The Toxic Avenger is my favorite film of all time bar none. No other film even comes close. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and showed it to everyone I’ve gotten the chance to. It’s why I call myself the B-movie Avenger and was a huge influence in making me feel so passionately about the often genre defying off kilter culture that is true independent filmmaking..but it’s also a film i have never reviewed here on B-is For Best. I’ve been asked many times why this is (including once by Melvin himself Mark Torgl, who’s a great guy by the way.) and I always give different reason. I’ve said I was waiting for the Blu ray release (which has long since happened) I said i was waiting until I had the free time to do an article that would showcase all the films collectively and couldn’t do so yet since the 5th (and supposedly final) installment had yet to be made (This is a complete lie considering although i enjoyed all four films I see the 2nd and 3rd as self parodying and existing in a separate universe and feel pretty much the same way about the 4th) The truth of the matter is..honestly I’ve been afraid to do it. How does one go about doing a review article on a film that he holds in an almost religious reverence? (especially since the film’s many flaws are one of the reasons why i consider it to be the best film of all time) and do it any justice? I had planned on saving this review for my upcoming autobiography (D-Is For Drew:The Now told Tale Of A Renegade Film Reviewer) But I know if I wait I’ll never have the nerve..so for those who waited and asked..here it is..
Alot was happening in the early to mid 80’s. Aerobics gurus and muscle bound action stars had pushed America into the body talk age where Health clubs had sprouted up on every corner. Workout shows, tapes and even movies flooded the market as the young pushed their bodies (and hair of course) to the limit and beyond. Cocaine, speed and other uppers took the throne from marijuana and psychedelics as the drugs of choice for this constantly moving crowd. Big business was also on the fast track as more and more factories and refineries emerged. With them though came countless biproducts: corrosive, cancerigetic and toxic, these emerging evils captured the fears and imaginations of the thinkers of the era, terrifying them almost as much as the increasingly violent youth, so different from the flower children of the ’60s and disco ducks of the 70’s. The heroes of yesteryear were washed up, their golden boy boyscout approach to fighting evil had become laughable when compared to the endless supply of evil figures the 80’s was churning out, from Jason to Freddy to Karl The Butcher and Cropsy. The 80’s needed it’s own hero; one as brutal and real as the evil he would fight and destroy, In 1984 That hero emerged. His name is Melvin Ferd but you’ll know him as THE TOXIC AVENGER!
THE TOXIC AVENGER: Welcomes us to Tromaville (The Toxic waste dumping capital of the world) A small town in suburban New Jersey. At first glance Tromaville is just like any other small town in the U.S. but under the surface is the pestilence of political corruption. It’s Mayor (a morbidly obese self obsessed pervert) has sold the town out to corporate ghouls who are dropping hundreds of pounds of toxic waste within it’s borders. He has also hired on vicious thugs and drug dealers to shake down the population and control the simple Tromites. In the busier side of town is the Tromaville Health club, a place where it’s inhabitants go to get in shape and socialize. This too is plagued by a despicable group of thugs: Bozo, Slug, Julie and Wanda, a sadistic group of teens who spend their days terrorizing the club’s members and their nights playing a deplorable points game by running over innocent victims with their car. When the group sets their sites on on local 15 year old Uber nerd Melvin Ferd (The mop boy) for one of their more cruel pranks poor Melvin winds up falling into an (inexplicably open) barrel of toxic waste on the back of an illegally parked truck. What emerges (after an extremely painful transformation) is a 7 foot tall hideously deformed creature of super human size and strength (in a burnt tutu..trust me it’s bad ass) with the ability to sense evil and the uncontrollable urge to destroy it. Tromaville wreaked of crime and The Toxic Avenger was just the Janitor to clean it up!
Genre defying, perfectly paced, managing to be simultaneously completely filthy and utterly innocent, The Toxic Avenger is quite possibly the most multi-faceted and enjoyable filmof all time..Even hardcore fans of the film are likely gape mouthed at that statement (and Uncle Lloyd probably just shit his pants laughing)…Let me explain why it’s an undeniable fact. Let’s talk about the many things this film manages to successfully be:
IT’S AN 80’S PERIOD PIECE: Yeah, I know, naysayers “the film was shot in the 80’s of course it captures the 80’s!” This goes well beyond that copout reasoning. From the way it’s many themes (aerobics, Violent youth, political corruption,drug abuse and pollution to name a few) perfectly capture the fears and values of the era, to the use of power ballads, jam band music and bubble gum pop in it’s score and the cartoonish over the top gore and characters, The Toxic Avenger doesn’t just conjure nostalgia for the 80’s IT IS THE 80’S!!!
From the not so subtle choice of taking the heroes in tights concepts to laughable extremes by placing Toxie in a full blown Tutu, to having Toxie’s kills often based on classic gags from Charlie Chaplin (mop twirling) and The Three Stooges (eye gouging, mops in the face etc.) and of course the endless barage of so stupid they’re funny one liners (Including the often stolen “Have you seen my mother in law..Now that’s gruesome” line) The Toxic Avenger undeniably works as a stellar comedy as well as a parody of the hyper violent direction Hollywood was taking at the time the film was made.
IT’S A MODERN DAY FRANKENSTEIN STORY: This was confirmed by Co-Director Llooyd Kaufman in his first book (All I Needed to Know About Film Making I learned From The Toxic Avenger) but most fans pick up on it right away. You have a tragic monster, The (in this case initially) fearful townsfolk, The child-like nature of Poor Melvin and of course the blind friend (only in this case case it’s a super hot blonde who’s Toxie’s love interest, Sarah) The biggest difference here is the monster lives and triumphs, something the majority of fans of Marry Shelly’s classic wished happened all along.
IT’S A HORROR FILM: With the approach to some of Melvin’s kills s well as the creative use of lighting, location, and cutaways, The Toxic Avenger is a brilliant patchwork of styles ranging from 70’s slasher/Gialo to 50’s style monster movie influences. More than any other film in Troma’s library The Toxic Avenger shows Directors Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz’s wide array of interest and study into the Horror Genre and what works within it…a feat all the more impressive when you note that Kaufman stated neither of them were really Horror fans before they began working on the project! Quite a bit of Homework must have been done in such a small span of time.
IT’S THE MOST HUMAN SUPER HERO MOVIE EVER MADE: While other heroes tend to take the haughty better than thou approach to crime fighting, poor Melvin is forced to do it. He’s terrified of his ability and doubts the morality of his actions. He still needs the approval of his peers and fears he’ll never have it. All of these things make Toxie more approachable, more lovable and most importantly MORE HUMAN. It’s also why despite all the gore, sophomoric humor and nudity in the film I’m more comfortable letting my kids watch The Toxic Avenger then I am the Newest Batman movie or Disney shitfest. This film has some of the firmest lines between good and evil ever set in film.
IT’S AN ACTION FILM: With car chases, crashes, gang fights, and even a fleet of army personnel with tanks (how the fuck did that afford that…?) The Toxic Avenger also functions as one hell of an Action movie!
IT’S A LOVE STORY: Amongst the violence and madness in this film we get the tender, innocent blossoming love between Toxie and his beautiful blind girlfriend Sarah. Her Naive and child-like personality perfectly mirrors the true Melvin inside the hideous monster and their love works wonderfully to illustrate that under it all Melvin is still the shy, self conscious gentle teenager he always was. We also see his character mature into a more confident, heroic figure through his love for Sarah..Just try not to think about the fact that despite his dramatic size increase Melvin is still 15 years old and Sarah looks to be around 25..For these reasons the film is also A COMING OF AGE STORY..and a SEDUCTION OF THE YOUTH TALE
The acting here is so laughably off that it’s brilliant. Each character is so garish and over the top the entire affair comes across as a live action cartoon. This has a major benefit though as it softens the effect of some of the more potentially offensive subject matter and makes it more palatable. Toxie himself was actually played quite brilliantly when one considers the level of depth of a character that needs to be at turns a completely ruthless killing machine and a shy naive kid..All done in heavy makeup with a voice over added in post..rule or not I gotta name Mitch Cohen here. You were fucking brilliant and were sadly missed in parts 2-4..Please for the love of God come back for part 5 we need you man!
The cinematography and special effects here were..uneven..Ranging from breathtakingly believable (the badass car crashes,head crushing, and health club basement chase scene) to terrifically terrible (The day for night to night to day for night again fight scene with cigar face and his crew, the scalped to not scalped Knuckles) but even these fuck ups only add to the insanely bizarre world Kaufman and Herz have created in their opus..and the transformation scene..Holy fuck man!
Is The Toxic Avenger perfect? No, but if it were it wouldn’t be nearly as endearing as it is.
Overall I give The Toxic Avenger two middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone. It’s the only film I watch at least once a year and that’s a tradition I will never tire of. Kaufman and Herz should seriously consider doing whatever it takes to reassemble the original cast (those whose characters didn’t die) for the 5th and final installment of the franchise and for the love of God get Herz. We fans deserve at least one more visit from our favorite hidiously deformed creature of super human size and strength and we want to see him played by Mitch Cohen no matter what shape he’s in these days!
we are still here
Posted on March 27, 2014
If you’re a longtime reader of this site you’ll know I’ve reviewed every volume of the American Gore Stories collection. What some may miss due to my brutal honesty, naturally sarcastic personality and snarky remarks is that I genuinely enjoy these sets. I mean, sure some of the films are shit but with the exception of two films out of over a dozen featured on the the three sets combined they’re fun shit, and that’s not bad at all!
Today we’ll talk about the fourth volume and this one deals with one of my favorite types of shitty Horror films; SHOT ON VIDEO!
The cover and disc art was once again done by the very talented Tim Tyler who has a nice return to form here with a great Tales from the crypt/weird science feel which goes alot better with the first two volumes then the 3rd did.
This is once again a 2 disc set with two films on each disc but the case feels quite a bit sturdier then the third installment. This time around there’s no issue with the discs popping off the spindles as they both lock securely in place.
I also really enjoyed the fact that the artwork for each film was featured on the back of the case, as an artwork junkie this little touch was highly appreciated.
The films included are Ron Bonk’s The Vicious Sweet, Scooter McCrae’s, Brad Syke’s The Pact, and Tim Ritters Twisted Illusions.
THE VICIOUS SWEET Introduces Tyler Phenix , a self absorbed, bitchy b-movie actress who winds up getting kidnapped by a strange man who forces her to relive her warped and painful past in order to gain her freedom. Can she survive, and what dark secrets will be revealed?
Dark hallucinatory, and sometimes unintentionally hilarious, THE VICIOUS SWEET is a strange oftentimes surreal ride into the psyche of a mad woman who has convinced herself of her own sanity and stability.
The story here is interesting and rather well put together but at times can be quite confounding. To be honest I watched this film three times before I understood the ending, which would have been alot worse of a task if this one wasn’t such a kick ass little flick overall.
The acting here was shockingly well done for a shot on video almost no budget film, with Tyler shining brightest with her unflinchingly bitchy and stern attitude making her complete mental and physical collapse all the more shocking and disturbing. Her captor was also quite the creepy character with his emotionless calm and conviction making him the polar opposite of Theresa. He reminded me alot of the old interviews I saw awhile back with Jeffery Dahmer.
There wasn’t much gore here, mostly just a bit of blood here and there and a brief zombie sequence but what was here was relatively well done.
The cinematography here was grainy VHS..With that said though, the inclusion of a reddish hue and an eerie projector aimed at the captive Theresa through the majority of the film really made this thing pop and gave the movie a genuinely unsettling realism.
Overall I give this film No middle fingers up. It’s confounding but it’s meant to be and even that added to the overall emotionally jarring feel of the whole thing. It’s inclusion alone makes this set worth picking up and it’s just the icing on the cake, baby!
SHATTER DEAD Focuses on Susan, who wanders from place to place just trying to get by in a world shattered by the end of death. The planet has been left overpopulated by confused, rotting corpses who can no longer find the peace of death. Things get worse when an undead minister starts a cult of undead no longer willing to wait for the rest of the living to join them who will now take them by force and Susan finds herself in the middle of it all.
One of the few truly original zombie films Scooter McCrae’s Shatter Dead presents a completely different approach to the zombie genre with zeds who consume the economy rather than our flesh. It’s a world where the zombies themselves are victims. There’s no feet dragging brain dead monsters here, only scared, desperate souls rotting away with their brains fully functional, begging for the release of death and never finding it, presenting a cleaver social commentary about the failing welfare act and and the increasing age of death and how it will affect our society
The acting here was pretty damn good with Susan doing a wonderful job capturing the spirit of a lost, hopeless antihero. Her cold calculating survivor’s attitude is much more realistic then your typical zombie movie hero. She doesn’t want to save the world. She just wants to wake up still breathing tomorrow. She could give a fuck less whether you do or not.
The Preacher Man Shined as well with his Jim Jones like approach, bending the bible to fit his goals just like all the great cult leaders in history. The gore here was pretty bare bones but this was more of a character piece and a dark societal satire anyway. What little gore there was worked well though.
The cinematography here was rough..but also very creative, mixing staticy black and white with gritty color gave the whole affair an artsy feel that added to the overall absurdity.
Overall i give this film one middle finger chopped off.It was one of my favorites of the bunch and brought me back to a time when zombie films were a cleaver way of conveying a moral or political point instead of plotless cookie cutter head shot compilations and makeup pissing contests.
Brad Sykes is one of my favorite cheese film directors. Most famous for his classic shit fest slasher films, The Camp Blood Series. Before the clown killer was ever thought up though, he made a lesser known haunted house film called
THE PACT THE PACT Tells the story of Andrea, a young woman who inherits a house from her deceased grandmother that has a notorious legend attached to it and is supposedly responsible for the disappearance of many people. She returns to her home town, temporarily moving in with her childhood friend Vic. Soon after strange things begin happening, drawing her to the house and causing the deaths of anyone who enters. Who is the mysterious killer? Is it really a ghost? Is it the town nut? The immensely creepy Vic? Or perhaps it’s Adrea herself!
Ok..This is one of those films you can either embrace with all of it’s faults and love for it’s shittiness, or hate because it’s not what most would call a traditionally “good” movie..Personally I loved it!
First off, the “house” is supposed to be hundreds of years old and is clearly brand new..hell not just brand new but unfinished! The outside is still just boards, the walls have yet to be installed and yet we have our female lead talking about it’s “ambiance” and character!
We have characters ewwing and ahhing over an “antique” mirror that’s so obviously a new three dollar Walmart special that you can still see a sticker affixed to the back
We have a scene where the “ghost” appears in the mirror and the actress depicting the ghost is clearly in frame looking into the mirror.
We have flashbacks to 1881 where the house looks exactly the same.
A character falling unconscious after 2 seconds of choking comes to less then a minute later to miraculously pull a gun from nowhere to save the day. and we have inexplicable costume changes..sometimes in the same scene!
But there’s two things that really made me decide I loved this film.
Firstly, when our ghost is finally shown closeup she has a lazy eye! That has to be a first.
The deal sealer those was when, out of nowhere zombies appear (there’s not a single indication that the ghost can create zombies anywhere in the film before this scene..if she could then why did she need the town loony..?) and Vic stops them..by staking them..with a stick..through the stomach…? Before that happens though, Vic slows one down by literally pulling off his mask! That’s right, the zombie is wearing a half mask and fake blood and vic rips the mask off, then once he’s staked, the zombie has it back on, holding it in place with his hands while he moans and dies!..YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS FUCKING MOVIE!
The acting here is another fun point with characters flipping personalities back and forth. through the first half Andrea is a skeptic who just wants to move into the house and Vic is terrified of the place and trying to convince her not to, then at the drop of a dime Vic becomes the skeptic and refuses to listen to her when she’s trying to explain to him what’s going on.
Andrea gets a snarky attitude often randomly and Vic has this odd..monotone whispery way of speaking. I’m not sure if it’s meant to make him seem like he might be the killer or if the actor was just really, really, really high (his matted hair and glazed eyes argue the latter.) but it made for some spectacularly awkward moments between him and Andrea, especially when he is declaring his love.
The town lunatic was my personal favorite character, showcasing over the top cartoonish acting that was meant to be creepy but came across more like a rejected Jim Carey character played by an aged porn star.
The gore here was pretty much completely absent but the two kills were to hysterical not to mention. one involved a character being stabbed through the middle with…No visible weapon (?) only to have a flashlight shoved through the hole and then spin in circles making funny noises until the scene ended. The other has a girl climb into a dumpster and be killed..by have the door shut..? No compactor, just a dumpster..Apparently she was really really afraid of the dark I guess.
The cinematography here was oddball as well, excessively using hysterically out of place closeups of faces and hands at regular intervals…With that said though we also see some beautifully smooth pans and scene transitioning and some genuinely great establishing shots as well.
Some would call this film brad Sykes’ worst. I fell in love with it and have to say it’s right up there with Camp Blood as one of my favorites. I give it two middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone WATCH THE FUCK OUT OF THIS MOVIE!
If you’re a fan of indie horror trash then chances are you’ve heard of Tim Ritter. From Killing Spree to Dirty Cop No Doughnut and most famously his Truth Or Dare series Tim has quite a few so bad they’re good (and even some just plain great) classics under his belt but before all that, when Tim was just a highschooler with a cheap camera, a love of Horror movies and little else he made an anthology film that helped get him the financial backing he needed to launch his career. That strange little gem was Twisted Illusions.
TWISTED ILLUSIONS Begins with Time and his friend pitching film ideas to a potential financial backer only to find out the man was dead all along, after which we’re treated to several short tales, including an overpowered vacuum and the fed up housewife who uses it as her weapon of revenge., a know it all health nut who learns the hard way that fate is cruel and has a sick sense of humor, a cable thief who learns the stern price of being a lowlife and more. As well as a bonus short that inspired the Truth or Dare Series!
A bizarre, amateurish and undeniably fun collection of odd tales, TWISTED ILLUSIONS is so bad it’s good cinema at it’s best and often soars above it’s limits rising to just plain good.
One interesting aspect of this one is the apparent complete absence of editing of any kind, We see characters flub their lines and repeat them. We see scenes repeated and in one really odd moment we see an entire story done twice with the same dialog and story but different actors! What should have irritated me only added to the fun in this instance.
The acting here is hysterically inept, on par with Todd Sheet’s Demon Asylum, but fits into the special group of acting that is more entertaining to watch then “good acting” ever could be and in comparison to what passes for acting in today’s Hollywood shitfests these guys are the next Lon Chaney in comparison.
The cinematography was rough and unfortunately this transfer cut off a good three inches from the screen (most evident when the names of the stories come up and can’t be seen) but we get a glimpse of the bizarre genius Tim would late blossom into with some of his hallmark insane close ups and light shifts,
It should be mentioned that Truth Or Dare was not originally a part of this film and was tagged on for the VHS release many years ago. The announcement that it has been remastered should be ignored as it’s a left over from the transfer from that release and it is the same gritty quality as the rest of the shorts and hasn’t been touched up for this release.
After the feature we get a pretty kick ass making of featurette (also from a previous release) that I was happy to see was included.
Overall I give this one 2 middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone, it’s corny, bad and everything about it makes it a true B-movie classic perfect for a night of hilarity with some friends. It’s unfortunate that part of the screen was lost but overall it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie.
So, in closing, would I recommend picking up this set? FUCK YES I WOULD!! It’s my favorite collection of the series and while it’s far from gory (none of them are..it’s kind of become a running joke) It’s still great. Let’s hope they release this one as a four tape VHS collection at some point so we can see these gems as they were meant to be seen!
Posted on July 17, 2013
Every once in awhile i stumble upon something I have to see just for the title, films like Night Of The Hell Hamsters, Killer Turds, and Zombie Pickles From Outer space. Enter Gundick:Cocked and Loaded
Gundick: Cocked and Loaded tells the story of a young player who gets shoved in front of a car by a jealous girlfriend and wakes up six months later in the hospital. The doctor tells him he’s fine to go home but when soon after leaving the hospital a spur of the moment fellatio session turns deadly, the end result being the main character’s ejaculation blowing a hole in the back of his female friend’s head. It seems that prolonged inactivity has caused a build up in his system making his ejaculation come out with deadly force. No longer able to have sex Gundick witnesses an attempted rape and decides to use his unique ability to save a life, the results have to be seen to be believed.
Gundick is a film that is cleaver (although not necessarily original The Masturbater from Citizen Toxie:the Toxic Avenger 4 has ta very similar ability) and funny in a sophomoric way, the acting is quite good considering the subject matter and it certainly shows that director Seager Harrison Dixon has potential. The character development is very bare bones due to the low running time which is quite unfortunate because i see some potential for the character in a full length feature (hopefully we’ll see that some day) but overall it’s a cool little film that defiantly deserves a look. i give it one middle finger half extended it’s cleaver and fun but it needed more substance to be a truly great film. With that said i have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of director Seager Harrison Dixon in the future, this guy has talent that’s only glimpsed in this short.
Pink Eye follows the story of Edgar, a man who as a young boy came down with a disorder that first caused his eyes to become red and puffy. the doctor diagnosed it as pink eye but soon after the diagnoses the disease causes Edgar to manifest painful deformities. his mother cared for him as best she could but when she died Edgar was put into an insane asylum where the vile way he is treated and the drugs he’d being given combine to transform him into a a violent pissed of creature of vengeance. Meanwhile the other patients are doing shocking things to themselves, and Edgar, otherwise a mindless poetry spouting killing machine has unleashed them upon the unsuspecting orderlies and doctors…what is the cause of all this madness?
…..What i really would like to know is what is all the hype about this film? i mean seriously, what is essentially a mediocre (at best) generic horror “thriller” has been boosted to the level of legend with reviews like “vicious&and disgusting,,,a lingering nightmare”(killer reviews) and “very graphic, cringe-worthy,pleasantly Gorey” (fatally yours) first of all it is obvious (at least to me) that they spent the entire budget on a scene in which a young woman rips her eyes from their sockets out of fear that there are ants beneath them, while the scene is pretty Gorey it is far from as great as they make it out to be and it angers me that they begin the film with a scene like this and then quickly settle in to Hollywood-like watered down ill conceived gore that not only seems to have nothing to do with the plot (aside from the unthoughtout side plot of an evil corporation paying the nuthouse o give the Patience and some homeless people and junkies PCP for no apparent reason) but was so generic it literally could have been clipped from bullshit cookie cutter Hollywood horror films and simply slid in and no none would know the difference.
We don’t see Edgar’s face ever in the film (although we do see enough of Edgar’s eyes to tell that they were too lazy to even put pink contacts on the actor) his Poe quotes have absolutely no significance to the scenes they occur in, and the only reason you’ll be surprised at all when you watch this film is because it’s largely nothing but nonsense built up by a poor script, and bad acting.
The people who put this film together purposely went out of their way to market to fans of the slasher/gore genre, going out of their way to put the only truly Gorey scenes on the cover and back of the DVD and (most likely) paying reviewers to focus on this one scene in an attempt to sell a shitty subpar thriller to an unsuspecting fan base, banking on us being stupid and needing less plot and worse acting then a porno has to make us happy. for those of us who grew up with the amazingly gorey, delightfully corny, original, truly independent movie distributors like Troma, Full moon, and Brain Damage this film is a smack in the balls with a ballpein hammer…to sum it all up Pink Eye wreaks of money hungry corporate brown eye…buy Big Gus whats the Fuss instead, you’d be more entertained even by that peace of shit.
I give this films more then two middle fingers up i give it 2 middle fingers, two middle toes and shout fuck you into it’s ears. It should be in the dollar store next to Glitter and Scary movie 4