If you are in the mood for a brain-bending dose of existential angst and nihilist musing — and if you are not, what’s holding you back? — you need look no further than prolific filmmaker Izzy Lee’s The Obliteration of the Chickens. It is unlike any of Lee’s other works, tackling the senselessness of it all with such thoughts as Nietzsche’s abyss being “stupid.”
The short consists of 100% stock footage with author Bracken MacLeod narrating Lee’s script. MacLeod’s voice perfectly matches the visuals, which range from cows lazily grazing, to a father and son happily eating ice cream with drawings of skulls flashing over them, to a hypnotic chocolate Easter Bunny, to a clown attempting to entertain perplexed children as his red nose falls off. I don’t want to give away all of the short’s amusing secrets, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Obliteration of the Chickens has drawn comparisons to some of Werner Herzog’s output, and that is a fair assessment, but there is much more at play here, too. For those thinking the short sounds bleak, yes, there is a philosophical somberness to it, but like the songs of Leonard Cohen and The Smiths, there is also a wry, sardonic side to this work, as well. Where the short falls between satire, send-up, or played straight will greatly depend on the mindset of the individual viewer, but there is humor on display.
This the type of short film that stands out at film festival shorts blocks. It commands attention because it is so different, jarring viewers as it draws them into its surreal, feverishly mesmerizing world.
The universe may not care about us puny humans, but with The Obliteration of the Chickens, we can at least have a grin about it, and perhaps even a full-on laugh amongst the food for thought. As Lee writes and MacLeod intones, “Look into the eye of a chicken, and you will lose yourself in a Lovecraftian chaos.”
The Obliteration of the Chickens screens at Popcorn Frights, running in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from August 8–16.(4 / 5)