Film Wreck

“The Toxic Avenger” (1984)

The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger is a grotesquely violent and outrageously campy splatterfest that should not be seen by anyone with any sense of decency or good taste. This is the film that essentially launched Troma Entertainment, the legendary schlockmeisters who brought you Poultrygeist, Class of Nuke’Em High, and the South Park crew’s very first foray into film, Cannibal: The Musical! Any film responsible for all that is worth a watch.

The plot concerns a shrimpy janitor who gets plunged into toxic waste during a prank gone wrong. Mutated into a “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength,” he turns the tables on his abusers as well as any evil-doer in sight, with particularly gruesome results.

Three reasons to watch:

  • The Violence –The very first image in the film is a title card reading, “WARNING: The Toxic Avenger contains scenes of extreme violence.” That’s not empty hype. The Toxic Avenger (or Toxie as fans know him) spends the majority of his screen time finding the most creatively brutal ways to mutilate and torment his enemies. The cheap 1980s gore effects are obviously the film’s pride and joy, and it spares no effort to show them off. Toxie’s mayhem is so exaggerated that he even shocks innocent bystanders. The film perpetually cuts to horrified reaction shots of the very people Toxie is saving. What a hero!
  • The Villains – Toxie’s cruelty is not exactly undeserved. This film has perhaps the most pointlessly villainous crew of bullies and thugs in cinema, and they play it all with the subtlety of a heart attack. With their constant sneering, bugged-out eyes and outlandish costumes, they serve up enough ham to starve a synagogue. Honestly, the whole cast acts like they’re high on a chemistry set of substances in virtually every scene, but the villains really take the speedball and run with it.
  • The History – In the world of B-movies and independent cult films, The Toxic Avenger is kind of a big deal, you guys. It spawned three sequels and even a kids’ animated series, which should probably count as a war crime against children. It’s interesting to see the film as a transition piece from the sex-comedies that Troma originally put out to the horror films it became infamous for. There’s still plenty of amusingly blunt fanservice, but the new focus is on the guts. So if you ever want to get a good foundation in the dark side of cinema, go right to the classics and check this one out.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about:

  • The Meanness – This is a mean movie. It might be a horror-comedy, but it’s got an almost grindhouse exploitation edge to it that keeps it distinct from other gory comedies like my recently recommended Turbo Kid. It takes a bit of a callous sense of humor to watch the film even ironically, so be sure to check your conscience at the door.

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