Well, “The Toxic Avenger” rounds out my second day of 80’s movie week. I was browsing through the Netflix video selection and thought, hey, I’ve never seen “The Toxic Avenger” before. So I dimmed the lights, grabbed a drink and threw it on. An hour and a half of uninteresting plot and worthless characters later, I realized why I had never seen it before. It kinda sucks.
There’s a reason some movies gain cult status and others make it in the big leagues. Case in point right here. Everyone has heard of “The Toxic Avenger”, but I’ll be damned if anyone has ever seen it. I figured I had when I was younger, but after seeing the overly excessive gore and sexual content, I knew I hadn’t. The basic premise and outrageousness of what happens is what catapults movies into the realm of the cult classic. Once in that spot, new movie goers don’t even need to see the movie to talk about it. I remember playing with Toxic Avenger action figures when I was younger. If my parents only knew what really went on in that movie, I wouldn’t have been allowed to even look at the toy. There is so much gratuitous… well, everything. Nudity, sex, gore, violence, profanity. It’s like they went down a checklist for what gets your movie an NC-17 rating an decided not to check one box. Either way, I do have to commend the filmmakers for putting together a movie so outlandish and original and pertinent to the times that people couldn’t help but talk about it.
On the whole 80’s vibe, this one really goes wild on the conspiracy/technology idea. The theme definitely has an environmental twist this time, but we are really still concerned with how society as a whole is bad. There is radioactive waste being delivered through town, a landfill next to a park, more waste than you can shake a stick at, and a corrupt mayor who wants to keep it coming, all in the quest for that almighty dollar. The good versus evil element is very strong, highlighted by the fact that Toxie can only kill bad people. Even the old lady he kills in the laundromat is a KKK member and a racist in her spare time.
Script-wise, this romp was terrible. Pacing is awkward, time jumps are dodgy at best and the dialogue is just plain weird. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a spoof and make fun of all the excess and douche-baggery of the time, but it certainly could have been handled better. Towards the middle of the movie we get a strong “Frankenstein” vibe, with the lumbering monster falling in love with the blind girl. Once again, I’m pretty sure this was meant to be satire, but even in a non-serious role it doesn’t seem to work. It would be like if they had a love interest for Sloth in “The Goonies”. In the end, the good triumphs over evil, let’s stop pollution theme really comes out, and it closes more like a PSA than a genre movie.
If they put the squeeze on the budget for script, they had it in a real choke hold for acting. No one in this movie is even worth looking up, so we’re just going to roll with character names. Melvin, our main character and soon to be radioactive superhero, is one of the weirdest guys I’ve ever seen. I’m not usually one to feel sympathy for the nerd in a movie, and it definitely won’t start here. To be honest, I would have kicked the guy’s ass if I had ever met him. The two meatheads, who were way too skinny to be meatheads, were actually kinda funny in their over-the-top-ness. Think “The Situation” from twenty five years ago and with a big anger problem (“He’s stressing me!”). The main girls were pretty hot, but a drain to listen to. That does fit with what the movie was trying to accomplish, but it’s not pleasant to sit through. My biggest qualm with characterization in the movie was the Toxic Avenger’s voice. He was a big, mutated giant, but had a voice like a normal person. Not weird like his former, nerdy self, and not deep and powerful like a monster. Just normal. To make matters worse, it is the same voice as the narrator, which gets confusing at first because you don’t see Toxie’s face until an hour or so into the film. You here him talk, but can’t decide if it is him or the narrator again.
Where this one really shines is the gore. And I thought “The Blob” was good. I couldn’t even count how many deaths we got in this one, but not only were they outrageous, they were justified as well. Well, all except when the meatheads kill the kid, which is just kinda sickening. Everyone who is killed is a bad person in some way, and they are killed very creatively. Eyes poked out, heads bashed together, head crushed by weight stack, guts ripped out (“Let’s see if you’ve got any guts!”) and various other gruesome goodies. The special effects were gnarly to complement the ridiculousness of some of the killings. Gorehounds will delight in this dish, best taken on an empty stomach.
Overall I was fairly disappointed with “The Toxic Avenger”. It wasn’t that I had high expectations for the movie, just that I had expectations at all. I assumed I was in for a fairly decent waltz through 80’s cheesiness with reasonable acting and a reasonable plot. Unfortunately, this one is missing all the key elements to make a movie watchable. It’s not even any fun. Sure, there are some interesting death scenes and some great over the top gore that makes you cheer, but in general it is hard to watch. The characters are lame, even from a stereotype point of view, the story doesn’t catch you, and the environmental and good vs evil themes are not fully realized. If you’ve heard of “The Toxic Avenger” but never seen seen it, keep it that way. At least you still have a half decent view of the movie. How this spawned four sequels I will never know.