Troma Entertainment has been in existence for 45 years now and even though Americans are more sensitive than ever, the studio hasn’t slowed down in churning out transgressive exploitation classics. In fact, these more cautious and conservative times seems to have invigorated the independent studio to go even further in pushing the envelope. #ShakespearesShitstorm, the latest film directed by Lloyd Kaufman, is Troma’s most ambitious film tackling Big Pharma, social justice warriors, cultural appropriation, the opioid crisis, cancel culture, and social media. And it also involves lots of jokes involving shit.
#ShakespearesShitstorm is Kaufman’s unique take on Avant Bard’s play, The Tempest. While the original play concerns a wizard exiled to a Caribbean island, Kaufman moves the location to the grimy shores of Tromaville, New Jersey. In this version Prospero (played by Lloyd himself) is a brilliant scientist screwed over by greedy pharmaceutical executives. His cure for opioid addiction threatened the steady source of income that addiction gives the pharmaceutical industry. The unscrupulous head of the company (Abraham Sparrow) conspires with Prospero’s sister (also played by Lloyd Kaufman) to oust him from their partnership. Prospero’s attempts to warn the public through the media, but an unfortunate decision to wish everyone a Happy Cinco de Mayo on live television leads to cultural appropriation accusations and a public shaming.
What already is a hilarious premise quickly turns bizarre when the aforementioned pharmaceutical executives host a cocaine-fueled party for their investors on a yacht. A group of sex workers service the partygoers. The prostitutes are in fact agents of Prospero including a wheelchair-bound crack whore named Ariel who speaks with the aid of a throat box. A pod of killer whales with explosive diarrhea attacks the ship is an incredibly graphic and long scene that is as equally funny as it is disgusting. Soon the partygoers wash ashore to Tromaville where Prospero lures them with more drugs and sex. As Prospero’s revenge begins to take form, his daughter complicates things by falling in love with the son of the very same drug executive who set the events in motion years earlier.
Kate McGarrigle’s performance as Miranda, Prospero’s blind daughter, shows an enthusiastic sense of comedic timing. She brings so much energy into her role and is a delight to watch, even when the humor can be incredibly crude. Her relationship with Ferdinand (Erin Miller) is somehow rather cute and sweet despite the grossness of their surroundings.
Other acting highlights include the social media obsessed PC activists played by Dylan Mars Greenberg, lead singer of Theophobia and Zoe Geltman. They both bring a sense of fun to their broadly charactered roles. Monique Dupree is great as Caliban, and it is in fact disappointing that she wasn’t given more to do as it would be interesting on what more she could have added to the film. Amanda Flowers steals every scene she is in as Ariel and is an absolute joy to watch.
Shakespeare’s Shitstorm is easily the most polished and well-funded of Troma’s filmography. Always known for low-budget special effects, Lloyd Kaufman uses rather decent CGI in this film to great use. In addition to the higher budget, the film also boasts the most ambitious plot of the Kaufman’s films. In addition to the various Shakespeare nods in the script, Lloyd also references the great filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick. Many of the topical issues in the film, despite being parodied, show a keen political awareness on the part of the director.
Lloyd Kaufman has indicated that #ShakespearesShitstorm will be his last film as director. It is a shame that it him this long to make a film this well produced. Kaufman has done Shakespeare before with Tromeo and Juliet. While The Tempest was always Kaufman’s favorite Shakespearean play, he admitted he felt he never truly got the character of Prospero enter the age he is at now. This knowledge makes #ShakespearesShitstorm seem even more as a swan song for the director. Prospero can be seen as a mouthpiece for Kaufman himself as he rails against the cultural wars that raged around him his entire career.
#ShakespearesShitstorm is sure to be a modern gross-out classic. Somehow, Kaufman has been able to surpass the infamous shunting scene in Society in terms of sheer perversion and body horror in #ShakespearesShitstorm’s climatic scene. If this truly is Lloyd Kaufman’s last film, he will go out on the top of his game!