Poultrygeist follows a group of consumers and ordinary citizens who are trapped inside a New Jersey fried chicken fast food restaurant – the American Chicken Bunker – which is being attacked by a chicken-possessed zombie demonic alien spirit because the building is erected on top of a sacred Native American burial ground. The protagonist is Arbie (Jason Yachanin), an ACB employee trying to win back the heart of his ex-girlfriend Wendy (Kate Graham), an activist protesting against the restaurant, who has left Arbie for another woman.
High school sweethearts Arbie and Wendy meet the day before Wendy's departure to college to consummate their relationship in the Tromahawk Indigenous peoples of the Americas burial ground, promising to each other that no matter what happens, they will always stay faithful to each other. She is grossed out after finding a man jacking off to their lovemaking, but he's later killed by zombie hands spouting from the ground which tear through his system and out of his mouth, grabbing Arbie's underwear that he was masturbating with. One college semester later, when Arbie returns to the spot of his one and only sexual encounter, he is shocked to discover two unsettling realities: not only has the burial ground been bulldozed and replaced by an American Chicken Bunker, a mega-conglomerate fast food franchise, but college has turned his dear Wendy into a "leftist, lipstick lesbo liberal", protesting the construction of the fried chicken menace with her activist girlfriend Micki (Allyson Sereboff).
Disillusioned and out for revenge, Arbie decides to get a job at the American Chicken Bunker. Under the supervision of paranoid manager Denny, Arbie is thrust into the monotony of minimum wage with a variety of colorful co-workers: the effeminate Mexican Paco Bell (Khalid Rivera), the animal-loving redneck Carl Jr. (Caleb Emerson), the burqa-clad Muslim Hummus (Rose Ghavami) and a mysterious 60-year-old man in the restaurant's basement who has worked as the restaurant's costumed mascot all his life and has a virtually identical background to Arbie.
However, strange things are afoot at the American Chicken Bunker. While grinding meat, Paco is pushed into the meat grinder by an uncooked chicken. General Lee Roy decides not to do anything, and lets Paco get turned into sloppy jose. Arbie begins to unravel a sinister plot involving the spirits of disenfranchised Native Americans and the billions of slaughtered chickens sent to the "concentration coops" who plan on exacting their revenge in the most gruesome ways possible, after being told so by Paco (who is reanimated as a sloppy jose). Carl Jr, who is having intercourse with an uncooked chicken in the storage room, fights the uncooked chicken when it starts biting his penis. Hummus manages to kill the uncooked chicken by shoving a broom up Carl's backside, though it tears off his penis. General Lee Roy tells them not to take him to a hospital. He instead tells them to give the chicken (which has been sprayed with blood and green ichor) to the protester outside. Carl Jr. is killed when Arbie gives him alcohol to drink. After Mickie tells the protesters that the chicken tastes good, the protesters go inside the restaurant to eat chicken. Wendy finds out that Mickie has been paid by General Lee Roy to say that the chicken tastes good; she breaks up with Mickie and returns to Arbie. General Lee Roy gets diarrhea after being force-fed eating a piece of chicken. General Lee Roy lays an egg in the bathroom and is attacked by the chicken that hatches from the egg. He rips off the chicken's head with his teeth and is sprayed with green blood. He becomes a giant egg and hatches into a chicken zombie. He then decapitates Denny (who is telling a story about the first time he encountered a chicken).
The customers, workers, and protesters then all turn into zombie chickens. The mascot (Lloyd Kaufman) shoots all the chicken zombies inside with an M-16 machine gun. The General Lee Roy zombie returns, but is shot down by the mascot. As the old man approaches the General, he gets his nose ripped off by a now zombie chicken Denny. Arbie then shoots and kills Denny. Wendy turns the open/closed sign to "closed", which keeps the chicken zombies at bay. The mascot, who is still alive, tells Arbie that he is his future self. He then turns into a chicken zombie. Mickie, who attempts to escape, is turned into a zombie chicken. She and the Mascot chicken zombie chase after Arbie and Wendy. Hummus drinks meat steroid in an attempt to save them and accidentally kills herself in the process. Arbie and Wendy realize that beer kills the chicken zombies and then kill the Mickie and mascot zombie. They run out of beer and are saved by Hummus (who is still alive, despite having exploded a few minutes earlier). They find a child hiding in the storage room and are attacked once again by the General Lee Roy chicken. It is then killed by the Paco sandwich. Hummus is then shown to have C-4 strapped to her body and tells them that she will sacrifice herself. Wendy, Arbie, and the little girl escape as the building explodes. While being driven home in a car, the child experiences stomach cramps after drinking a soda and eventually starts clucking like a chicken thus laying an egg, frightening her, Arbie, and Wendy. The guys eventually lose control and crash, resulting in the car back-flipping before landing on the ground and exploding, thus killing all inside.
In a post-credits scene, the zombified chickens are shown dancing as a reprise of the Poultrygeist theme song plays.Jason Yachanin as Arbie, the film's dimwitted protagonist who joins the American Chicken Bunker in an act of spite against his ex-girlfriend, though he is still deeply in love with her.
Kate Graham as Wendy, Arbie's bisexual ex-girlfriend reluctantly participating in a protest rally against the ACB.
Allyson Sereboff as Micki, Wendy's girlfriend who leads the protest. She is actually one of Gen. Lee Roy's accomplices who is not only faking her vegetarianism but also her lesbianism.
Robin Watkins as Gen. Lee Roy, the antagonistic villainous founder of the American Chicken Bunker, modeled after Colonel Sanders. He apparently has a diaper fetish.
Joshua Olatunde as Denny, the paranoid manager of American Chicken Bunker.
Rose Ghavami as Hummus, a Burqa-wearing Muslim line cook.
Caleb Emerson as Carl Jr, a redneck fry cook with a sexual fetish for uncooked chicken carcasses.
Lloyd Kaufman as Old Arbie, Arbie's future self.
Khalid Rivera as Paco Bell, a gay Mexican ACB employee.
Joe Fleishaker as Jared (credited as "Mega Herz"), a beloved national spokesman for a submarine sandwich diet.
Brian Cheverie as Father O'Houlihan, an Irish priest patron of the ACB who helps fight against the zombies.
Ron Jeremy as Crazy Ron, a local eccentric who warns the ACB employees that they're all "doomed". He is a parody of Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th.
Debbie Rochon as Actress Hit with Beer.
Keith White Jr. as Citizen of Tromaville/Chicken Zombie
Ruth Phelps as Red Lobster
Taking six years from script to screen, Poultrygeist was officially released on DVD in 2008 following a limited theatrical run.
Poultrygeist first began as a spec script of the same title submitted to Troma Entertainment by Daniel Bova around 2002. After a number of re-writes at the hands of several Troma employees, the script reached a final draft in 2004, completed by long-time Troma editor Gabriel Friedman. Then given the title Poultrygeist: Attack of the Chicken Zombies, Troma heavily promoted the film in the mid-2000s in an attempt to gain funding, though ultimately failed to secure adequate financing.
The budget for Poultrygeist was roughly around $500,000, a typical budget for a Troma film. A large part of the film's financing came out-of-pocket from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, while Kaufman and his wife, Patricia Swinney Kaufman, dipped into their personal retirement savings to help fund the film.
Much of Poultrygeist's crew was made up entirely of volunteers who had answered advertisements posted by Troma on such websites as Craigslist and horror-based message boards looking for available crew members. According to Fangoria, hundreds of people applied, and volunteers traveled from as far as Sweden, Germany, Australia and numerous parts of the United States to work on the film, serving in various crew positions or as production assistants. Duggie Banas, who composed the movie's musical numbers, became attached to the film after answering an online ad looking for composers who'd be willing to work on a film for free. Many of the props and masks featured in the film were donations from special effects studios from around the world.
Shot on 35 mm film by long-time Troma cinematographer Brendan C. Flynt, principal photography for Poultrygeist took place during the summer of 2005 at an abandoned McDonald's in the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. Over 80 crew members and 300 unpaid extras worked on the film. A nearby abandoned church was rented out by Troma, where over 70 cast and crew members resided for the duration of the shoot, despite only housing one working bathroom.
As chronicled in Poultrygeist's making-of documentary Poultry in Motion: Truth Is Stranger Than Chicken, the production was plagued with numerous problems, including malfunctioning special effects, delayed and over-scheduled filming, pay disputes with the actors and even the restaurant set being prematurely deconstructed on the last day of shooting. Despite the production hardships, Poultrygeist managed to successfully complete its principal photography by August 2005.
Press coverage of Poultrygeist began even in the earliest stages of the film's production. British publication Hotdog Magazine covered the film in 2005 while filming was still in progress, while Ain't It Cool News, Attack of the Show and Fangoria reported on the film throughout the stages of its post-production, with the latter giving Poultrygeist a full four-page feature in mid-2007.
Poultrygeist received some media attention when Troma picketed the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival held at Manhattan's Village East Cinema, where Poultrygeist's premiere was to be held the following month. Tribeca, who was renting out the venue for the festival, forced the theater to stop playing the film's trailers and remove its posters. In response, a number of Troma employees, including one in a chicken costume, stood outside the Village East Cinema during the days of the festival, brandishing posters, sandwich boards and giveaways in promotion of the film.
Poultrygeist grossed $22,623. The film made its first premiere at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film on April 14, 2007, and spent the remainder of 2007 playing international engagements in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Spain, and film festivals including the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival and the Calgary International Film Festival. The film began playing throughout the United States in early 2008, making its official cast and crew-attended premiere in New York City on May 9, 2008.
Poultrygeist played in New York through July 3, followed by two-week long run at the Laemmle Sunset in Los Angeles on June 14.
The film continued to make sporadic theatrical engagements throughout the United States up to and even after its official DVD release. On April 17, 2009, Poultrygeist had a wide release in the Midwest, opening simultaneously in 11 theaters in eight states, including two screens each in Wisconsin and Indiana.
The film has a certified "fresh" rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the general critical consensus being that it "may be relentlessly tasteless and juvenile, but it's also a lively slice of schlocky fun".
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a B+ rating, calling it "an exploitation movie with soul" and noting "it's genuine sick fun, and there isn't a boring moment in it". Nathan Lee of The New York Times spoke of the film as being "as perfect as a film predicated on the joys of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea can be", describing it as "liberating" in a "lowbrow way".
On the negative end of the critical spectrum, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel felt the film "wears out its joke, like all Troma films, long before that last 50-gallon keg of fake blood is tapped...it's a 40-minute short struggling to escape a 103-minute feature", giving it a rating of two out of five stars. Time Out New York gave the film two out of six stars, claiming its "half-funny" "trashiness" only appeals to horror fans, while Slant Magazine was considerably harsher, rating the film half a star out of four, calling it "superficially turgid" and that its "strangely impressive originality doesn't even close to compensating for its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink midnight-movie awfulness". The New York Post, however, while criticizing the film's poor taste, acting and pacing, described the satire as "wicked" and predicted that its flaws would not stop it from becoming an "underground cult hit".
In contrast to Kaufman's previous films, Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, which heavily referenced and relied on the audience's familiarity of Troma films, Poultrygeist is only loosely connected with the "Tromaverse" yet makes numerous background references to their previous films. Arbie can be seen wearing an "I Love the Monster Hero" shirt from The Toxic Avenger in an early scene, posters of Tromeo and Juliet and When Nature Calls adorn the walls of Wendy's bedroom, and DVD copies of Tales from the Crapper can be seen stuffed in a dumpster. Most notably, Poultrygeist features the infamous car flip stunt that was originally filmed in 1991 for Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. and has been recycled for comic effect in every Kaufman-directed film since.
The soundtrack album for Poultrygeist was released on October 3, 2006, through Troma Entertainment, featuring the film's musical segments composed by Duggie Banas, snippets of film dialogue and a selection of punk rock songs from bands including The Dwarves, Zombina and the Skeletones, Scatterbox and Potshot. All copies of the soundtrack came with a bonus DVD featuring numerous special features including trailers and the first five minutes of the movie.
Poultrygeist received its DVD release on October 28, 2008, in an "Eggs-clusive 3-Disc Collector's Edition", which featured the following bonus material:Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger than Chicken – a feature-length (82 minutes) behind-the-scenes documentary on the production of Poultrygeist, directed by the film's producer Andy Deemer and line producer Jason Foulke.
Deleted scenes, including an alternate ending with Ron Jeremy.
Audio commentary from Lloyd Kaufman and Gabriel Friedman.
Footage of Poultrygeist's NYC premiere.
Seven behind-the-scenes featurettes, including "Recording the Songs", "Designing the Monsters", "Filming the Meat Grinder" and "Joe Fleishaker Gets a Head Mold".
The third disc was a "Kara-Yolk-E" supplement, featuring all of the film's musical numbers with an optional karaoke track added on.
On March 31, 2009, a two-disc "Special Egg-Dition" was released, omitting the karaoke disc. On February 23, 2010, the film was issued on Blu-ray.
Poultrygeist made national news on January 7, 2011, when Sidney Klawitter from Orland, California, purchased a DVD cleaning kit from a local retailer, only to later discover the cleaner disc was a disguised copy of the film Poultrygeist. Klawitter was deeply offended by the film's content, noting "it was horrifying", calling it "a Triple-X rated movie". According to the owner of the store the cleaner kit was purchased from, the item had come pre-packaged from a warehouse distributor in Oakland, California. No charges were filed.