When I saw Tromeo & Juliet years and years ago, I was no stranger to Troma Entertainment even though I wasn’t even old enough to buy cigarettes yet. That one’s probably my favorite of the Lloyd Kaufman films, but Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is a very close second. For their 40th Anniversary, Troma has released much of its library on YouTube, which is a bit worrisome as Kaufman has stated on numerous occasions that the world’s supposedly longest running independent studio is in financial trouble. When Kaufman announced Hollywood had bought the rights to remake The Toxic Avenger, the fans booed; Kaufman then told them without that single paycheck, Troma would shut down.
On the surface, Troma films are loud, obnoxious, gruesome—not to mention vulgar—all at the same time, but Kaufman is a surprisingly educated auteur who homages everyone from Federico Fellini to Sam Fuller. Troma is the equivalent of punk music and old Mad Magazine mashed up in movie form. Although you’re assaulted with gags involving AIDS and abortion in almost every movie they’ve made since the eighties, there are usually some unexpectedly moving scenes to be had.
Troma movies are made on insanely low budgets, so low that casting calls often warn potential actors “you’ll get no pay and have to shit in a paper bag.” Oh, and “nudity is required.” It doesn’t matter. Troma films are made for fans by fans, and the studio has produced a surprisingly long list of celebrities, much in the tradition of Roger Corman. The making of Poultrygeist, along with a ton of other Troma features, is now available on YouTube completely free: