by John Bikowski
If you’re one of those film lovers who tire of the highly-polished cliché and presentation of big budget Hollywood, Troma is the company for you. Actually, it seems more a way of life than just a mere “company.” It all started with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, who first came onto the low budget scene thirty years ago. Finally, with the success of the 1985 classic, The Toxic Avenger they made their mark, and it’s been good times ever since. They now have dozens of films, a rockin’ website, and a nice corner of the DVD distribution market.
First off, I must say that Lloyd Kaufman is hilarious. If you get a chance to catch any of his introductions to the films or to talk with him at a convention, do it. He’s a very witty and zany guy who will baffle you with his knowledge of bizarre films, and he does it with a Mel Brooks type of humor. I had the pleasure to talk with him a while back, and he’s very willing chat and help young filmmakers. Check out the website for classes and contacts. Michael Hertz is also great to talk to, and, of course, so are the scantily-clad Tromettes.
The first must-have DVD is, of course, The Toxic Avenger. They offer the two-disc 21st Anniversary Unrated Director’s Cut edition. Toxic Avenger is a top-notch party tape guaranteed to offend everyone on various levels. Political correctness gets destroyed in this truly unique piece of filmmaking. Toxic Avenger mixes mega-violence with mega-humor and over-the-top acting, and somehow it works. Melvin the Mop-Boy (looking like Gilbert Gottfried’s bro) is hated by all of the conceited bullies and bimbos. Just another day of torture for Melvin turns sour when he gets dumped headfirst into toxic scum, thus becoming the super powered Toxic Avenger. After adjusting to his grossness, Melvin embarks on a rampage to clean the city of criminals and to take revenge on the jocks who ruined his life. But these aren’t your typical jocks: They pummel random old ladies and run over little kids. Bordering on the offensive, these scenes somehow come off as rather hilarious. Other numerous highlights include a guy who doesn’t realize his arm has been torn off, and two heads cracking like eggshells when smacked together. If you want to see this film (and you should), make sure you get this unrated edition.
The next Troma offering is called Luther the Geek. You’re probably thinking that with a title like that, how can this be a good film? Well, it is. The tale unfolds when a youngster is haunted by traumatic memories of a circus geek doing his bloody thang, and years later, is released from an institution. Of course, he’s crazier than ever. Craftily, he constructs steel teeth in a scene reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s original razor glove construction. However, unlike in the Elm St. series, you won’t find Luther wise-cracking, because he doesn’t say one word! He just bugawks like a chicken as he terrorizes a group of people in their rural farmhouse. Surprising violence includes an “old woman” having her throat gnawed out, and a boyfriend’s chest ripped open so we can see his final heartbeat. Thanks go out to Stacy Haiduk for having such enormous breasts. Better than most psycho-type films, and quite funny as well. As with most Troma DVD offerings, you also get plenty of goodies like trailers and interviews.
One of the great things about Troma is that they really go out of their way to find some of the sickest, most obscure films, seemingly without care of large profit margins. For example, in their catalog, you’ll find such films as Rabid Grannies and Bloodsucking Freaks. These are hardly mainstream blockbusters, but I imagine fans of extreme cinema are grateful for the DVDs. I was pleasantly surprised to see Troma picked up the 1980 horror film The Children. Ever since my Grandmother saw it and told me never to watch it, I searched for “the flick with the killer kids with black fingernails.” No one was ever able to help, until Troma. The Children starts with a nuclear waste leak through which a school bus is unwittingly driven. The contaminated kiddies disappear, spawning a town-wide alert. Apparently, the toxic fumes turned the youngsters into pale-face zombies who shamble around and kill everyone, just for fun. Every time an adult finds a kid, they’re hugged and turned into goopy, burnt Jell-O. One of the dads finally realizes that the key to survival is to cut off the kids black finger-nailed hands. The cinematic release must’ve caused quite a stir, since salvation relies on the butchering of little tykes. Though the film is played straight-up serious, it has its share of laughs. The musical score showcases Henry Manfredini’s Friday the 13thish tunes. The only gripe is that some of the film stock seemed to be damaged and grainy. But since it’s such a rarity, what can ya do?
Troma has a ton of DVDs for all kinds of (bad) tastes. Here are few more of their recent noteworthy releases. Make Your Own Damn Movie is a five-disc crash-course on how to do everything from raising money to scripting to special effects and distribution. Informative and hilarious, with anecdotes and advice from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, George Romero, and Stan Lee. Also check out the Troma Dance Film Festival for a collection of short bizarre/funny films with titles ranging from “Merry Christmas Motherfuckers” to “Lick-it Man” and “Revenge of the Killer Meat.” Also of note is the release of Lollilove, starring Jenna Fischer of The Office. It’s about a young couple so addicted to this magazine that they capture the Editor and sexually abuse him for three days. Actually, it hasn’t anything to do with that: That film is only available overseas. Lollilove is about a couple that passes out lollipops to the homeless in order to transform their lives with happy sayings. Funny, cutting satire in the form of a mockumentary. And don’t forget to check out Slaughter Party starring Felissa (Sleepaway Camp hermaphrodite) Rose and Ron Jeremy.
Troma has a ton to offer, so scoop some up now at www.troma.com. And while you’re there, be sure to register to win a chance to be a chicken zombie in their latest production, Poultrygeist: Attack of the Chicken Zombies! You know you want to.