★1/2 out of ★★★★★ If you have a conventional sense of social norms. ★★★★ out of ★★★★★ if you are a Troma fan and appreciate trashy satire.
Intensity: 🩸🩸 for scatological nastiness
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
William Shakespeare, Henry the V, Act III, scene I
Lloyd Kaufman and Team Troma return to their Shakespearean roots and turn this loose-bowel take on The Tempest into a skewering of the social norms of today’s culture. This is the strongest, funniest, and most consistent Troma film I have seen since the ’80s Troma glory days, but it also pushes the censorship limbo bar so low that there may not be room to go more lowbrow than this.
Raise your hand if you love scatological humor. And dick jokes. And jokes that touch every third rail “you can’t make fun of that” identity group target. Do you enjoy the humor of snorting recreational drugs? Do you like to watch sleazy portrayals of normal-ish (non-porn star) women? For that matter, do you want to see big dildos strapped to chickens? And do you like splatter-tacular gouts of gore? And again, with the shit. Great fountains of it! You like that shit?
OK, now go wash your hands off. You’re filthy. And also recognize that you will adore this film.
If all or any of those above are negative triggers, forget it. You will loathe this film. This is a non-starter. Stay away at all costs. It is so base, so raw, and so nasty that you feel like you’ve been to a Gallagher show, except that the watermelons are rancid and rotten. It may be hard to take the stink off.
For the rest of you wonderful degenerates, read on!
In its own crass way, #Shakespeare’s Shitstorm is brilliant. Kaufman, lest you forget, is a Yale man. Upon closer examination, his brand of crude slapstick is a veneer over a deep understanding of the Bard’s original work. When was the last time you saw a movie that broke into Iambic pentameter, let alone one where torrents of whale excrement get dumped on unwitting socialites? There are stretches of this film, mainly when Prospero (Kaufman) is speaking, is told in verse. Profane verse, yes, but still… proper verse. Ironic since Shakespearean plays ordinarily break into the common tongue once the secondary or comic players enter the scene, but in this case, what separates the upper classes from the dregs is a matter of small degrees. But it’s there, and it’s pretty cool. He’s done this before, withTromeo and Juliet, but I found this to be a better adaption.
We had an opportunity to interview Lloyd, and he commented that The Tempest is his favorite of the Bard’s plays, and he’s nested in some very clever parallels in this film, once you scrape the shit off. All of the players from the play are present in the film.
Lloyd Kaufman is Prospero, this time a mad scientist who found a cure for opioid addiction.
Lloyd Kaufman also plays Antoinette (Antonius), Prospero’s devious sister.
Abraham Sparrow is Big Al (Alonso) … a Big Pharma CEO, with the company titled “AvonBard”
Kate McGarrigle is Miranda, Prospero’s blind and loving daughter
Erin Patrick Miller is Ferdinand, Big Al’s altruistic son
Amanda Flowers is Ariel, this time as a wheelchair-bound whore who uses a voicebox.
Monique Dupree is Caliban, this time the daughter of a crack whore
And what must amount to about 100 additional players, mostly degenerate characters who will revel around in a drug and shit-filled orgy.
This take on The Tempest has Big Al, Antoinette, and their cadre of ne’er do-well pharmaceutical executives and party guests on a pleasure yacht for a night of debauchery and decadence off the coast of North Korea. Prospero summons a pod of orca, and having fed these whales copious amounts of whale laxative, they leap over the boat unloading great torrents of whale diarrhea onto the passengers, and stirring up a literal monstrous shit storm that wrecks the boat, beaching it in… you guessed it… Tromaville, New Jersey.
Prospero is out for revenge! Plotting and scheming abound, and love and happiness bloom. And sometimes, these elements merge. Like most Troma productions, this movie verges on a chaotic mess for much of the run time, always at risk of spinning so wildly out of control that you can’t piece together the plot. But, unlike many other Troma films that quickly ditch the narrative, the underpinnings of the Shakespearean roots manage to keep this film from coming apart at the seams.
This is on the higher end of the acting ability scale for a Troma production, which is a real surprise. McGarrigle and Miller in particular, are fantastic as the young lovers brought together by chance in Tromaville. They have terrific timing, particularly when together or riffing off Lloyd. My favorite joke in the movie, told with great deadpan was:
Your tale, sir, would cure deafness, but would you mind curing blindness? Like my blindness! It sure would be nice to see again. And, also to know when I’m done wiping.
(Follow shot showing Miranda with a huge shit skid mark on her skirt)
Miranda to Prospero in #Shakespeare Shitstorm
The moment I realized that Kaufman was tapping deep into the Shakespearean canon was the rescue of Miranda by Ferdinand from the monstrous Caliban. This scene in the play has rape overtones, and I found it interesting how the Shitstorm team handled it. This time, Miranda has been duped into giving a couple of party revelers hand-jobs, and Caliban intervenes, telling the two idiots to take off. Pissed off, the two blue-balled dudes accuse Caliban of rape, encouraging Ferdinand to defend Miranda. Caliban tells Ferdinand that those two idiots were lying and that he should calm the fuck down. (Monique Dupree is also good here.) Ferdinand decides to charge in anyhow, and she kicks his ass for good measure. But, Miranda sees heroism in the deed, and she falls in love. Awwww.
Once I realized what I was watching, I cheered. You have to know something about The Tempest to appreciate that, so I tried to pin what I still remember from my sophomore year study of the play to the movie. I swear, #Shakespeare Shitshow is my new cliff-notes for The Tempest.
Another emphasis in the film is that it skewers the woke social justice warrior political correctness that pervades cancel culture. The chorus in this movie are protesters, and the righteous indignity of the social justice warriors is pretty ham-fisted, but if you pay careful attention to the signs in the crowd you will find some very amusing signs, and the best ones are the most subtle ones. “I’m Upset!” was my favorite. The oddly normal-looking but unfocused protest point that stood out from all the rancor. These protesters are protesting for the sake of protesting. Right makes might, lest you be canceled. Lloyd told me that I was the first person to ever claim that anything in Troma was subtle, but I stand by my take. There is a cynical undercurrent of wry political satire lying underneath the sledgehammer bluntness of the broad satire that is on the surface.
No social justice can survive perspective.
Prospero, #Shakespeare Shitstorm
I find it fascinating how, in the ’80s, when Troma came of age, the censors were the political right. The moral majority and the Christian Conservatism saw obscenity in everything from music videos to advertising. Fast forward to now, and the censorship tends to be on the activist left. The political correctness from the left has neutered the ability for comedians to poke fun at almost anything, and that context and irony get jettisoned by over-reaction. I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool-deep blue leftie, and I cringe at a world hamstrung by woke censorship. Troma has often teed off on the political right, and now it is the turn for the liberal side to take a couple of left hooks. No complaints.
Prospero closes the show by turning himself into the last big science experiment, having gotten his revenge on his enemies whom he has summoned to him. He has transformed into an obscene appropriation abomination. Prospero takes the most stereotypical, most desirable traits of racial identity and mashes them into his hideous golem-self, becoming Frankenstein’s monster by way of typecasting. Wicked, wrong, and rather funny if you allow it.
Kaufman is part of a proud tradition of B-movie provocateurs. John Waters, Larry Cohen, Al Adamson, Hershel Gordon Lewis, Stuart Gordon… all independent spirits who did it decidedly their own way and swam strongly against the currents of the social norms. Not surprisingly, many of them. It is great to see Kaufman still with something to say and still peddling the sleazy with a smile. Somebody has to uphold the legacy of the B-Movie. Lloyd manages to give Prospero a line in #Shakespeare Shitstorm from another great poet that pitches the film pretty well:
Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Percy Shelly, Ozymandius
#Shakespeare’s Shitstorm was the opening night feature film for the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival. It is unrated, but it is without a doubt 100% NC-17. This is the outer edge of what can be shown on film. I don’t know if there is anything too sacred to skewer. As far as appropriate taste, this film crosses the bridge too far and burns it down in its wake. Proudly.
Also, don’t forget to check out our post about the streaming service Troma Now to stream all things Troma! The first month is free, and it’s only $4.99 per month after that! Also, if you made it to the end of this review, you will want to catch our upcoming interview with Lloyd Kaufman on our Podcast feed!