Hellraiser (1987)

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A man who’s made a deal with the devil gets buyer’s remorse and escapes from hell. Now he’s depending on his ex-lover to bring him human snacks to regain his strength and skip town before his demonic tormentors find out he’s gone.

This is another movie that’s supposed to be a classic. Everyone knows this movie. It’s the one with the guy in the black dress with nails hammered into his face. Yea, that guy’s scary! SPOILER: he only has like 5 minutes of screen time. So that’s a bummer because the scrubs who fill the voids between pinhead appearances aren’t nearly as cool.

The movie begins with a man who solves a mystical Rubik’s cube he bought in China Town. Except instead of earning the awe and respect of his peers, he gets ripped apart by fish hooks in sadomasochist hell. Somehow the guy escapes the “cenobites” – the demons who poke and prod him in the underworld – and holds up beneath the floor boards in the attic of his flop house. Also he’s no longer a person, but a withered tomato husk. More on that later.

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For future reference. 

The guy’s half brother and his wife move in to the house, where they find the dead guy’s flesh light in the attic. “Ew, gross!” says the half brother. “Ooh la la,” thinks his wife, as she conjures up memories of the secret affair she had with her brother in law. To say this guy has been cuckolded would be quite the understatement. Not only does his wife have the hots for his his brother, but she bangs every barfly in town while not giving her actual husband so much as an Eskimo kiss. Because his life isn’t quite sad enough he also has to endure constant passes being made at both his wife and daughter by just about everyone, including the moving crew and his own dinner guests.

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also…he dies

So this guy lets the moving men drink his beer after working up a thirst hitting on his wife and daughter. Then they need his help moving a fucking mattress up the stairs because in addition to being assholes they are also the worst moving men in the world. While pushing it through a doorway the guy shreds his hand on a loose nail. The blood splish splashes through the floorboards onto his his brother-in-hiding begin. Bitching stop motion effects capture his unholy transformation from beef jerky to man:

According to horror movie logic, a few drops of blood can turn a dusty cobweb into a fully functioning muscular skeletal system, but it requires eviscerating two additional whole humans just to add taste buds thereafter. Eventually he’s all set except for the dermis, which his half brother unhappily provides. Now he’s ready to hit the town!

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Mothers, lock up your daughters

Well, not quite. Remember that niece of his? Well she solved the puzzle box too! But she’s got a bargaining chip to save her from a play date in the stock yards of hell: him. Apparently Cerberus was taking a nap the day he escaped because the cenobites were none the wiser to his absence. Understandably sheepish, the demons agree to keep her north of Hades provided she leads them to her uncle.

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Of course you can trust us!

There is a horror movie theorem that states that the haunt in a house isn’t leaving unless it takes the house with them. Seriously, how many movies involve a house being blown to shit when whatever source that pervades it is expelled? Hellraiser fits squarely into this category. Rafters are inexplicably crashing down, the walls are blowing up, and everything is catching on fire. And amidst the confusion the niece figures out she can zap these horny creeps back to their sex dungeons by fiddling around with the puzzle box and pointing it at them. Good thing all these explosions are distracting us, otherwise that might not make a whole lot of sense!

Overall:

malort
I
t will tear your soul apart!

Malort is the stuff of legend, and it tastes like putrid death. And yes, you can count me among those who imbibe from time to time. Truly, the lines between pleasure and pain are never as blurred as in a bottle of Malort.

 

Day of the Dead (1985)

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About:

A group of scientists and soldiers are holed up in a bunker in Florida after the country has been overtaken by zombies.  While the scientists desperately try to explain what has happened, the impatient military outfit assigned to protect them is eager to engage the undead.  Humanity’s last hope not only faces the hordes of flesh-eating zombies outside their combine, but must try to survive each as well.

Review:

This movie started out really cool.  From the get go it felt so dark and creepy and sinister.  These scientists fly their whirlybird to some Florida town looking for survivors of the zombie apocalypse, one of them desperately imploring through a megaphone: “HELLOOOO?”  Of course the only people who respond are the walking dead.  And not just random bodies in nondescript tatters.  There are brides, clowns, bicyclists; an entire city of human life captured at the moment of their deaths like some gruesome photo.

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We’re not gonna take it!

And then 45 minutes of nothing.  Like, nothing really at all.  The scientists bump heads with the group of military personnel until the end.  Apparently when the zombie outbreak occurred a team was hastily assembled and plopped into an underground keep with the goal of trying to discover what had happened to mankind and if there was any way to reverse the effects.  What follows for much of the movie is some douche bag army guy threatening the scientists that if they don’t come up with a miracle cure soon he’s going to go ahead and bring his outfit to the surface to try and fight off the millions of hungry undead.  It is unclear why the scientists don’t just let him go get eaten.

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Because, like, our compassion is what makes us human, maaan.  

The whole process of trying to diagnose the cause of the outbreak isn’t even a part of the picture.  An overly involved scientist is tearing into corpses and keeps a pet zombie, but all he’s really discovered is that once people turn into zombies they are like dogs, acting on instinct and conditioned to respond to certain stimuli.  Does the group use this information to conduct a mass zombie-training class?  No, the scientist gets greased and his theories never materialize into anything but filler.

Finally at the end one of the soldiers loses his marbles and decides to go out and open the doors for the undead.  There is no reason in this other than to advance the plot, for which I was grateful.  Once the zombies were back in the picture the movie is again highly entertaining, if only for the remaining 20 minutes.  The special effects are brilliant and entirely over the top.  It’s a shame they weren’t showcased throughout the entire length of the film.  I just wish I weren’t eating spaghetti when I watched it.

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Overall: Guinnes

Guinness for strength

Guinness for strength

I’ve run out of explosion gifs, so from now on I’m grading a movie by pairing it to a beer.

Guinness is that beer you grow up believing is the beer to end all beers. And then you get your grubby little underage hands on some and you’re like, “eh…that’s ok.” Actually, when you first try it you act like it actually is the greatest thing ever because you don’t want to look like a chump in front of your fellow pledges. In any case, at some point you switch to something with more of a taste and wonder what all the fuss was about.

From Beyond (1986)

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About:

Dr. Edward Pretorius has invented a machine that stimulates the human pineal gland, allowing anyone within range the ability to see the horrifying inter-dimensional creatures existing around us at all times.  When Pretorius loses his head to one of the monsters his assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, is presumed to be his killer.  Only by restoring the machine, and potentially opening a rift into a sinister world, can he prove his innocence.

Review:

Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in Re-Animator, reprises his role as a budding mad scientist, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, experimenting with taboo and wholly sinister subject matter.  How type-cast can you get?  Indeed, From Beyond, released a year after Re-Animator, is the second effort from the trio of Combs, Director Stuart Gordon, and screenplay writer Dennis Paoli to adapt a Lovecraft tale into a feature length movie.  Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, the assistant to a scientist, Dr. Pretorius, who has invented a machine that would allow a person to fully experience each of their 5 senses to the extreme, as well as awaken a 6th sense that had become dormant in humans.  Specifically, the Pretorius Resonator establishes a series of mathematically precise vibrations to stimulate the human pineal gland.  This hyper-sensitivity allows the pineal gland to act as sort of a third eye, making it possible for humans to see all the creatures that inhabit the interdimensional space around us at all times.  Got it?

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So this guy is standing behind you right now – you just can’t see him

Tillinghast is actually the less-nutty of the two, and after getting bitten in the face by an interdimensional eel, tries to warn his mentor of the dangers his Resonator poses.  But of course Pretorius isn’t going to listen to his little bitch of an assistant, so he cranks the machine up to full blast and, well, gets his head bitten of by some unseen otherworldly monster.

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It grows back…sort of

Ok so all that stuff above takes place before the title card.  So now we have Tillinghast in a mental hospital as the presumed schizophrenic killer of Pretorius, babbling on about interdimensional monsters running around biting off people’s heads.  Enter Barbara Crampton (also of Re-Animator fame) as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, the District Attorney’s appointed psychologist sent to determine the mental state of Tillinghast.  When she remains unconvinced of his schizophrenia, the DA releases him into her care and they return to the lab to recreate the experiment in hopes of proving his innocence.

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Also to have one crazy-ass slumber party!

This is right about where the climax of the movie came for me, the point at which I was most excited to be watching it and convinced it was going to be a good one.  Alas, as these films are wont to do, the whole thing began unraveling shortly thereafter.  Frequent readers (hi, Dad) know that my main bugaboo is glaring plot holes.  The little inconsistencies don’t bother me – if someone is wearing a blue shirt in one cut and a red one in the next, I really don’t mind that because it doesn’t detract from the actual story.  What drives me crazy and ultimately ruins a movie for me is when the story comes to a screeching halt because we are supposed to jump over a giant gap in logic and just accept it for what it is.  I can’t do that.  I will become disengaged in what is currently going on in the story because I am still so hung up on that thing that didn’t make any sense that happened thirty minutes ago.  From Beyond did not have one such egregious plot hole, but several.  I was practically squirming in my seat as soon as the opening credits finished up.

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Although to be fair several factors contributed to my squeamishness

My favorite character in the film is the policeman, Bubba, who had been sent to accompany Tillinghast and McMichaels for security.  When everyone hauls their gear into the Pretorious house, he casually brings along a giant fucking ninja sword.  This is a small detail – no one even mentions it.  So the whole movie I’m waiting for this thing to come into play, and it never does!  What a tease!

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Get back here, you tease!

Bubba is also the only voice of reason throughout this whole thing, so naturally he’s the first to die.  I had to watch his death scene a few times because it made zero sense and even now I have no idea what went down.  While Tillinghast and McMichaels are getting swarmed by interdimensional bugs, Bubba discovers that shining a flashlight on them makes the bugs disperse.  He then looks like he has an idea, probs involving the ninja sword, but accidentally drops the flashlight like a total bozo.  It lands in such a way that the beam is now focused on him, and the bugs swarm all over his body.  But wait, I thought they didn’t like the light?  Yea, well, now they do.  Deal with it.  By the time the bugs are done with him  he is reduced to a justifiably confused head atop a completely skeletonized body.


musical emphasis added by YouTube user ‘CannibalCuisine27’

Definitely coming from out of left field is the spare bedroom / sex dungeon in Dr. Pretorius’s house.  I guess this has something to do with the good doctor’s mortal quest to stimulate the senses.  In the movie they find this room full of whips and chains and gimp suits, as well as some video of Dr. P doing some real nefarious acts with an unknown mistress.  The characters keep coming back to this room just to, y’know, convene and shit.  Only after Tillinghast gets all his body hair ripped out by a laundry room monster and is passed out in the sex dungeon’s guest bed does Dr. McMichaels find him desirable enough to strap one of said gimpsuits onto herself and straddle him.  I wasn’t really sure what this had to do with anything, but we do get to see some extra beefy ass cheeks in the scene, so I let it slide.

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some serious USDA Prime beef

By the end of the movie these guys are just shooting for broke.  Tillinghast’s pineal gland becomes so stimulated that forehead balloons to Rihanna size, until finally the thing just pokes itself out of his head for some fresh air.

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Too…many…dick jokes!

Yea the weirdness doesn’t stop there.  For no reason whatsoever Tillinghast’s newly acute senses are giving him a craving for human brains.  His preferred method of dining, sucking it through a person’s eye socket like he’s taking down a jell-o shot, makes for some great cinematic special effects but unfortunately does nothing to save this movie from absolutely imploding.


as rendered by Trent Shy (@TrentShy)

Overall: 5

Explode-01-june

This movie is not unlike an explosion – starts out exciting enough, but quickly subsides into a lingering sulfur stink.

After I saw this I had to read the story it was based on, just to see where these guys went wrong in transitioning it to the big screen.  Turns out Lovecraft’s story is only 4 fucking pages long! – meaning most of the shit in the movie was completely made up from scratch.  In the actual story Tillinghast is actually the evil genius, the he invites some skeptical friend over so he can simultaneously prove to him he was right all along and enact his revenge by feeding him to an ephemeral monster.  I guess that’s not surprising that everything bad about this movie didn’t actually come from the grandfather of horror stories.  Good thing he made Re-Animator much longer, otherwise Gordon and Paoli, left to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations, would have probably turned that into a total stinker as well.

 

Basket Case (1982)

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About:

Duane Bradley has just moved to New York City with his brother to meet some old friends. Except his brother is a deformed malicious blob who he carries around in a whicker basket, and their old friends are the cruel doctors who cut them apart when they were kids.

Review:

I had actually never even heard of Basket Case until I saw it referenced in a Trent Shy claymation video at the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival in Charleston, SC:

How have I never seen this?  Basket Case was really good.  It was super gory and campy as all hell.  When your monster is a foot-tall blob of deformed flesh the campiness sort of comes naturally, but it’s especially charming in this case.  From what I could tell the monster, little Bilal, was portrayed by rubber gloves, a mask, and a puppet.  These were all done really well.  However there were one or two scenes where he was shown through some truly horrible stop motion animation.  The only example I could find of this online is a hilarious mashup of ABBA’s Dancing Queen set to Bilal going full Rolling Stones mode on a hotel room:

Having the time of his liiiife…

It is revealed in a flashback scene that the boys’ asshole father blames Bilal for their mother’s death during birth.  No respectable physicians will agree to separate the two, so the dad brings in three quacks to perform the operation in their dining room.  Amazingly Bilal survives and years later the two set out to exact revenge on the doctors who cut them apart.

Perhaps the freakiest part of this movie was the noise track – Bilal is often shrieking like a banshee getting bludgeoned by an alley cat, and the kill scenes are to the tunes of atonal Moog sounds mixed with various animal noises and loud sirens.

Basket Case was bordering on greatness until the ending, which was so hilarious that it still makes this a must-see.  As it turns out, this whole movie really boils down to just a couple of horny bros looking for some action.  You can imagine having to bend to every whim of your psychopathic deformed twin might make having a love life a little difficult.  So when Duane meets a total babe from the city, Bilal gets jealous that he’s not getting any hanky-panky.  Being the man of action that he is, he sets out to show this girl that it’s he who is the more charming of the two. And while I’m reluctant to publish any adult content on this site, I did feel it was necessary to share a certain visual from the film, which I do so now without comment:

bilal humps

The craziness doesn’t end there.  The final 10 minutes of the movie are perhaps the best, if only because they are completely outrageous and totally out of character with everything that came before it.  As close as they are, the movie ends with yet another pair of victims who failed to adhere to that sacred adage, “bros before hoes.”

Overall: 9

Hell Fire!!!!

hellfire

Basket Case is a legitimately good movie.  It made sense (which always earns major bonus points for movies like these), was very campy, and also quite creepy.  The idea for this film was really original and has obviously been the inspiration of several works which have followed it.  And you know what? I’m not even going to bother with the physics of a little blob of flesh being able to manhandle full grown men.  Little Bilal is all upper-body strength and that’s just that.

Dead Alive (1992)

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About:

Lionel Cosgrove lives with his domineering mother in a small town in New Zealand.  When she dies after being bitten by a rare monkey, she comes back to life as a voracious zombie, infecting other townsfolk as Lionel frantically tries to clean up her mess.

Review:

Do you know what Peter Jackson was doing before he cashed in on the Lord of the Rings movies?  He was making ultra gory B horror movies like Dead Alive.  Released as Braindead in New Zealand, the title was changed for the US release because we already a movie called Brain Dead (which had Bill Paxton AND Bill Pullman in it!)

Dead Alive is a horror-comedy, the purpose of which is not so much to tell a story or inspire fear, but to showcase a flood of home-made special effects and over-the-top, never-ending gore.  I tried eating a plate of spaghetti while watching this, and trust me –  that was a big mistake.  But the while the movie is visceral, it is also very well-done and extremely creative.  If there had merely been a high body count with buckets of blood then that’d be one thing.  Yet Dead Alive puts so much detail into every death, inventing new ways to shock, sicken, and delight us with its quirky special effects as the movie goes on.

The movie opens in 1957 on Skull Island, where a New Zealand explorer has captured a Sumatran rat monkey, which according to legend was bred when plagued rats scurried off of slaves ships and raped all the native tree monkeys.  In an homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark he is pursued by angry natives and finally bests the savages by jumping into the back of a vehicle to leave them hopping up and down, angrily shaking sticks.

The Sumatran rat monkey ends up in a zoo and is a real piece of shit.  First this little rat bastard is beating up on all the other fun-loving monkeys, then it finally passes its zombifying plague onto Lionel’s mother.

He got what was coming to him

The absurd grossness begins there and doesn’t stop until the ending credits.  After Lionel’s mom is bitten she dies and comes back to life a flesh-craving zombie.  Being the loving and oedipal son that he is, he can’t bring himself to bury her reanimated corpse in the cold ground, so instead keeps her locked up in the basement with the rest of her zombie buddies, sedating them every so often with massive amounts of animal tranquilizer.  Occasionally one of them would wander off, but overall Lionel has the situation pretty much under control.

Shit really hits the fan once Lionel’s slimeball Uncle Les discovers all the tranquilized stiffs in the basement and threatens to call the police unless Lionel gives him his mother’s inheritance, including the house.  And what better way is there to celebrate inheriting a buttload of cash and a mansion from your dead sister than inviting the whole town over for a giant party?  Of course the zomboners in the basement get loose and the next 45 minutes or so is a fantastic expose of blood and guts.

There are really far too many great scenes from the movie to post here so I just encourage you to find a copy and watch it.  If nothing else, Dead Alive is 100% pure entertainment.

Overall: 8.5

HOT HOT HOT

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Dead Alive is a must see.  Billed as the goriest movie ever made, it does not disappoint.  And unlike setting all this disgusting gore to a serious and disturbing plot that might actually make you lose sleep and question your moral principles, the movie is hilarious so it’s all in great fun.  Plus, who doesn’t love New Zealanders?

Re-Animator (1985)

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About:
An ambitious medical student creates a serum which he believes can bring the dead back to life.  Disregarding warnings and threats from the faculty, he and his roommate set out to prove that death can be beaten.  But when their experiments go horribly wrong, their academic reputations are the least of their worries…

Review:
I hate to admit that the first time I tried to watch this movie I fell asleep during the opening credits.  My bad! Re-Animator was a great flick and well deserving of its cult status.  I think in order for these types of movies to be a success it is important they not take themselves too serious, which is something Re-Animator certainly does not do.  The gore is so abundant and over-the-top all you can do is laugh in between dry heaves.

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This guy knows what I’m talking about, lol!

The protagonist, young and ambitious medical student Herbert West, is a complete dick head for most of the movie before suddenly morphing into the beloved hero at the end.  He transfers into Miskatonic University after studying abroad and immediately starts shit with faculty member Carl Hill, accusing him of plagiarizing his work on brain death and teaching his students outdated theories.

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also a known dick to pencils

Turns out there is a reason the little bastard is so brash, and it’s because he’s invented a serum that, when injected into a corpse’s brain steam, will bring it back to life.  So far it’s worked on rabbits and cats, so it’ll probably work just as well on the stiffs down at the local morgue, right?

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I don’t see why not

West ropes his new roommate, Dan Cain, the darling of the Miskatonic med school, into helping him gain access to the morgue and test his neon goo.  Also brought into the fold is Megan Halsay, Cain’s hot fiancee and daughter of the school’s surly dean.  Dean Halsay is already not too keen on Cain banging out his daughter on the reg, so you can imagine he’s more than a little purturbed when he finds out he’s also bringing her along to poke and prod at dead bodies.

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Best date night EVER!

My favorite scene is when West tests his re-animation serum on Cain’s dead cat, Rufus.  In  a Pet Sematary homage, the cat comes back to life even more demonic than cats are normally.  The two chase it around with a croquet mallet and baseball bat until thy finally make it explode by throwing it really hard against the wall:

Fuck you, demon toupee!

I don’t want to give much more away, but I will whet your whistle by letting you know that what ensues is plenty of re-animated corpses bleeding from each and every one of their orifices, guts spilling out by the bucket-full, and a dismembered zombie head going to town on a great pair of damsel boobs.

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Baby, you’ve reanimated my heart ❤

Overall: 8
When it comes to zombies, I prefer rotting corpses brought back to life, as opposed to the ‘living dead’ model where people are turned after being infected by a virus.  Because the zombie genre seems to be chalk full of these latter types, Re-Animator struck a chord within my stone cold heart.  As mentioned, the gore for this movie is phenomenal; the make-up and special effects are top notch and the death scenes are really creative.  If you are looking for a good old fashioned splatter fest, you’ve found it in Re-Animator.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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About:

Melvin is a hopeless dweeb working as a health club janitor in Tromaville, New Jersey.  Continually drawing the ire of the roid-raging club members, one day a prank goes too far and sends Melvin careening out a window and into a barrel of toxic sludge.  However the green goop transforms him into a 7-foot muscle bound monster, and he takes it upon himself to stand up to the corrupt forces that are ruining the city.

Review:

While the Toxic Avenger is a spoof of campy 1950’s horror films, it is not really much of a horror film itself.  It is, however, one of the campiest and goriest movie I’ve ever seen and therefore has done more than enough to earn its place here.

I’m convinced!

The ridiculous tone is immediately set as the opening credits are shot over a hyper-sexualized gym scene with girls in skimpy bikinis and guys in those high-hemmed Umbros we’re all familiar with.

The fat guy in the above clip eating the 6-foot hoagie while getting a massage is the corrupt mayor of Tromaville.  (On a side note, don’t try to eat anything while watching this movie.)  He and his henchmen facilitate the rampant drug-running that takes place in the gym and out on the streets.  A quartet of juiced-up meatheads, brothers Bozo and Slug and their two hot girlfriends, are the main tormentors of poor Melvin.  The group organizes a prank that ends up with him dressed in a pink tutu kissing a gussied-up sheep.  Ashamed, Melvin is chased by the other gym members through a second story window and in to a barrel of toxic waste.  Horribly disfigured, but now a huge-muscly beast, he absconds to the city dump, reemerging when the good citizens of Tromaville need someone to fight for them.

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…although though he’d prefer to love…

The Toxic Avenger was produced and distributed by Troma Entertainment, the namesake of the fictional town in the film, which has made a name for itself creating over-the-top shock value farces since 1974.  Indeed, The Toxic Avenger seems to be the precursor for ‘violence for the sake of violence’ films like Hobo With a Shotgun.  Some of the uncouth scenes include a bandit blowing a hole through a blind girl’s seeing-eye dog.  Another scene shows a Bozo, Spud, and their girlfriends hitting pedestrians with their car, with a point system based upon the race and age of the victims.  After they run over a kid the girls jump out and take polaroids of the corpse so they can get off to them later in the steam room.  This is the kind of sick stuff that makes you feel gross just watching it.

Yea, sick stuff like this

But there also is a candidly humorous side of The Toxic Avenger that helps take the edge off the shock scenes by reminding you that this is just a big joke.  There are several funny moments, although the main gags in the film include getting hit in the balls, a blind girl bumping into things, and said blind girl bumping into a pair of balls.  I wish I could tell you this type of humor was banal and childish, but you know I was laughing the entire time.

Overall: 9

I remember The Toxic Avenger as an action figure and a spinoff cartoon when I was a kid.  I was vaguely aware it was based on a movie, and after finally seeing it, can’t believe it’s remained such a hidden gem for so long.  This movie is fantastic!  It’s hilariously campy and gory and disgusting in all the right ways.  You can bet this won’t be the last Troma movie reviewed on here.  Go find this movie and watch it right now!

Bonus**

The rare laserdisc edition of the film, released in 1998, includes an introduction in which Lloyd Kaufman, co-funder of Troma, interviews a homeless and destitute Toxie.  During their exchange Toxie gives a guy a blow job in exchange for crack.

These Troma guys just can’t stop