Fantasia Festival Review: Shakespeare’s Shitstorm

Year: 2020
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Director/Writer: Lloyd Kaufman | Lloyd Kaufman, Brandon Bassham, Gabriel Friedman, Zac Amico, Doug Sakmann; based on the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare
Stars: Lloyd Kaufman, Erin Patrick Miller, Abraham Sparrow, Kate McGarrigle, Debbie Rochon, Amanda Flowers, Frazer Brown, Dylan Greenberg, Teresa Hui, Monique Dupree, Lisa Gaye, Ron Jeremy, Catherine Corcoran, Leesa Rowland, Julie Anne Prescott, Genoveva Rossi, Tommy Pistol, John P. Brennan

By Harris Dang

What can you expect from a film produced by Troma? Well, you can expect lots of bad taste, non-PC humour, gallons of bodily fluids, extreme lashings of blood and gore, blunt social commentary, metatextual filmmaking and over-the-top acting that can only be described as pre-stroke. “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm”(2020) – not a typo; that is the actual title – is writer/director Lloyd Kaufman’s return to William Shakespeare territory after “Tromeo and Juliet” (1997). On that note, when you go into the latest film from Troma with a title like that, you know you are in for one wild ride. Kaufman stars as Prospero, a talented yet increasingly unhinged scientist, who is exiled away to Tromaville, New Jersey with his blind daughter Miranda (Kate McGarrigle) thanks to his carelessness in cultural appropriation, his double-crossing sister (also played by Kaufman) and greedy pharmaceutical execs headed by Big Al (Abraham Spencer). Despite his humongous wealth (amusingly given away as $225 million), Prospero buys a crackhouse from a bunch of prostitutes and seeks refuge there to bide his time until the opportune moment. Meanwhile, a gathering of the same evil, greedy pharmaceutical execs from Avonbard – guess the inspiration for that name! – are having a party on a cruise ship travelling to North Korea. Through a series of intricate planning, a strong sense of patience and gallons of whale laxative, a shitstorm – again, stay with me here! – ensues and rains on the gathering and washes the ship on to the coast of Tromaville, making it the perfect time for Prospero to enact his plan of revenge.
Much like “Tromeo and Juliet” being an adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet”, “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” is a remarkably accurate adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. And while the story is packed with the themes of the source material like revenge, family, musical interludes (including a song where Miranda professes her love via sexual perversion), play-within-a-play (through a TV show format of Shakespeare criticism called Breaking Bard) and betrayal; writer/director/star Kaufman smothers all of that in Troma goodness(?) that the fans will love but casual audiences will need not apply.
“Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” is a lot of deranged fun that will satisfy fans of bad taste cinema. Just be ready to take a shower after the film ends. You’re going to need it.”
But Kaufman is armed with tons of material for his next polemic in terms of what is seen as offensive in the world and he goes off, guns blazing. With the film wailing on white privilege (amusingly named as a sickness known as Entitlementia [sic]), racism (where white people can’t even stand the fact that African-Americans are saying the n-word), film criticism (the film includes critics critiquing the film itself) with a sledgehammer approach, the film does have a good rate. The gags are intergalactically inconsistent; ranging from inspired (woke white supporters claiming that they helped a black person by campaigning for him to play Yoda) to insipid (so many sight gags involving shit) to esteemed (the many Shakespeare references, including characters that are not even relevant to the source material) to just downright weird (the use of medication that can temporarily cure entitlement called Safespacia [sic]); but when one throws everything on the wall, some of it is going to stick.
The gore gags are hilariously low-fi, lowbrow and laugh-out-loud; involving swordfish impalings, deaths by rooster phallus and cine-literate homages like the elevator doors from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980). However, the high(?) point of the film is the climax, as it bears a strong reference to the climax in Brian Yuzna’s “Society” (1989) and Kaufman lays the message of the film in such a jaw-dropping way, it can only be described as profoundly Frankenstein-esque.
“In a way, “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” is essentially critic-proof. All the expected flaws of the project are what makes this film a Troma film and if you are a fan of severe head Troma, chances are you are going to love it.”
As for the acting, everyone on screen looks like they ingested illegal substances which is quite fitting considering their characters do ingest heavy doses of drugs (fittingly named Tempest). There are thankfully a few roles where they are played completely straight like Monique Dupree as Caliban while the pairing of Steph and Trini (played by Zoe Geltman and Dylan Greenberg) are fun as social justice warriors who struggle to back up their principles eg. when they express fear over the presence of Caliban and cower over the fact that she is black.
However, the true standout is Kate McGarrigle as Miranda, the blind daughter of Prospero. Although the role can be seen as an homage to the role of Sara in “The Toxic Avenger” (1984) played by Andree Maranda, McGarrigle makes the role her own by displaying great timing and spirit in the role that she makes tired Mr. Magoo-esque material funnier than one would expect. In a way, “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” is essentially critic-proof. All the expected flaws of the project are what makes this film a Troma film and if you are a fan of severe head Troma, chances are you are going to love it. But like the film says, it all depends on perspective. And from this reviewer’s perspective, “Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” is a lot of deranged fun that will satisfy fans of bad taste cinema. Just be ready to take a shower after the film ends. You’re going to need it.
4 stars
“Shakespeare’s Shitstorm” will be having its World Premiere at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.
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