Fantasia 2020: Shakespeare’s Shitstorm

Shakespeare’s Shitstorm is a legacy project. Transgressive cinema returned to its zenith, it presents Lloyd Kaufman, as he always was: a champion of counter-culture. His Troma studios, having survived a remarkable 45 years, return to the texts of the Bard (this time, The Tempest, 1610). Alongside The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), Tromeo and Juliet (1997) proliferated a studio’s catalog with boundary-pushing, contrarian art, that broke every rule. With marked budget improvements and a well of studio history, Kaufman dips back into the Shakespeare ink for a messy, riotous takedown of Politically Correct culture, Big Pharma, and the opioid crisis.

Shakespeare’s Shitstorm. Dir. Lloyd Kaufman.

Aboard an executive suite cruise ship, Prospero (Kaufman, having the most fun), has devised a perfect plan. Having pioneered a new drug called The Tempest, green cocaine, he’s decided to host a rave and fill the entire ship with fecal matter from whales. His prerogative is a takedown of the Big Pharma suits onboard, a war against corporate interests. Meanwhile, his seductive and blind daughter Miranda (Kate McGarrigle, patently offensive), is looking for love. She finds it in the young son of a Pharma Executive, and you know how the rest plays out, drug-fueled fecal orgies aside.

With abrasive intent, Kaufman handles Shakespeare badly. Has no sense for any kind of iambic pentameter. “What’s past is fucking prologue,” his character says, and it seems prescriptive that it would follow the same notes as his other famed Shakespeare volume. It struggles, as gamely as it can, to find new value, to really offend a certain liberal mindset. His left-wing characters are still plotting how they can help Bernie win the 2016 election when they’re drawn away from their scheme by a Snowflake Signal. Rough Black Lives Matter jokes pepper script without reigns, that fly flagrantly in the face of Progress, as a modus operandi. It’s a vomit-inducing trip of low budget know-how, now expressed with greater means.

Shakespeare’s Shitstorm. Dir. Lloyd Kaufman.

There is a mild shame in experiencing such a film alone. The context of our relationship to films changes greatly depending on our environments. True believers in film, Troma still shoots in 35mm. This makes such a project near-essential to watch on the big screen. Their films almost require a festival attitude, a swarm of strangers or friends, to help ease the tensions of their transgressions. In this instance, the idea that they have made a bad or wildly offensive film does not mean they have failed if it suits the goals of the project. Who else, in the face of adversity, where society says not to do any of these things, would do it all the wrong way, with intention? There is only one Lloyd Kaufman.


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