[Fantasia 2020] #SHAKESPEARESSHITSTORM -- A Crude but Surprisingly Insightful Troma Interpretation of a Literary Classic
Review by Sean Boelman
Cult-favorite filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma Studios have always been edgy, so it should be no surprise to those familiar with his work that his newest movie, #ShakespearesShitstorm, is as incendiary as ever. Taking aim directly at the modern youth, it does sometimes come across as a bit rant-like in nature, but it has plenty enough gross-out humor to satisfy Troma fans.
A Troma-tized interpretation of William Shakespeare’s classic play The Tempest, the film tells the story of a brilliant scientist and inventor who seeks revenge against those who ruined his career. And yet, despite all of the sex and drugs (and whale excrement) that Kaufman and co. added to the equation, this surprisingly sticks true to many of the Bard’s original themes of betrayal and hypocrisy.
Of course, Kaufman transposes these issues from the seventeenth century to the modern day. Instead of calling out the hypocrisy of the King’s court, it is Big Pharma upon whom Kaufman has set his target. And while there is still familial drama, cancel culture is the villain who led to Prospero’s doom. (Recent events involving Troma’s YouTube channel shine an interesting light on Kaufman’s portrayal of himself as the martyr who sacrifices himself to enlighten the world.)
As always, this movie spares no one when it comes to its comedy. Kaufman simply isn’t afraid of pissing anyone off, and some of the jokes here do come at the expense of others. Then there is also the overt and crude level of sexuality about the film. Troma’s movies appeal to a particular taste, and if they haven’t appealed in the past, chances are this one won’t either.
One of the most impressive things about this adaptation is the way in which it lives up to the essence of the original characters while turning them into something that is unmistakably a Troma creation. Kaufman really brings the Prospero character to life in a brilliant way, especially when it comes to the dynamic between him and the King.
As expected, a lot of the acting here is over-the-top in a B-movie way, but it fits. Standouts include Abraham Sparrow as the tyrannous head of the pharmaceutical company (and the only actor who is giving a more serious, almost Shakespearian performance) and the very funny Kate McGarrigle as Prospero’s lonely and lovesick daughter.
Obviously, one can’t come into a Troma movie expecting Hollywood-level special effects, but for what the filmmakers had at their disposal, it actually looks pretty awesome (and very fun). The practical effects that were used to create the eponymous flurry of poo are certainly among the most memorable parts of the film.
#ShakespearesShitstorm delivers exactly what fans would want from the new Troma venture: an hour and a half of absurdity and crudeness. What’s more impressive is that, over thirty-five years after his big break, Lloyd Kaufman still has plenty to say, and he isn’t going to let anyone stop him from saying it.
#ShakespearesShitstorm screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2.
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