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Lloyd Kaufman Serves Up Poultrygeist to a New Generation of Troma-tized Audiences

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For months, a red-band trailer for Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead has been spreading across the Internet like a chemical spill, unsuitable for the workplace, children or the weak of heart — watch at your own risk! This latest offering from Troma Entertainment, the world’s authority on gory, cheap thrills, is now finally popping up on big screens as Lloyd Kaufman, director and president of Troma Films, personally delivers his slow-roasted vision to festivals and art houses nationwide. Kaufman is confident that such films will never go out of fashion. “I think people love movies like Poultrygeist because they’re original and thought-provoking, and create some genuine emotion in the audience,” he says. “In today’s world of cookie cutter $100 million movies that have to be all things to all people, there’s an audience out there of people who want movies that come from the heart.”

This attitude — as well as knack for smashing taboos — has ensured the film company an evergreen crop of devotees. “I think Troma’s famous for being a sort of Cuisinart of genres,” says Kaufman. “Peter Jackson once suggested that we created the slapstick gore movie. In the case of Poultrygeist, we’ve added the musical singing-and-dancing element. I may be wrong about this, but Poultrygeist is probably the first chicken Indian zombie with singing and dancing. Also it’s an anti-fast food movie,” he adds. “I think that sociological satire appeals to a pretty good segment of the moviegoing population, especially young people who are not exactly happy that McDonalds is on every corner.”

His concern for the appetites of the next generation manifests in
more ways than one; after 35 years, his film company still acts as a
launchpad for new filmmakers. Kaufman points me toward fledgling
director Travis Irvine as an example, whose Coons! Night of the Bandits of the Night will be released on DVD by Troma on August 26. “I think more people my age see movies on DVD or through
the Internet than in theaters,” Irvine says. “Troma is a classic — we got
lucky in the same way that Trey Parker did with Cannibal! the Musical.”

In
Irvine’s wilderness horror spoof, the titular killer raccoons have a
lot in common with normal raccoons — everything except body
temperature. “We went to a biologist,” Irvine recalls about
pre-production. “He said, ‘You can have these guys stuffed by a
taxidermist for about $600 each, or if you can get access to dead
raccoons, then you can freeze them.'” Apparently raccoons are notorious
in the biology world; after they’re frozen, they can be thawed and
moved into position, and then re-frozen — and then they’ll hold their
pose for up to 24 hours. “Biologists play pranks on each other with
dead frozen raccoons; we used the same trick for the movie,” says
Irvine. “There were lots of run-ins with the cops, and it was always
hard to explain the big freezer full of dead raccoons.” 

Despite a clamoring fanbase, cable is still a No-Troma Zone — even if you’re Trey Parker. “A couple years ago we re-submitted Cannibal!
to Comedy Central, and they sent a letter back saying, ‘Thank you, but
it’s just not up to our standards,'” says Kaufman. “I copied the letter
and sent it to Trey. He framed it and put it up on his office wall.”
It’s not just a matter of one film or one channel, either. “We are
blacklisted, there’s no Troma on television,” says Kaufman. “Citizen Toxie sold over 200,000 DVDs, it’s never played on television. Cannibal!
has sold about the same, and has never been on TV.” He adds, “That’s a
wonderful film, by the way: It has no nudity, and a little violence,
but nothing worse than you’d see in Monty Python. We have some
incredibly under-utilized films that almost any channel could scoop up.”

Cable recognition or not, Kaufman doesn’t plan to relent anytime
soon. When he isn’t shooting, the director is often on the road
teaching “Make Your Own Damn Movie” master classes at universities and
organizing events like the Tromadance Film Festival,
which takes place at the exact same date and time as the Sundance fest
in Park City, Utah. “You can submit your movie to Tromadance, and you
don’t have to pay any fee to submit it — and if you come, you don’t
have to pay to see the movies. And there’s no VIP policy,” Kaufman
says.

In the meantime, Poultrygeist is getting plenty of rave reviews.
Whether you take your horror very seriously or prefer your
entertainments crispy-fried with a side of cheese, you’ve got to give
props to Kaufman as a missionary of sorts, attempting to save the soul
of independent cinema — one lurid, zombie-chicken musical at a time.

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