Men & Chicken, Elias and Gabriel are brothers whose father has just passed away. He's left them a videocassette revealing that not only is he not their biological father, but the woman they knew as their mother wasn't their biological mother. He also reveals that the name of their father is Evelio Thanatos.
The half-siblings venture to the tiny island of Ork to confront Thanatos with this news but they are literally chased off by Evelio's other sons, Franz, Josef, and Gregor. Yet, Gabriel and Elias are determined to reunite with their bad-tempered brethren. Men & Chicken is about that struggle.
It's easy to make your audience fall in love with flawed, yet appealing characters and film history is full of them. Even anti-heroes have their charms. What takes genuine skill is making your audience become emotionally invested in characters that they would never dream of even acknowledging in real life, much less caring about. That's Thomas Anders Jensen's genius and what makes Men & Chicken so incredible.
Horror films have their own anti-heroes and flawed characters. The heightened stakes of the genre engender fanaticism of a different sort. When fear, murder, and death are at stake, the intensity of emotion often gives way to intense devotion, hence the heroic stature of villains like Frankenstein or Freddy Krueger.
Men & Chicken, however, doesn't traffic in Grand Guignol, but petty annoyances and genuinely irritating people. You may spend the first half-hour of the film wondering why you are even watching it in the first place. The characters are by turns self-centered, impetuous, ignorant, violent, and frequently repugnant. Men & Chicken straddles a fine line between off-putting and engaging, between exploitative and empathetic.
There are probably critics who will write this film off as being contrived, self-consciously zany, or even pretentious. And it may be all of those things, but to dismiss Men & Chicken for those reasons would do the film a great disservice. It's both a hilarious comedy and a heartbreaking tragedy and the way it fuses the two makes it one of the most unique and unforgettable films you'll ever see.
MEN & CHICKEN Screening Times:
Wed. Sept 16, 10:00 PM BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Sun. Sept 20, 3:30 PM SCOTIABANK 1