You know, there once was a time when a fella could get himself a cheap bottle of hooch with nary a care in the world. You scrounge up that last five bucks, head down to the corner store, grab yourself a pint of the nastiest (yet oh so economical) paint-remover and have yourself a good ol’ fashioned cheap, ghetto drunk. We’ve all been there – remember junior high? *sigh*…good times, good times. And then whammo! This film comes along and forever tarnishes my innocent childhood. If there is one lesson to be learned from the film Street Trash, it’s that a bargain bin bottle of booze just ain’t worth the painful hangover. Although in this case the hangover means your skin melting into an ice-cream-sundae pile of multi-colored goo, of course!
The end of the ‘80’s marked an ominous transition in horror filmdom. Over-the-top gore and movies based solely on body count were on their way out, making way for the teen-friendly thrillers of the ‘90’s. Street Trash epitomizes that bygone era of sloppy and messy goretastic horror pictures. It’s a film with no morals, no decent or even slightly sympathetic characters, no hint of political correctness, and no-holds barred. It’s essentially an excuse to showcase some outrageous splatter effects, with some poorly choreographed fight scenes and campy dialogue thrown in between for good measure. And – not the least bit surprisingly – its one hell of a fun show!
Times are tough in the junkyard. Food is scarce, money is hard to come by and the community of derelicts live in fear of their self-appointed leader, a psychotic Vietnam vet named Bronson. Oh, and Bronson has a knife fashioned from a human femur bone. Yowzers. When a string of mysterious deaths occur in the area, the police come down on the bums pretty hard, although it’s hardly their fault. Seems the local liquor store has been selling some cheapo wine called Tenafly Viper which has some decidedly killer side-effects. Will the police get to the bottom of the melted body mystery before Bronson has his way with them? Or will the Tenafly Viper finish everyone off first?
The ‘Street Trash’ Roster:
The anti-hero Fred,
Kevin, Fred’s wimpy younger brother,
Burt, Fred’s gas-mask-wearing pal,
An entire catalog of street bum stereotypes,
Bill the rogue policeman,
Ed the liquor store clerk,
Psycho Bronson and his leg-bone knife,
Wizzy, Bronson’s asshole subordinate,
The mob (yes, you heard right, the mob),
Mr. Schnizer the necrophiliac owner of the junkyard; and
His clean-cut employee, Wendy – who inexplicably loves the dirty homeless men.
Oh, and of course the Tenafly Viper.
Everyone is vying for…well…beats me actually! There are too many plotlines to follow what the heck is really going on with this film. It’s a story about a toxic liquor which melts anyone who dare drink it, the police investigation into the gooey deaths (and a sub-plot of a rogue cop bent on finding an answer), the drama between the derelicts living in the junkyard, Bronson’s iron-fisted rule over the bums, his wacky ‘Nam flashbacks, the death of a mobster’s wife, the love story between Kevin and Wendy, the yard owner’s…OK, OK, you get the idea. It’s outrageously convoluted – and the best part is that nothing seems to get solved in the end anyway! Plotlines die off abruptly or disappear without a trace and the film makes no bones about it or ever offers explanations. Oh, and did I mention there’s also necrophilia, gang rape, and a game of catch with a severed penis? Anyway, it’s ridiculous, mindless and messy and that’s all you’ll really need to know to decide if this film is right for you (admit it – you already know who you are!).
My only real bellyache with this film is the flimsy middle-section. There is about 45 minutes or so of ‘character development’ (I use that phrase loosely) in which not much happens in terms of gore or action. While the first and third acts more than make up for this – be forewarned, that even though there are some pretty ludicrous acts of sleaziness – the rest was frankly pretty unexciting. The whole melting liquor angle is abandoned entirely for a lengthy plot exposition interwoven with a campy police drama (which highlights some pretty lackluster fist-fighting sequences). But then suddenly we get back on track with a rousing, gore-filled and gooey ending – which I was honestly starving for by that point.
Surprisingly the film is a great-looking effort – far better than the bulk of the similar Troma splatter output, for example. It is common knowledge that the director, Jim Muro, went on to become one of the most sought-after steadicam men in the business and it is certainly apparent in this film, especially with its frequent Raimi-esque POV shots. Having brought it up, the nature of the gore also owes a hefty debt to the Evil Dead movies. It’s a multi-colored mess, similar to Raimi’s use of milk and cream-corn, instead of the typical red corn syrup. Therefore, the melting bums are a myriad of bright blues and yellows and reds – kind of like a banana split in the sun, minus the banana.
Street Trash is a great ‘80’s cult classic; chock full of over-the-top splatter-style gore, insanely cheesy dialogue and pitch black comedy. If you haven’t already seen it, and are a fan of the genre, this is a must for your DVD collection. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse as any to buy that expensive, 40-year old bottle of scotch you have been eyeing up and forever forget that cheap swill on the bottom shelf. You’ll thank yourself later, trust me.