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Arts & Culture

Creepy puppets are everywhere in October, from giant scary skeletons to raunchy reality-TV chickens

Live Active Cultures

Photo: Photo by Seth Kubersky, License: N/A

Photo by Seth Kubersky


This reality TV-skewering saga of oversexed, sociopathic poultry, which won Best Comedy Film at April’s Independent Filmmakers Showcase film fest, was shot in California but has deep Orlando roots: Mays is a Central Florida native, and the film’s puppet stars are performed by locals “Davey Rocker” Schweizer and David “Wavy Davy” Jordan. I’ve worked with both Schweizer (who also wrote the film’s Ennio Morricone-influenced score) and Jordan (builder of the movie’s multiple puppets) on family-friendly projects through Heather Henson’s Ibex Puppetry, so it’s interesting, if a bit unnerving, to see their personal aesthetics engaged in decidedly adult-only entertainment.

I caught up with the trio, along with puppeteer/props designer Joseph Lallement, during a penthouse pre-party before the film’s local premiere last Sunday at downtown’s Cobb Plaza Cinema Café. Though all are current or former Orlandoans, the spark for this film didn’t ignite until they were all in L.A., when Rocker’s concept for a “surly chicken TV crew” was wedded to Mays’ experience writing and producing “unscripted” shows like Bob Saget’s Strange Days on A&E. May’s observations on the “power exchange” between wannabe celebrities and the “people who have the camera and use it like a gun” informed the surreal scenario about an unstable couple (Isabelle Gardo, Michael Palaniuk) exploited by unscrupulous Avid-editing avians.

As for the film itself … imagine if Jim Henson, David Lynch and Robert Rodriguez dropped a boatload of peyote and shot a nihilistic, nonlinear psychodrama in the middle of the Joshua Tree desert. The movie’s grindhouse/spaghetti Western mise-en-scène is exceptionally evocative – especially considering it was self-financed through the team’s Puppetball LLC production company, and shot in only 15 days – and it left me with images I won’t soon forget (two words: chicken masturbation).

Bad Chicken may not get a wide theatrical release, but they’ve already got sequel scripts in the works and have partnered with Gravitas Ventures for distribution via Netflix and iTunes next January – so the puppet perversity can continue in the privacy of your home well into the new year.

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