I’ve probably hit a new low bothering with Toxic Avenger, but I couldn’t stop myself. I hadn’t seen the original in years, so I checked it out again…and I’m a completist, so I had to go through them all.
THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)
The original is always the best. A voice-over informs us that Tromaville is the capital of waste dumping. Then we get some great overacting at the best 80s gym ever (there are even two big queens). This montage is set to a totally 80s dance track called “Body Talk” by Sandy Farina, star of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band with The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton! Awesome. Love her. She does a mean Strawberry Fields.
Anyway, this geeky janitor named Melvin is horribly treated by the pretty people (one of whom looks eerily like an older Corey Feldman, complete with an 80s headband). These aren’t just bullies. They’re psychos. They actually run down some kid in their car then splatter his head all over the road. So it’s no surprise when they play an awful prank on Melvin that lands him in a vat of toxic waste.
I’d have to say that Melvin’s transformation is probably the best part of this movie for a horror fan. After that, it becomes a slapstick exploitation/monster hero flick. Some thugs on the street attack a cop…and one of them is in drag and wants to make love to him. Toxie comes to save the day. Thugs terrorize a restaurant (one of them a shirtless horror hottie Patrick Kilpatrick in suspenders). Toxie takes care of them.
Toxie saves a blind girl, which leads to a romantic montage. Then he returns to the gym to get gory revenge on all the assholes there. He also walks in on a chick masturbating in a sauna, plus, Marisa Tomie makes a brief appearance in a towel (she had to start somewhere). There’s a “chase scene” in which one of the girls runs from Toxie as he delivers one-liners like Freddy Krueger would a few years later.
Finally, the film has a happy ending, with the town rallying around Toxie.
THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II (1989)
It’s downhill fast for Toxie with the first sequel. He does get his own heavy metal theme song during the opening credits, which is cool, but he also narrates his story, making this a really cheesy exploitation action hero movie. He has cleaned up Tromaville and works at a center for the blind (for reasons I don’t understand, he has a different blind girlfriend than in the first movie—different character name and actress).
An evil corporation wants to bring toxic waste back to Tromaville, so Toxie needs to be destroyed. They trick him into going to Japan to look for his long lost father. It’s bad. Really bad. And not in the “I can’t help but laugh” way. There are Asian stereotypes played for laugh. There are endless slapstick martial arts fights, including Toxie against a little person, a drag queen, mock Village People, sumo wrestlers, ninjas, and S&M chicks. There are boobs just for the hell of it. And, Toxie gets a sex scene.
This film definitely solidifies Troma as the maker of crappy movies (what does it say that I own so many of them?). However, Toxie looks amazing in painted on tights, both in front and back.
THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE (1989)
This one was shot at the same time as part 2, so Toxie still has that rockin’ lower half. However, after an awesome opening scene in which Toxie returns to Tromaville and immediately takes on baddies in a video store (the nostalgia made me misty-eyed), we’re back to the crapfest that was part 2.
Toxie can’t find a job and becomes suicidal. In hopes of making money to get his girl an operation to return her vision, he takes a job at the very corporation that was trying to destroy him—which turns the town against him. Troma Films, desperate to make this one entertaining, resorts to more Toxie sex and even a scene of Toxie crapping on a toilet bowl, complete with wiping.
Finally, the devil emerges from the body of one of the evil corporation’s execs. After the video store scene, this gnarly moment is the best in the film. It just looks nasty cool and even the devil is cool. Unfortunately, the good comes with a big price. As usual, Troma never knows when to end a scene (or movie). We get a 40-minute raucous segment of townsfolk standing around shrieking and screaming as the devil wreaks havoc while battling Toxie. It’s unbearable. I dreaded going into the fourth film.
CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART IV (2000)
At the very beginning of part 4, legendary Stan Lee narrates and apologizes to us for the previous two sequels, claiming this is the official sequel to the first film.
Unfortunately, by the year 2000, Troma was totally convinced that endless scenes of people shitting in one form or another were all you needed to make a movie. They also still haven’t learned that trash cinema should not run nearly 2 hours long. But worst of all, Toxie looks like crap. Not only is his mask different, but the bod just doesn’t compare to what Toxie was packin’ in parts 2 and 3.
In this one we start with mockery of “special” kids in a school with Debbie Rochon as the teacher. There are loads of cameos, including a flash of Eli Roth in a crowd, Tiffany Shepis, director James Gunn, and even Corey Feldman (a nod to his lookalike in the original, perhaps?). To top it all off, Ron Jeremy appears as a religious mayor who ends up getting crucified…in the mouth.
The basic premise is that Toxie and his evil alter-ego switch dimensions, which is actually a cool concept. But naturally, this being Troma Films, the predominantly unfunny humor, gross-outs, and intentional offensive content wear thin fast. There are a couple of highlights, though. Trapped in his alter ego’s world, Toxie discovers that the mirror image of him has a leather boy on a chain waiting for him at home…and it turns out bad Toxie’s not the top in the relationship. In fact, Toxie bottoms twice in this movie, even appearing in a gay porn….
Other highlights include—oh wait. That’s it. Yeah, just the gay stuff, and mostly just because they finally decided to go there in the fourth film. There is a final battle in a hospital between Toxie and his alter ego—because Toxie’s lady is having a baby—and that’s uber gory good, so that’s a plus. But things just get too weird when the fight picks up inside the womb….