MOVIE REVIEW: “The Toxic Avenger” stars Mitch Cohen (Clerks, Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV), Gary Schneider (Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Beach Balls), Robert Prichard (Alien Space Avenger, Cracking Up), Cindy Manion (Blow Out, Preppies), Jennifer Babtist (Lily in Love, Goodbye New York), Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan (Mannequin, Birdy), Mark Torgl (The First Turn-On!!, Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High Aka Vol. 2), Dick Martinsen (*batteries not included, The Believers), and David Weiss. It is directed by Michael Herz (Stuck on You!, Troma’s War) and Lloyd Kaufman (Terror Firmer, Squeeze Play), who also wrote it with Joe Ritter (Hostile Take-Over, The Toxic Avenger Part II). After plunging into a vat of nuclear waste, nerdy Melvin Junko (Torgl) turns into a monster, becoming the Toxic Avenger (Cohen) and saving weaker people from evil doers throughout the city.
What have I stumbled across? Who would put money into this? Why have I not seen this before? These questions and more were asked when I saw “The Toxic Avenger,” 1984’s trash cinema bombshell that transformed the way intentionally bad movies were made. There is no doubt in my mind any person watching this would consider the flick garbage. Heck, that’s what Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman set out to make. But if there is one thing I can say about “The Toxic Avenger,” it is that it is a beautiful mess. The kind of trash you dig up and admire for its mystery, absurdity, and outlandishness. It is as if I dug up buried treasure full of Chuck-E-Cheese tokens; you are not blown away, but you sure are tickled. As was I when I watched this masterpiece unfold. The shock value to be found in gross-out humor, blind jokes, and grody prosthetics is something to behold. Truly have I never seen something like it before. It’s pure cheese, campy beyond belief. Herz and Kaufman couldn’t give two farts about how they crafted this piece, tossing out any sense of filmmaking whether it be story structure, performances, or continuity. I literally got goosebumps twice up the arms due to how horrific the continuity was in this piece; shots where characters are in frame at one point and gone within the next cut are quite common, adding to the laughs and overall pain one must endure in seeing the Toxic Avenger smashing his foes’ faces in. For those of you who love exploding heads and cheesy prosthetics that are akin to a knock-off John Carpenter, you’ve come to the right place. There’s plenty of gross special effects to be had in this picture, from a kid’s head getting run over by a car to a guy’s eyes getting poked out of their sockets. Sure, they are fake, but it’s enough to make me squirm, especially when the filmmakers could care less who gets it and how gruesome it is (they had a dog get shot, for pete’s sake). Really, these effects are one of the few aspects of “The Toxic Avenger” that tell you just how much time these guys put into making something bad. They set out to make something downright trashy with enough laughs to keep an audience entertained at its wackiness, and they succeeded. I was having fun from opening to close, and could not predict anything that would take place within the story. There were many times Kaufman and Herz one-upped themselves when it came to craziness, to the point where I was itching for them to do something even more stupid than what they did in a previous scene. Some memorable moments include the mexican restaurant fight, Sarah (Maranda) inviting Toxic Avenger to her house, and the final stand-off between Toxic Avenger and the mayor. Boy oh boy, is this feature jam-packed. It’s one of those experiences you share with your closest friends who you know won’t mind watching something just for laughs. At the end of the day, that’s all “The Toxic Avenger” is for. You won’t get award-winning performances (everyone over-acts), stellar sound design (the ADR is brilliantly atrocious), multi-dimensional characters (everyone is one-note), or a well-thought plot (strictly action-reaction storytelling). What you are here to see is just how far filmmakers will go to make a hero story unlike any other. It is clearly cinema for a niche market, and if you aren’t into campy filmmaking, then this isn’t the movie for you. All I can say is, in a world that is in turmoil at the moment, it’s always good to get a laugh and be stupid for an hour and change. “The Toxic Avenger” offers this, and tests your patience in just how far you’re willing to curve your I.Q. in enduring it’s absurdity. Hats off to you Herz and Kaufman; you’ve truly created something I could never fathom bearing witness until now. FINAL SCORE: 64%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: