'The Toxic Avenger' Review: Drop Your Tacos or I'll Blow Your Brains Out!
For my final written review of May, I was assigned the tax of explaining the masterful piece of bloody insanity that is The Toxic Avenger. It's a low budget film from 1984, written by and directed by Lloyd Kaufman, the man who also brought us Poultrygeist. Unlike most of the other films we've talked about this month, the film inspired the comic book, creating an entire line of stories and tales, including three sequel films. The Toxic Avenger is one of the founding fathers of the gore flick genre.
The film opens up with a title card reading, "Warning: The Toxic Avenger contains scenes of extreme violence". This card is not a joke. It is an entirely serious warning for the movie going audience of the 1980s. What follows is the story of Melvin, the clearly mentally handicapped janitor of a gym in Tromaville. A pair of body builders at the gym, along with their two girlfriends, play a game of hit and run at night, scoring points based off the target they kill with their car. They hate Melvin, and instead of running him over, they trick him in to putting on a tutu and kissing a goat in front of the entire gym membership. In the 80's villains were both high school style bullies and sadistic murderers. In order to escape the onlookers, Melvin dives out of a window and lands head first in a vat of toxic waste, transforming him in to a hideous monster with a violent need to stop evil doers. Melvin gains super strength, hyper intelligence, and invulnerability. He uses these powers to tear criminals limb from limb, throw a racist old lady in to an industrial washing machine, and general cause intense pain to the criminal element of Tromaville, including the police chief that is clearly a Nazi who works for the mayor that runs the local crime organization.
At one point there is a series of shots in which Melvin holds a gunman down, pours the ingredients of a milkshake in to the man's mouth, and uses the restaurant's milk shake mixer to not only mix the shake, but also to drill a hole through the back of the criminal's neck. That scene is only the halfway point. Eventually Melvin saves Sara, a blind woman, and unable to see his face, the duo fall in love. Melvin loses his virginity and asks Sara to move in to his shack at the Tromaville dump with him. She agrees, and the pair form a steady relationship. Eventually Melvin gets around to killing the body builders, their girlfriends, and the mayor of Tromaville, wrapping up what little plot actually existed to begin with.
For a film from the 1980s, the special effects are surprisingly well done. The practical effects that display Melvin's transformation from nebbish loser to the seven foot tall, deformed, muscular creature that is the Toxic Avenger is incredible when considered in the setting of the low budget of the film and the effects of the era. As with most B-movies, the action scenes feature mediocre combat at best, with the exception of a fight in the diner which shows some real promise in it's use of editing and martial arts to make a more realistic encounter. The soundtrack is the typical 80's synth and hair metal, at once nostalgic and annoying. To clarify its' funding, The Toxic Avenger had a budget $475,000.
Where plot and dialogue is concerned, The Toxic Avenger is worthless and nearly nonsensical. However, in the gore, violence, humor, and pulp departments, the film is a masterpiece of low budget 1980s Cinema. If you like watching the Sy-Fy original movies or those films that rip off established franchises, and you haven't seen Toxic Avenger, you're missing out on a gem of the genre that spawned an entire franchise and comic series of it's very own.
Final Say: Watch It