Norah (Isabelle Gardo) has always wanted to be famous, and at first she thought her abilities as a singer would be enough, but not much seems to be happening in that career, so when an opportunity to be on television arises, she jumps at the chance. The director turns out to be a chicken called Charlie (voiced by David Schweizer), who is accompanied by his camera crew of two other chickens and tells Norah she will be perfect for his latest reality TV show. They need a story, however, and the recent death of her cat Kardashian provides that: all they need to do is head out to Joshua Tree and scatter the ashes.
The ideal hook for those viewers at home, or the less than ethical way to exploit yet another wannabe? You will leave Bad Chicken in no doubt of the message there, in this, the debut feature of Carter Mays, a low budget effort which was part media satire and part hallucinogenic weirdo comedy. In spite of the subject matter being of interest to millions of people who settle down in front of reality television, there was a niche feeling to much of what unfolded, not simply thanks to the target audience for that sort of easy to watch, endlessly judgemental broadcast not really wishing to think about what they were consuming, but more the approach.
That this featured chicken puppets as major characters was an indication of how off the wall Mays' vision was, making this a sort of bastard son of the Muppets, or perhaps a desert-set Meet the Feebles with a far less extensive cast. We are in no doubt Charlie is a bad egg since the editing takes the form of hopping backwards and forwards through the story, so one minute we are in the desert, next back at the home of Norah and her boyfriend Isaak (Michael Palaniuk), and then with Charlie being interrogated by a psychiatrist (Kevin Flood) after we learn he has murdered somebody and been arrested.
This format is less confusing and more unsurprising for if you know essentially what has happened in the plot in the opening ten minutes, watching the rest of it is an exercise in filling in the gaps, though there were compensations to that style. As we are well aware Charlie is a wrong 'un, that title giving it away for a start, we begin to twig the film is aiming less at the vacuity of those who think appearing on television is the be all and end all of their existence, Norah after all doesn't come across as especially evil, just naive and misguided, and more at those who would put them on the box in the first place, all to make oodles of cash for setting these people up to be lampooned and pilloried in public.
Where's the morality in that, Bad Chicken wonders, as Charlie is quickly revealed to be a sociopath who has left a string of young women behind him, all feeling well and truly used, and all for the promise of fame when what he actually wanted was to take sexual advantage of them. This does mean Norah ends up in the same position, with a very strange scene where she is shagged by the bird puppet which goes on for an absurd amount of time, and in truth Mays never quite tops that sequence for weirdness. Not for want of trying, as Charlie gets musical numbers (penned by Schweizer) to show off his country-blues-rock singer-songwriter skills and in the latter stages the characters get accidentally high on peyote and have their own hallucinatory experience in the desert. Charlie does eventually get his just desserts, though not before dabbling in murder and sending Norah into a state of mind where she sees the most demeaning path possible as a way to sustaining her celebrity. It may have been goofy to all appearances, but Bad Chicken was actually pretty serious on consideration.