Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

If you've never been to a strip club you might not understand the difference between a stripper and an exotic dancer. A stripper, you see, does not know how to put on a show - the only thing they can offer is nudity, and once they're nude, they just continue to offer more of that. An exotic dancer, however, is actually performing an act - their stage time is devoted to going through an entire routine that involves pole work or other feats of athleticism that they just happen to performing without any clothes on. I don't know that either one is more erotic than the other, but I do know that an exotic dancer is a lot less boring to observe.

Now, Poultrygeist definitely includes a few strippers in it's cast, but I don't bring the stripper / exotic dancer distinction because I have any sort of real insight to the random boobs this movie displays. No, I bring it up because Poultrygeist is clearly trying to be offensive and the same principle I just outlined about people who are trying to be sexy applies to people that are trying to shock. Make a movie that's crass for the sake of being crass if you want to - but if your lowbrow work of trash doesn't put on a show, if it doesn't find new and inventive ways to seem gross, it will be tedious. And being tedious is unforgiveable in this context.

Poultrygeist is a "comedy" about a fried chicken restaurant that was built on an Indian Burial Ground, and the combination of the bad juju from the displaced "Tromahawk" bodies and the millions of dead birds causes an oubtreak of murderous zombie mutant birdmen. It opens up with a desperate teenage virgin dry humping a cheerleader in a cemetery, and within minutes an undead hand has come out of the ground to manually stimulate the nerd's prostrate gland. This three way between two stereotypes and a corpse's hand is interrupted when a man with an axe appears - but he's not there to murder the horny teens, he's there to masturbate to them. I wasn't five minutes in and I already had this movie's number - it was already obvious that this movie had the sense of humor of a 14 year old internet troll.

It continued as you would expect from there: there are multiple shitting scenes, extended montages of vomiting, and a man who dies after being sodomized by a broom stick. This is a movie which is trying as hard as it can to slaughter the sacred cows of political correctness, whether that's calling people retards, or stereotyping lesbians as dumb sluts who are going through a phase, or making jokes about how Muslims are all terrorists. But you know, those jokes were lazy and inaccurate before Rush Limbaugh started making them twenty years ago, and now that they've really gotten ground into the dust by years of belligerent repetition, I've gotten pretty good at tuning them out. If this film offended me, it's only because it's kind of condescending for the filmmakers to assume that a film this predictably crass would be able to get my goat.

Let's look at it from another low-class angle: through the lens of professional wrestling. In one of his books former WWF champion Mick Foley said that he didn't understand why a wrestler would cut an interview where they called their opponent a piece of shit. To Foley, that was a lose-lose situation. If you beat a piece of shit who cares? That's not impressive. But if you lose to a piece of shit, that's really embarrassing because you just got beaten by shit. No, in Foley's opinion you needed to go out and build your opponent up first. Once the stakes had been raised and people were invested in the bout - well, then cut your opponent down to size.

A similar thing applies to art that wants to shock. You know why Last Tango in Paris was so shocking? It wasn't just because it had an anal sex scene at a time when such explicit sexual references were completely taboo - although that helped for sure. No, that film was shocking because it was Marlon Brando telling a total stranger to go get the butter. Marlon Brando had won two Oscars at that point, and he had been the catalyst for a sea change in how film actors went about their work. His towering legacy gave Last Tango something to subvert, so when it showed him doing something subversive, people responded.

In contrast, what is Poultrygeist subverting? Nothing, really, since it's treading such well trod ground. All the jokes about how Native Americans are drunkards, or scenes like the one where a teenager jerks off into the food - those topics have all been pretty well razed at this point and I can't imagine anyone squeezing any extra juice out of them. I wasn't sitting in my seat with my mouth agape at all the outrageousness I was seeing - I was sitting there checking off squares on an imaginary bingo card. "Oh, unmotivated gay bashing -check!"

There's a reason why I lumped this movie in with strippers and pro wrestlers: it's artificial and it's crass, but I understand why it exists. There's a certain type of person who enjoys this sort of mindlessly tacky movie precisely because it is tacky, precisely because it's the sort of thing that people tell them they shouldn't like. Those people aren't my people, but they still deserve to have their own little corner of the culture to play around in. American cinema doesn't have to all be sensible, mature dramas aimed at middlebrow audiences; there's enough room for everyone, even people that like low-class crapfests. But just because I understand why these movies exist doesn't mean I'm going to excuse all of their excesses. Strip clubs, pro wrestling matches, films like Poultrygeist - all of them have a certain novelty when you first engage with them, but once you've been around the block a few times their approach to provocation becomes very predictable, and once you see the pattern in their attack, then they're boring. And in this context, where the whole raison d'etre is to get a rise out of people, being boring is the worst sin imaginable.

Winner: The Cat

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead on IMDB