Disgusting, revolting, hideous, and sort of, kind of, fun…
Screenplay By: Joe Ritter
Directed By: Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman
Unlike a lot of horror buffs I did not grow up with Troma films. For whatever reason my local video store didn’t bother to carry any Troma movies and thus Lloyd Kaufman’s company represented a black hole in my horror knowledge for years. I’ve since rectified that, and let me tell you something Troma produces an awful lot of shitty movies. For every decent Troma movie there are around thirty terrible ones, and they haven’t made a ton of movies. Having said all that there is the rare occasion when Troma just about gets it all right, and The Toxic Avenger is one such occasion.
From the very onset of The Toxic Avenger it is clear that the words tact and restraint do not exist in the film. The Toxic Avenger is a nerd fantasy come to life, or at least a stereotype of a nerd fantasy come to life. Melvin is the type of nerd who no one likes or wants to be around. Basically he is a movie nerd, the type of nerd who doesn’t exist in real life, or at least I don’t think there are enough people like Melvin for them to be an actual group. Either way, once Melvin is transformed into the Toxic Avenger the nerd fantasy comes to life. Toxie is hideous and disgusting, but he manages to find a woman who loves him for who he is and cannot, because of her affliction, be repelled by the disgusting beast. Our hero manages to exact revenge on everyone who is evil, or as they should be known the enemies of nerds everywhere. Not only does Toxie get revenge, save the day, and get the girl, but he plows his girl and apparently now has a massive wang. Say what you will about Mr. Kaufman, but in The Toxic Avenger he managed to deliver one heck of a succinct nerd fantasy. (For those who may be getting upset I am not operating via the modern definition of nerd, but rather the definition that was extremely popular in 1980s cinema).
There are plenty of times when The Toxic Avenger goes too far. The killing of a dog comes to mind, as does the films portrayal of its lone gay characters. But, on the whole Mr. Kaufman and Michael Herz have crafted a film that revels in how ludicrous it is. Any film that has the good guy beating up the bad guys with one of their severed arms has to be decent, right? Our hero wears a tutu, and he’s a seven foot tall mutated monster who tried to be inconspicuous in a trench coat and a top hat. He also saves the day by opening up, and then popping with his mutant energy, a jar of popcorn kernels.
I’ve said it a few times already, but The Toxic Avenger is utterly ridiculous. That’s not a bad thing in this case, the fact that The Toxic Avenger is willing to be so ridiculous is why it’s so charming. This film from Misters Kaufman and Herz will never be confused with a well made film. But, it is a fun film that has more laughs than it does duds. It’s ludicrous where it matters, and the nerd revenge fantasy tale is actually handled surprisingly proficiently. If someone goes into The Toxic Avenger expecting a great film they will leave disappointed. However, if they go into The Toxic Avenger looking for laughs and a whole lot of ridiculousness they will be pleased. I was pleased with The Toxic Avenger, but hey, maybe I’m just easy to please.