Director – Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Cast – Andree Maranda, Mitch Cohen, Jennifer Prichard, Cindy Mandion, Robert Prichard, Gary Schneider, Pat Ryan, Mark Torgl, Dick Martinsen, Chris Liano, Dan Snow
Release Year – 1984
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Troma Entertainment is known for being one of the most successful independent film companies and after 30 years still stay true to their independence today. Troma first broke into the scene with their most successful and most talked about film…The Toxic Avenger. The level of respectable cheesiness in a Troma film is insurmountable and no one works “cheese” to their advantage like Troma does.
The film’s plot is very simple. Melvin is an extremely geeky mop boy at the Tromaville Health Club and is constantly picked on by the vain health club members. One day the members decide to play a horrible prank on him and in the ensuing carnage he accidentally falls into a vat of toxic waste. The toxic waste begins to affect poor Melvin and he runs home in extreme pain, physically and emotionally. Soon enough, the toxic waste takes a biological effect on Melvin, disfiguring his face and giving him superhuman strength. He then decides to seek revenge on those who picked on him and along the way manages to save many lives and put many other criminals behind bars. Hell, he even gets a girlfriend!(although he is blind…naturally) When Tromaville’s corrupt mayor takes notice of the good that the Toxic Avenger is doing, he makes plans to kill the monster to keep him and his cronies safe. It is now up to the townsfolk to stand up to their corrupt leaders and defend the only person keeping them safe…the Toxic Avenger.
I really do love this film. The story is simplistic and does not carry ridiculous sub-plots that lots of films try to incorporate but fail to do correctly. I loved how the Toxic Avenger was this nerdy little kid who was finally able to get revenge on those who wronged him. If you know me…then you know I am all about revenge films, and this film does the revenge element quite well. The idea of someone being picked on and then getting revenge is not new to Hollywood but I was really impressed that a low-budget film was able to personify that and make it’s viewers truly care for it’s main character. Also whenever we get the “superhero” element in a film the person is at least good looking after their transformation, in the case of the Toxic Avenger…well…he is shit out of luck in that department. Haha! This makes sense of the “love is blind” notion with Melvin falling in love with a blind girl who loves him equally despite his horrid look. She sees the good in his heart and that is all that matters to her, can any of us honestly say we are that noble? Plus as with any Troma production…this film is pretty damn funny. Troma director/writer/producer Lloyd Kaufman always finds ways to add quirky fun humor to his film, and I personally loved the Nazi references involving the town’s chief of police. Funny stuff!
The gore in this film is actually pretty well done and surprised me for a low-budget flick. I really enjoyed these kills and found a few of them to be pretty damn funny, although my personal favorite would have to be the “weight machine kill”. Hehe. The look of the Toxic Avenger is pretty cool and I loved how he still has remnants of the embarrassing outfit he was wearing when the health club assholes pulled that horrible prank on him. Again…this is Troma’s excellent use of mixing creativity with subliminal humor. This film also paces very well and really has no slow parts, which is pretty much unknown in the world of low-budget cinema.
As I mentioned earlier…this film is pretty damn cheesy. You really get the “independent” feel of this film and can tell right off the back that this is not a “Hollywood” production. The acting is cheesy and overdone, the direction is spotty and the editing looks like it was done when Lloyd Kaufman was in middle school. However it is all of this cheesiness combined that makes this film so fun and universally loved by horror fans. We grew up watching these cheesy films so naturally we are going to enjoy them as adults as well.
Overall, this is the classic production that got Troma going and proves to be a fun and gory ride from beginning to end. Recommended to all horror fans who can appreciate these types of films.