CRUSTACEAN (2009) -- Review by Greg Goodsell from Screem Magazine #22
Directed by L. J. Dopp
A two-bit circus sideshow rolls into a hick Alabama town, populated solely by two families. The outfit is distinctly bereft of thrills and wonder. The bearded fat lady is merely a man in drag, and the pinheaded Siamese twins aren’t twins, connected only by their abject failure to convince anyone. Adding insult to injury, the sideshow’s gypsy fortune teller tells elderly science-fiction author George Clayton Johnson, of “Logan’s Run” fame that “I see longevity in your lifeline — and someday, you’ll be a famous writer.” The only really authentic freak of nature on display appears to be Lobster Baby (Zenius Muleckis), and even his act as a growling mutant with oven-mitt lobster claws appears to be an act, a cover for his true personality as a suave and debonair monster-about-town.
The town’s two families – one, the Stains, an expectedly inbred trailer trash clan, and the Andersons, a snobbish, middle-class brood both feud and squabble as a series of gory murders erupt all around them. As the majority of the victims have their heads snipped off as if by an outsized, reptilian claw, blame naturally falls on our misunderstood Lobster Baby. People are killed, the young fall in love, fame is found, fortunes are made – and the surviving members of this squalid morality tale are dragged back to the Stains’ abandoned trailer for startling revelations enacted in front of Reality TV cameras.
Fans of the unusual, in search of edgy thrills or heartfelt nonsense are frequently drawn to 99-seat equity waiver theaters found in major metropolitan centers. In my many travels to Hollywood, I have been astounded and entertained by musical renditions of The Poseidon Adventure, Spider Baby and odd, supernatural stories starring such film favorites as Karen Black. When such productions are good, they’re very, very good and when they’re bad – they’re even better. You’re sure be the envy of your friends when you tell them you saw a stage adaptation of Robot Monster with an all-black cast with tap-dancing musical numbers – and that you were one of four audience members, the other three including her mother and two small children.
Crustacean has all the joyous energy of the best a 99-seat equity waiver theater production has to offer. The film hits all its marks and is frequently successful at being genuinely funny. All the actors tackle their roles with enthusiasm, and the production has a cheerfully tacky appeal. There is gore of the strawberry-punch-pouring-out-of-a-garden-hose variety, there are flashes of nudity far too nice and not at all naughty and everyone seems to be having a wonderful time. References to other trash touchstones such as Motel Hell, Pink Flamingos and director Edward D. Wood Jr. go whizzing past the viewer’s eyes. It’s almost as if Troma Films finally got the delicate balance between crass trash and knowing sophistication it repeatedly strives for.
Adding a toe-tapping selection of original songs and some pointed social commentary, Crustacean is an across-the-boards crowd pleaser. The film’s “message,” that contemporary American life has devolved into a circus sideshow courtesy of 500-plus cable TV channels, all desperate for content may be a deeply serious one. But you’ll be too busy rolling off the couch laughing.
-- Greg Goodsell