It's a Troma film! What's more, it had a limited theatrical run before going to DVD and wikipedia thinks it got the highest critical acclaim of any film in Troma's 35-year history. Personally I still prefer Tromeo and Juliet
, but this one's really good too.
That's "good" by Troma standards, mind you. It's entertaining, but it's also sleazy gross-out trash with a deep interest in bodily functions and cheap gags. I thought it was great.
The story involves a fast food restaurant (the American Chicken Bunker) that's built on an Indian burial ground. Our hero is Arbie (Jason Yachanin), who once had sex there with a girl called Wendy (Kate Graham) and now wants to win her back from her lesbian lover, Micki (Allyson Sereboff). That's the personal stuff. Then there's the satirical stuff, with activists picketing the American Chicken Bunker. "Satirical" is a big word to use, but it fits. Both the protesters and the fast food industry get the piss royally ripped out of them, although obviously the latter is a juicier target. The boss is a monster (eventually literally), the food will kill you and the employees are losers, retards or slightly scary immigrants. One of them is an inbred redneck who's sexually attracted to chicken carcasses, while another is seen to masturbate into the food.
Anyway, this is excellent. I'm not being ironic here. Troma satire goes further than the ordinary kind. It's one thing for American Chicken Bunker to keep big plastic bottles saying "meat steroids", but this film takes the extra leap of taste in showing what happens when you drink it. Then there's the the role-reversal, in which every disgusting thing that can be done to the meat in a fast food restaurant gets done by a zombie chicken to a human. "I know it's fattening, but I love the skin," is what they'll say after pulling someone's face off.
On top of that, though, the script's genuinely witty. Of course it's doing it in a juvenile gross-out way, but it is. For starters, it's surprisingly quotable. I sometimes end my reviews with a line from what I've been watching, but here I'm spoiled for choice. "We need action, before they turn the glass into lesbians!" Then there's the line about someone's detached rectum... okay, Oscar Wilde didn't write many lines like that, but my point is that this dialogue is playful.
Besides, not all the gags here are disgusting. There's dialogue-as-exposition that Tom Stoppard could have put in The Real Inspector Hound, while the America-boosting speech is subversive and Yachanin's delayed realisation of the power of alcohol is very funny indeed. (Politically incorrect even for Troma, but funny.) Look out also for the Tom Cruise gag, incidentally.
It's a horror movie, of course. You guessed from the title. Obviously it's not a serious horror movie, but the special effects work here is impressive in a Tokyo Gore Police
way. It's never realistic, unlike the less silly bits of a Yoshihiro Nishimura or Noboru Iguchi film, but they've got the same philosophy of being inventive to an insane degree with all things biological or disgusting. We're a good hour into the film before getting anything so recognisable as a zombie and even then these are weirdo chicken zombies that can never be depended on not to do outrageous stuff. A man has a rectal explosion, collapses like a rubber balloon and then climbs out of his own guts. Chickens emerge from impossible places. One character spends the second half of the film with a broom shoved so far up his backside that it's popped out at the front and he now has a three-foot wooden erection with his real penis sitting on the end of it.
Mind you, despite the title there's no specific parody of either Poltergeist
or Night of the Living Dead
. It was going to be called "Good Night and Good Cluck", but Lloyd Kaufman changed the title to avoid confusion with a George Clooney film.
There's nudity, of course. A good amount too, although none of it first-rate. There are also, more surprisingly, songs. This is a musical, with overladen lyrics. You'd be well advised to listen carefully to them, since there's a fairly full debate on the merits of fast food franchises amid the staggering and detailed obscenity. A couple of the songs perhaps go on a bit long, but one of them also has topless dancers, so that's okay.
The cast's good by Troma standards, by the way. Kate Graham's the only one who goes too far with the panto mugging, but even she's fine ninety-nine per cent of the time and I'm only complaining about the odd shot here and there. Incidentally Lloyd Kaufman acts in the movie as well as directing and I was wondering if he was Jason Yachanin's father in real life, so similar do they look. (This is important for the film.) Ron Jeremy adds to his thousand-plus screen credits so far, but in a more family-friendly way than usual. Finally Trey Parker and Matt Stone had been going to have a cameo, but their scene was cut during shooting.
In summary, excellent. For once it's striking gold with the gross, sleazy gags that Troma traditionally goes for. The satire is actually funny and they have an entertaining view of the fast food industry. There are sex-change hormones. There's sub-optimal hygiene and food preparation technique. There's a bit at the end where the characters go outside into bright sunshine, despite the fact that it had previously been the middle of the night. There are references to real fast food franchises, e.g. the characters names, but I see there are lots more I didn't notice, perhaps because I'm not American. Seriously, it's good.
"You had me from 'shit-covered mongoloid'."