Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Toxic Avenger

It’s appropriate that this early 80s effort by Lloyd Kaufman wound up being the film that largely put Troma Studios on the map and created the company’s signature character, as it’s arguably the best film Troma has ever released. Admittedly, I’ve not seen close to all of their films, as I’m not really a big fan of their style of humor, but of the ones I’ve seen this ranks above even Mother’s Day and Redneck Zombies, two of my other “favorite” Troma films. It’s also much, much, much better than Slaughter Party or Beware: Children at Play, which are not among my favorites.

The film follows Melvin (Mark Torgl), a tremendous nerd who works as a janitor in the Tromaville Health Club, and who runs afoul of the numerous bullies and gang members of the town. After a rather humiliating prank which involves him dressing up in a tutu, he is chased by what appears to be half the town until he smashes through a second story window and falls into a vat of toxic waste. Horribly disfigured and transformed by this waste (and now played by Mitchell Cohen), he has now dedicated his life as the Toxic Avenger (still with the tutu) to romancing a blind woman and viciously killing off all the evildoers of the town, from the gangs to the corrupt mayor.

The idea of a prank gone wrong and the survivor killing his tormentors is hardly a new one, but that’s almost beside the point. Despite its low budget, this seems to have better production values than just about any of Troma’s other movies (perhaps due to Kaufman himself having directed it, or perhaps just because filming on video hadn‘t become widespread yet), and just as importantly, the jokes actually mostly work (uncommon at best for the company) and the violence looks really nice. I think we can all agree that such a thing helps make a horror movie better.

Here’s the problem I normally have with Troma. It’s not that I have a problem with bad horror movies -- if anything, this entire blog stands as proof that that isn’t the case. However, the really fun, entertaining bad horror movies are the ones that actually tried to be something really good and just failed miserably. Most of Troma’s output, however, has them seemingly going out of their way to make bad movies, so that they can presumably then point at it and go “ha ha, look how lousy this is, isn’t that funny?” Well no, not when you’re being all self-conscious and awkward about it it’s not. Just try to make good movies, and if you wind up having made a great many good bad movies, then that’s perfectly all right. This method of trying to make bad movies in the hopes that they turn out as good bad ones is just designed to fail almost every time.

Of course, it’s somewhat out of place for me to post that rant here, at a time when the Troma formula was actually pulled off pretty well (plot and pacing aside), but I watch Troma films so rarely that I figured if it wasn’t said here and now it might never be said at all. Which I’m sure Kaufman and co. would have been fine with, but it sadly just wouldn’t have worked for me. I hope you and they can all forgive me.

Rating: ***

1 comment:

katsucurrys14 said...

interesting. i only knew of the cartoon