Lloyd Kaufman, the cult filmmaker and founder of Troma Entertainment, whose latest horror work was ignored by the Academy Awards yet again, is none too pleased with the nominees representing American cinema’s best and brightest of 2007. I’m trying to ask him a few questions about the film Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (which opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas 14 for an exclusive one-week run months before it opens in NYC and L.A.), but when Kaufman has something on his mind, it’s best to let him finish.
“Is there a more overrated piece of trash than No Country for Old Men?” Kaufman questioned. “A guy in a children’s wig running around with a vacuum cleaner? Poultrygeist has infinitely more character development, it’s more entertaining and it has more social significance.
“And Juno, what kind of a fake indie flick is that? And Atonement? The only message there is that war heroes are child molesters. How did they manage to make child-molesting boring? That’s brilliant.
“And There Will Be Blood? It’s a Daniel Day-Lewis jerk-off movie. How about the scene when he beats the preacher with a bowling pin? It rips off Kingpin! Oooh, an evil oilman, how original! How about an evil biofuels man? Science magazine has reports from two different sets of scientists that biofuels lead to more global warming and damage to the Amazon and our rainforests than Exxon will ever do.”
Kaufman will never win points with the Hollywood establishment with these kinds of comments, which is fine with him. He’s shunned mainstream filmmaking for the past 28 years. The 62-year-old writer, director, producer and sometimes actor, responsible for such transcendent midnight classics as The Toxic Avenger (1985) and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1991), is content with the full autonomy he enjoys at Troma, even if staying afloat financially is a constant struggle. It doesn’t stop him from creating movies that continually push the limits of taste and decency, while offering a stark assessment of the nation’s sociopolitical ills.
POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD
7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Feb 22 - 28, 2008
Premiere Cinemas 14, Orlando Fashion Square
Poultrygeist, Kaufman’s first narrative feature since 2000’s Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, is the demented splatter-
comedy-musical cousin to Fast Food Nation, taking similar aim at the poisonous dangers of the fast-food industry and reprimanding the hypocrisy of those whom Kaufman dubs “limousine liberals.” The plot: When a military-themed fried-chicken chain plants a restaurant on a sacred Indian burial ground, the ghosts of the dead Native Americans merge with the mutating fowl in the kitchen to form, you guessed it, chicken zombies. It’s up to our heroes, groaningly named Arbie and Wendy, to save the day and reconcile their romance. They were lovebirds before college, until Wendy became a lipstick-lesbian liberal.
Cue bucketloads of gratuitous breasts (not of the chicken variety) and countless nauseatingly funny, Grand Guignol set pieces that I couldn’t begin to describe, lest they ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say that butt plugs, bestiality and mop-handle penises play a major role.
What’s most striking about the film are the musical numbers. While Kaufman is quick to note that his movie does not follow the musical format – it’s inspired more by the use of songs in Takashi Miike’s insane The Happiness of the Katakuris – the tunes are, as in his buddy Trey Parker’s films, rooted in classic Broadway style.
Still, Kaufman likens Poultrygeist to a more recent film, and an Oscar winner at that.
“We’re living in an age of remakes,” Kaufman says. “And Poultrygeist is actually a shot-for-shot remake of another gore/slapstick comedy called Schindler’s List. Except we substituted concentration camps with concentration coops. And of course fast-food restaurants are more hideous than Auschwitz. Instead of Jews we have chicken Indian zombies. Instead of that guy – what’s his name? Liam Neeson? – we have a much better actor, Sir Ron Jeremy.”
If only it were always so easy to tell when Kaufman was joking. He told me, with a straight face, that the budget for Poultrygeist was $33 million. The Internet Movie Database and several other sources report $500,000 as the max figure. Kaufman also said of his competent leading actors Jason Yachanin and Kate Graham, who make their debuts in Poultrygeist, “They’ll never work again. I killed them, ate their flesh and puked them into the fast-food mix.”
But Kaufman does know when to put the jokes aside. As recently elected chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, he is continuing his efforts to fight industry consolidation and preserve net neutrality – which includes lobbying in Washington, D.C. With his successful book-turned-DVD-box-set Make Your Own Damn Movie!, Kaufman also fosters independent filmmaking whenever he can, which includes teaching a master class this week at Full Sail Real World Education.
Remaining one of the true indie filmmakers in a time when most “independent” titles we see are distributed through a subsidiary of a major studio, Kaufman should be treasured for his own perseverance as well as for sticking up for the little guy, even if you don’t agree with his opinions or like his movies.
Not that he’s completely against making a movie for the man if the stars align.
“It would have to be for a shitload of money,” Kaufman says. “I mean, I’d give you a blow job for a shitload of money. We get calls like once a week from people wanting to remake The Toxic Avenger. I would give it to Eli Roth for free, but Brett Ratner? It would have to be a shitload of money.”
(Kaufman introduces the Friday-Sunday screenings of his film, and he’ll make an appearance at Coliseum of Comics in Orlando Fashion Square from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.)[email protected]