The Toxic Avenger

Some people don’t get Troma the way the rest of us don’t get Family Circus. I get Troma. Maybe they’re a bit pompous when they hold their own movies as art, but I’m happy the movies get made. I’m even happier when I hear other people have seen them. Think of Troma as the mainstream of obscure cinema. You don’t have to get a bootleg to see these movies; even your parents may have seen one.

The essential and most famous Troma film, The Toxic Avenger, originated as a horror movie. Co-director Lloyd Kaufman (credited as Samuel Weil to skirt around guild regulations) made it as a response to those who said the horror movie is dead. Along the way, the movie somehow became a comedy.

This is lost on the Family Circus crowd. One of the best lines is, “I always wanted to cornhole me a blind bitch!” This said immediately after the “blind bitch’s” seeing-eye dog gets blasted away by a shotgun.

If you didn’t walk out then, then surely you walked out when the little boy was hit by a carload of teenagers. Or maybe you walked out when they backed up and ran over the kid’s head as his body laid twitching. No? Good.

Because if you did, you’re missing a surprisingly good movie. The movie isn’t just so bad it’s funny, it’s intentionally funny. It knows it’s funny. There’s a lot of shortcomings, but the movie makes up for it by letting you laugh with it instead of at it.

Melvin Junko is a loser who pushes mop at the local gym. The same teenagers who killed the little boy decide to play a joke on Melvin. It involves him dressing in a pink tutu and making out with a sheep in the dark, which he mistakes for a woman.

Well, the practical joke backfires worse than Carrie’s senior prom. Melvin runs from his tormentors, throws himself through a window, and lands in a barrel of toxic waste (it happens to the best of us). Melvin then undergoes a metamorphosis that’s almost as terrifying as puberty. He emerges, in kick-ass polarized effects that’d give any early eighties music video a run for its money, as the superhuman Toxic Avenger. He keeps the tutu and the mop.

The monster’s the good guy. The ditsy, hard-bodied teens who usually star in slasher movies are the bad guys. It’s easy to identify with the monster. Even after he finishes ripping off arms and busting heads, he remains sweetly devoted to his mother and blind girlfriend.

And maybe it is art. If Star Wars is considered art by some, than why not Toxic Avenger? Some of us prefer head crushing to light sabering. I do.

Don’t bother with anything but the unrated director’s cut.

Official Score