Directed by Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Brandon Bassham, William Shakespeare
Starring Lloyd Kaufman, Debbie Rochon, Erin Patrick Miller, Kate McGarrigle
Much like George Lucas, Troma founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz just wanted to make movies for twelve year-old boys. Most likely, your secret love affair with Toxie and Terror Firmer began around that age, then dissipated and turned to general disdain in adulthood. Troma Entertainment may not be any wiser now, but they’re definitely a lot older – and that deserves some respect.
How many studio executives have been fired over 45 years of Hollywood? Not Lloyd. He’s still going and he’s taking you and his usual cohorts with him. Troma has…interpreted…Shakespeare before with the transgressive classic Tromeo and Juliet and many thought they may be done with the Bard for good. Their latest, Shakespeare’s Shitstorm, just had a world premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival and according to Troma’s version of the famed playwright, it’s the best version of The Tempest ever conceived.
There’s a little bit of poetry to the fact that after such a storied history in independent shock cinema, Kaufman and his misfit theatre troupe are taking on Shakespeare’s final stage play in an unfaithful adaptation of one of the playwrights most fantastical works. In the bowels of a party line cruise ship, the members of a debaucherous organization called Safespacia give each other permission to do anything and everything without judgment. Before being shipwrecked from a literal shitstorm that can best be described as an X-rated Sharknado, everyone on board is already so deprived that even Dionysius himself would object before jumping ship in disgust.
With musical numbers led by the demented inventor, Prospero (Kaufman), we learn he’s used large amounts of whale laxative to ensure that leaders of the evil corporation Avon Bard would wash up on the Jersey Shore after the ship goes down. Prospero’s prostitute spies led by a throat-mic’d Ariel (Amanda Flowers) lure the poop covered survivors to the club “Prospero’s Retreat” so the mad scientist can inflict his new dangerous designer drug and enact his revenge. The only problem is Prospero’s daughter Miranda (Kate McGarrigle) starts to fall for Ferdinand (Erin Miller), the son of his worst enemy. Let the gross-out mayhem ensue!
Filled with perverted creatures from the Island of Dr. Kaufman that range from an ArmaDildo to a “cock with a cock,” things really get over-the-top weird once the crap starts to dry from the titular opening maelstrom. Once the effects of Prospero’s deadly drug start to torture and transform the partygoers, the larger than normal budget for a Troma production starts to rear its ugly head. Eric Fox’s MORB-X FX seems to take some inspiration from the look of failed balloon animals and the shunting scene in Brian Yuzna’s Society to create some fairly jaw-dropping moments of “WTF AM I LOOKING AT?”
For all the disgusting gags that are delivered in buckets, the sweeter side of Troma rises out of the muck to remind fans why they really love the outsider studio. The gorilla spirit of the entire Troma team over decades is spawned out of New York City (now Long Island) and that’s a big reason why the feeling of community always seems to shine through all the slime. The horrible puns are still a mile-a-minute and Shitstorm does provide a little social commentary the Troma way by making fun of SJW protests and cancel culture, but that’s not what it’s about. Kaufman loathes the twitterati as much as meat-eaters and his disdain comes through, but this version of The Tempest is really about family.
Make no mistake, they are pulling out all the stops here and Shakespeare’s Shitstorm brings Troma’s entire film family on board from Doug Sakman to Monique Dupree to Debbie Rochon – the indie acting legend who deserves a spot on Troma’s Mount Rushmore. Love them or hate ’em, this team of film school rejects may hail from NYC but they’ve inspired filmmakers in every small town. Weirdly, that emphasis on family fun comes through in Shakespeare’s Shitstorm, you just have to stop from gagging to really notice it. Look at these 45 years of Troma as the cinematic equivalent of a very F’d up circus coming to town. Once the show is over and the goo covered spectators run them out of town, they’re on their way to the next, happy to pick up a few outcasts along the way.
This is one of the biggest budgets Troma Entertainment has ever enjoyed over its storied 45-year history and, for better or worse, every crap stained dollar is left up on the screen.