The Toxic Avenger - 1984
Director(s): Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman
Writer(s): Joe Ritter (screenplay) / Lloyd Kaufman (story)
Cinematography by: Lloyd Kaufman and James A. Lebovitz
Editor(s): Richard W. Haines
Cast: Mitch Cohen, Andree Maranda, Jennifer Babtist, Cindy Manion, Robert Prichard and Mark Torgl
For the cult classic section of my website, I tend to use the list the internet has created around films that fall under that umbrella. It is easier. And the film, by far, that tends to appear the most as a cult classic is 1984's "superhero" film, The Toxic Avenger. And now with the recent news that Macon Blair will be rebooting the franchise, seems like the perfect time to finally tackle this film. After watching it, I have no clue how Blair will bring this crazy story to modern audiences. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place in the most American eighties small town ever put to film. Where spandex, gym culture, homophobia, and sexual harassment rules, and if you are weak or considered weak you will be preyed upon by the psychopaths in town. One of those weaklings is the gym janitor, Melvin Ferd (Torgl). When a group of bullies, who like to kill children on bikes (you know weekend stuff), makes him fall in a vat of toxic waste he is disfigured but transforms into a powerful monster, The Toxic Avenger (Cohen). He uses this newfound strength to fight crime and kill all the psychopaths and corrupted politicians in the town.
Look this film is batshit crazy. The opening of the film is a bit jarring since you are not quite sure what is the tone of the film, as you go from the wacky characters in the gym being weird, sexy, agro, and annoying towards the perverted janitor, to them running over a kid on a bike and exploding his head with their tires. So the film tests your sensibilities right from the get-go, but you quickly realize that this is a dark comedy satire that pokes fun at many aspects of both the movies of the time and at the society that birthed this script. When I finally got on board with the madness, I found myself laughing way too hard at the hyper-violence and the violence that looks as if they were ripped straight off a graphic novel.
The practical effects are the unsung heroes of this film. They create a balance between shocking and schlocky fun, both effective. The makeup job of our lead is hilarious, as his entire body is affected by the toxic waste, except his glorious biceps. Every single actor is going full ham and eating up the scenery as they know they are in a film in where a tutu-wearing monster is roaming around the streets killing bad guys, and dancing with his blind girlfriend during his off hours. The absurdity of this film makes it easier to stomach the gore, but I can see this turning off a lot of people.
The Toxic Avenger is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, and to a certain extent, I am a little embarrassed that I loved my time with it so much. Bad editing, sound design, acting, and dialogue - yet I was laughing the whole way through and waiting on the edge of my seat for the next big action scene of our hero. If anything, I have said peaks your interest, give it a shot before the reboot comes out.
The Toxic Avenger is a Streamer!
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