm floored by how honest the whole thing is...Poultry in Motion definitely doesn't glamorize life on a Troma flick. Being mocked and berated by the crew, Lloyd Kaufman screaming insults at everyone in earshot, unpaid/underpaid actors standing around for hours upon hours upon hours at a time in miserable makeup without any glimmer of hope making it in front of the camera, tensions running so high that a fight breaks out at one point...not to mention that everything that could possibly go wrong does. Props and special effects keel over, actors blow their cues and don't bother to learn their lines, the D.P. leads a revolt over a late night shoot with no hot food, a torrential downpour threatens to short out the fusebox they've rigged up in a crumbling McDonald's, the schedule's pretty much chucked out the driver's side window, and Lloyd and the crew bicker endlessly over completely inconsequential things. Nope, Fitzcarraldo has nothin' on Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.

    ...but hey! It's not all gloom and doom. The enthusiasm of the fans who trotted from one end of the globe to the other just to be a part of Poultrygeist is infectious, for one. There's also a zombie that accidentally lights his finger on fire, Lloyd's balls spilling out from under his skirt in a dance number, blasting the undead with machine guns, and 30 gallons of fake blood being splattered around day in and day out. Poultry in Motion also makes it clear how quickly the production could shuffle its feet when it needed to, including rewriting the ending to fit a botched special effect. It's a straight-up amazing documentary and easily ranks as one of the most exceptional extras on any of the (yikes!) thousand or so DVDs and Blu-ray discs I've reviewed over the years.

  • Audio Commentaries: Director Lloyd Kaufman and producer/co-writer Gabriel Friedman swoop in front of the mic for the first commentary track, and pretty much all of it's gold: an homage to The Birds that no one, anywhere, has managed to pick up on, which of their locations would or wouldn't allow nudity (turns out...? no problem in a church), a fake ring trashing Rose Ghavami's nose, highlighting the only couple of shots with CG tweaking, and what it's like to set up shop in a neighborhood with a liquor store that doubles as a wig shop. Another running theme is spelling out just how much of a prick D.P. Brendan Flynt really is.

    Exclusive to this Blu-ray release is a shiny new commentary, this time with stars Jason Yachanin and Kate Graham. A bunch of the stories they tell are already covered in the 18,000 other extras on the disc, but they're so personable and likeable that I found this track worth a spin anyway. Jason does most of the talking, running through everything from fear of shrinkage in the opening sex scene to not actually munching on a single piece of chicken during Poultrygeist. They do a pretty great job fleshing out what it's like to work in the trenches of a Troma flick, down to their feet sticking to dried blood on the floor and the makeup effects guys paying for hotel rooms so the cast could finally take a hot shower. Jason also goes through the whole
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    "where are they now...?" routine if you're wondering what most of these guys have been up to over the past few years, and Kate explains why she didn't want to fire a machine gun or have zombie-chicken-spooge blasted all over her.

  • Chicken Ass (4 min.; SD): This short by Joe Weaver livens things up by having chickens claw their way out of people's asses instead of being lodged inside 'em. Think a poultry-fried spin on Mad Cow Disease.

  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; SD): Oh, how I miss you, not-here "Play All" button. Four extra scenes have been piled on here, including a movie-centric rant by Ron Jeremy that originally closed the whole thing out, Lloyd Kaufman having his daughter slaughtered in a soda machine, and the survivors stumbling onto a leftover surprise by Elder-Arbie. There's also a whole new musical number: Humus' "S-U-I-C-I-D-E", a riff on Hava Nagila. Poultrygeist is better off without most of 'em, although that sangre-spewing soda gag really is pretty great...

  • Blow Me...Away: Shooting the ACB Explosion Sequence (15 min.; SD): Following home video footage from Lloyd and company's road trip, we get an extended look at the two miniatures of the American Chicken Bunker along with footage of both of 'em being blown to holy hell. I'm not really sure why this featurette is hidden under the "Cellu-Lloyd Closet" along with "Make Your Own Damn Sound Design" and a random shameless plug, is.

  • Make Your Own Damn Sound Design (23 min.; SD): So...yeah, for pretty much the entire runtime of this featurette, three grown men -- and, briefly, a ridiculously cute girl! -- cluck zombie chicken noises into a microphone in a semi-ritzy New York recording studio. There's also a rant about how Flintstones-ish the original sound design was, Lloyd pulling back the curtain on the secrets behind Troma's farts, and some chatter about putting the final mix together.

  • Joe Fleishaker Gets a Head Mold (8 min.; SD): Truth in advertising, "Joe Fleishaker Gets a Head Mold" follows every step of Joe Fleishaker getting a...y'know, head mold. It's kinda funny how modest the guy can be considering what Troma subjects him to over and over again, preferring to have his shirt sliced apart rather than just take it off for the casting.

  • Chewing the Fat with Joe Fleishaker (3 min.; SD): Turns out that Fat Joe is pretty much immobile these days, and he shows off how the miracle of Velcro empowers him to stay seated in a La-Z-Boy in his apartment all day. Seriously, everything from a gaggle of remote controls to a Sudoko game are Velcroed to the guy's wall for easy access. Now I'm kind of wishing that I'd thought of that.

  • The Rooftop Reshoot (6 min.; SD): Since the not-so-great atmosphere on the set sent Debbie Rochon packing, Lloyd grabbed her and a few other mock-protestors a year later to tack on another quick gag...well, and some more boobs, but this being Troma and all, I probably don't have to spell that out.

  • Filming the Meatgrinder (4 min.; SD): Another in a series of "yup, it's exactly what the title says it is" clips, this short featurette takes a couple of passes of Paco Bell being fed into an oversized meat grinder -- with Lloyd screaming
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    for more guts the whole time -- along with buckets of splatter being sloshed around to help sell the kill.

  • Recording the Songs (6 min.; SD): As Gabe Friedman tries to gut a full half-hour out of the script, Lloyd, Jason, Kate, and Rose hop into the recording booth to lay down a few tracks. I...kinda get the feeling this featurette's supposed to be longer than it is since it cuts off really abruptly.

  • Designing the Monsters (8 min.; SD): Actually, this one's not about designing any monsters so much as a few of the effects guys trying desperately to tear the Humus-Hulk suit off the mold.

  • Poultrygeist NYC Premiere (10 min.; SD): A big chunk of this featurette is spent chatting up the cast and crew at Poultrygeist's premiere, and it's kind of funny how few of 'em seem to have known anything at all about Troma before starring in the flick. There's also a look at Lloyd's intro to the film as well as a quick Q&A.

  • Music Videos (5 min.; SD): Poultrygeist piles on two music videos, including a Beatles spoof that's definitely by Calamari Safari and not New Found Glory. There's also another title track by Count Smokula, the Radioactive Chicken Heads! My unlistenable "band" in college was friends with those guys, like, ten years ago.

  • Lovely Scenes from Bergman's The Virgin Spring (2 min.; SD): Oh! Wait. It's a promo from back when Poultrygeist was making the rounds theatrically.

  • Trailer (3 min.; SD): Wait, we're in the home stretch now...

  • Make Your Own Damn Omelette (1 min.; SD): 'Sjust an "as seen on TV!" plug for Lloyd's Make Your Own Damn Movie boxed set.

  • Tromatic Extras (8 min.; SD): Along with the usual Radiation March, Troma trots out ancient standard-def trailers for The Hanging Woman, The Toxic Avenger, and Combat Shock.
One annoying thing about the authoring of this Blu-ray disc is that after digging into an extra, Poultrygeist dumps me back to the main menu. If I'm on the second page of extras and am thumbing through the deleted scenes, I have to choose one snippet of footage, then go back to 'Special Features', click on page two, and open up the 'Deleted Scenes' submenu again. Kind of a pain. Troma, don't do this anymore. kthxbye.

All the press and stuff shows Poultrygeist as being packaged in a toxic green case, but my review copy shipped in the standard issue Blu-ray blue. No clue how the retail copies'll shake out, so fling me an email and let me know.

The Final Word
Troma's first stab at Blu-ray is pretty much the Poultrygeist DVD on a newer, shinier disc. Unless you're a completist or really want to tear into those couple of new extras, there's not much here that screams out for an upgrade. On the other hand, if you haven't picked up Poultrygeist on DVD already, you might as well bite. This is one of the best flicks ever churned out under the Troma banner, with all the boobs, shit, and splatter you'd expect out of Uncle Lloyd, and Poultrygeist sports a helluva sense of humor too. As I'm clacking away at my keyboard, at least, this Blu-ray disc is also six bucks cheaper on Amazon than the two-disc DVD set, and it's so fat-packed with extras that you can kill an entire Saturday doing absolutely nothing but tearing into Poultrygeist.

If you already have Poultrygeist on DVD...? Pass. Fishing around for demo material for your overpriced home theater rig...? Nah. This Blu-ray disc is pretty much essential viewing for lapsed Troma fanatics, though, and if you grew up with flicks like Class of Nuke 'Em High, you kinda desperately need to give Poultrygeist a spin too.

Why Not? A Couple More Screengrabs
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