Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Movie Reviews 299 – Cronos (1993)

May 14, 2017

Director Guillermo del Toro is one of those creators who rose from the ranks of fandom, honing his craft over the years to ultimately become one of the greatest directors of horror and fantasy genre movies. With notable entries that include The Devil’s Backbone, Mimic, the Hellboy series and his magnum opus; Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has garnered the respect of colleagues and fans alike by having a solid story foundation and then having solid characters to drive them. As auteur taking on the roles of writer, director and producer, his creations are thoughtful, imaginative, compassionate and always contain some element of horror.

And all this began with Cronos, his first feature film at the tender age of 27 which immediately caught notice and garnered accolades that gave him ever increasing leverage and budgets to do more. Fans of his other films will notice that it is also the movie that lays other foundations that will be familiar in his later career, be it professionals team ups with actor Ron Perlman, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and a penchant for insect and bugs and steampunk mechanics – before steampunk was a fad.

When elderly antique shop dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) observes that one of his shoppers has taken notice of a particular angelic statuette his curiosity is aroused. As soon as the shopper leaves he scrutinizes the figurine more closely and discovers an ornamental gold scarab-like device hidden inside. Clutching the palm sized jewelry it momentarily comes to mechanical life gripping his hand with clenching legs and extruding a scorpion like stinger that pinches him.

The momentary pain is followed by a euphoric sensation but in the following days he also notices a return to vigor and even his wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) notices a slightly more youthful appearance. Doting over his pride and joy, granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath), he begins regularly – sting sessions which he believes to be a fountain of youth.

But the shopper that first lead his attention to the statuette was no regular customer but in fact one of many hired scouts searching for just such a figure at the behest of one Mr. De la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a dying rich man living in a sterile room. Upon hearing of the newfound statuette De la Guardia sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to purchase it, but is dismayed to learn that not only has the device he was seeking gone, but that Gris was draining the source of its powers.

Now, not only does Jesus have to deal with Angel trying to force him to give up the device, but he also learns it’s true secret, which is not exactly the nirvana he thought he had stumbled upon.

Rife with symbolism and allegory – in case you did not pick up on the suggestive religious connotations of the character names amongst other hints – the film is both profound and suspenseful. The secret of the device built by a 16th century alchemist and it’s internal workings shown in detail are both amazing and shocking.

This movie really has everything that del Toro fans have come to love without skimping on detail despite not having the budget of his later films. Now he and Perlman can just give us one more Hellboy

Movie Reviews 298 – Destroy All Monsters (1968)

May 6, 2017

I can’t believe I’ve almost reached 300 movie reviews and have yet to pen a review of even one Godzilla movie. I’ve seen all but two or three of the more than thirty movies starring the Big G, starting with his 1954 debut in Gojira (both the Hollywood ‘politically enhanced’ version where they inserted scenes with Raymond Burr and the much more somber Japanese original) continuing all the way to last year’s Shin Godzilla.

I’ve seen him battle King Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, a smog monster, his American cousin King Kong, giant crustaceans, the pterodactyl like Rodan, lepidoptera Mothra (as adult and in his larval stage), space monsters and even metallic robot replicas of himself. Many of those foes he’s fought, twice, thrice and even more!

I’ve seen him grow from a 50 meter tall gargantuan to a monstrosity over twice that height over the span of a few movies. He’s had a son to join him in his city stomping endeavors (quite a feat considering Godzilla being a male), and then bastardized by an American version that not only had him look like a T-Rex on steroids but even had the gall to have ‘him’ be a ‘her’ to spawn yet another brood. (Still trying to forget that one).

I’ve even seen him die a few times only to magically come back to life when the creators at Toho studios decided he was ripe for a new series of movies, and a presumably to also magically create an inflow of yen for the studio coffers  His on again, off again periodic spurts – academically cited as the Shōwa (1954–1975), Heisei (1984–1995), and Millennium series (1999–2004) before this latest incarnation- have distinct qualities that not only reflect the special effects technologies available at the time, but also reflect the contemporary audiences they were aimed at.

But as a kid growing up with a black and white TV with 4 channels to chose from (two of which were in French), the opportunities to catch a Godzilla movie were rare. As much as the lure of Godzilla tugged on my conscience, I was equally intrigued by the progression of supporting cast of Kaiju creatures he battled as his legacy grew, some of whom ended up starring in their own films. So when I learn about Destroy All Monsters while reading about it in The Monster Times –  a mid seventies newspaper format monthly that sated my horror fix for 60 cents a pop – it was a dream come true. The first real monster melee and with a bunch of those I had not had the chance to see yet. His son Minilla (sometimes called Minya), Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, Kumonga, Gorosaurus, Varan, Baragon, Manda, King Ghidorah, they were all here in one movie!

I had to wait until 1996 when the very first Fantasia film fest in Montreal included the film on it’s roster for me to finally see Destroy All Monsters in all it’s rubber suit glory for the first time.  Watching it again this week I have to confess that while living up to the hype of having the whole gang, plot wise it wasn’t quite the best.

As all these monsters had rampaged and been dealt with in previous movies, this one begins with all of them secured and living on an isolated island called “monsterland” which has controls and restraining mechanism geared for each of the behemoths. Suddenly they are all unleashed by aliens – the Kilaaks – and each monster appears over and begins tearing appart some major city in the world – France, Moscow, New York and finally Godzilla himself in Tokyo. It’s all part of a world domination plan by the Kilaaks. But in order to stop the monsters, Earth authorities first have to find where the Kilaaks are in order to destroy their controlling machine which by now also has some humans under control.

Riddled with forgettable dialogue, military officials and other world leaders seek guidance from a group of Japanese science specialists wearing Bruce Lee yellow jumpsuits. The white sequin wearing Kilaaks are finally found but in a last attempt to salvage their mission they unleash one final secret weapon. Predictably in the end the world is heroically saved at the last minute by the greatest monster of them all, Godzilla.

You can certainly do better if you’re going to watch only one or two Godzilla movies, but any real fan has to watch this one at least once in their lives.  “Skreeonk!”

Movie Reviews 297 – Won Ton Baby! (2011)

April 28, 2017

Madam Won Ton has a secret. Her idle-minded daughter Little Wing (Suzi Lorraine) who speaks only in baby-talk Chinese is not of Chinese descent at all but the result of a drug and alcohol fueled night of tomfoolery with a doped up, sweat suit wearing, Elvis impersonator who wears his flamboyant gold rimmed sunglasses to bed. In a role that only Scream Queen Debbie Rochon has the thespian acumen to make believable, Madam Won Ton, a former brothel Madam tries to keep her Chinese restaurant afloat, while drinking away her past life and her current problems.

One of those problems is the enormous growth on her pregnant  looking daughter’s abdomen as she clumsily waitresses in the restaurant, continually expressing “So solly. Me so solly.” as she drops food and drinks on the customers. When Little Wing suddenly feels pangs of pain and is brought to the hospital doctors determine that her protruding glob is a living parasitic twin which they excise and hand over to her with revulsion. Little Wing adopts her ‘brother’ as her own, oblivious to the trailing, dexterous umbilical cord and clawed hands. Sporting a shambling Elvis hairdo, the puppet like Won Ton Baby! monstrosity begins speaking within two days and starts hunting mice on the third. Then the bodies start piling up.

While Madam Won Ton charms the detective on the case (Lou Martini Jr.) her son Ben, a Jet Li wannabe, philosophically waxes Chinese ideology between hits of weed. In the meantime we get to see Baby jacking off to soft-core porn, smoke a few doobies himself and eventually having an unholy union with a drunk girl.

Undeniably twisted, this tale (co-written by “Little Wing” Lorraine) has us guessing what the baby will be like from the moment the camera zooms in on the bedside pill bottle with the “Risk of Birth Defects” warning. But no warning could be strong enough for the story that unfolds that includes scenes with “The King” in a sumo thong. It’s a poor man’s It’s Alive which includes Baby P.O.V. crawls and kills and a cameo by Leatherface himself, the late Gunnar Hansen.

Watch this one but I have to add one last warning. You don’t want to know what some of those cooks really serve as Chinese food in restaurants and the answer has nothing to do with the baby.

Movie Reviews 296 – Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

April 21, 2017

While William Shatner is an actor everyone is familiar with, his career is denoted by his role as Captain James T. Kirk and a number of TV series. Not counting any of the Star Trek movies, you’d be hard pressed to name a feature film in which he starred. For myself Kingdom of the Spiders immediately comes to mind.

Released two years after Jaws, I suspect this film was partly aiming to tap into that “natural animal gone amok” theme, immediately opening with a similar prey Point of View killing shot where we have a spider walking a beeline towards a cow and then hearing its last panicked Moo. OK, it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic effect as a Shark swimming in for a kill, but this was but one of many thinly veiled swipes from Jaws. As the troublesome taratula carnage spreads just before the town’s highly anticipated County Fair is about to begin the Sheriff wants to make sure that the nearby ranch (which we are supposed to believe is a large tourist draw) is not going to be closed down and put into quarantine. Sound familiar?

But let’s get back to The Shat in the role of Rack Hansen (how’s that for a character name) who plays a doctor ‘playing doctor’ if you get my drift. Well a veterinarian anyhow whose lotharian longings are directed towards both his brother’s widow and Diane (Tiffany Bolling) the big city arachnologist who comes to help when the local tarantulas begin grouping in the hundreds and start killing large prey including people. Rack is the one who sent in a dead calf’s blood for analysis prompting Diane to arrive with the distressing and unbelievable news that the venom found in the blood sample was hundreds of times more potent than normal tarantula bites. With Rack’s eyes are on her as much as the spiders I suspect that he too wished he had eight eyes so he could scope in more than one woman at a time. In typical Shat fashion he is literally all over the women, rolling on the ground with his sister-in-law after a horse ride in which he lassos her and then proposing Diane at every opportunity.

But the spiders are the draw of the movie and you won’t be disappointed in that regard. Numbering in the hundreds for many shots, I suspect many were fake replicas. But the close up scenes used the real buggers and I have to give credit to the cast as most of the actors had them crawling over them at some point and quite a few even handle a bunch of the eight legged crawlers in their hands.

The story sums up the reason for the invasion as DDT killing the spider’s sources of food leading them to be more aggressive and seek out new subsistence supplies. But who cares, right? We came for The Shat who gets to entertain us in a scene which he gets to overact while seemingly in his death throes. Now for real acting the movie does deliver with the roles of the rancher couple that are the initial hosts of the spiders, played by the great Woody Strode and Altovise Davis, Sammy Davis Jr’s wife, in what turned out to be her most memorable role.

As was the case for the movie Squirm, all I could get my hands on was the novelization of the movie to read.  Why was it so hard for me to watch all these bug movies? Perhaps that is why I appreciate them so much today? In any case if you do have a chance to watch this one be sure to stick around until the very last frame for a monumental matte painting shot that’ll be sure to give you the creeps.

Movie Reviews 294 – Shrooms (2007)

April 7, 2017

When prim and proper Tara (Lindsey Haun) joins a bunch of friends on a trip to Ireland her real goal was to strike a romance with a foreign friend of the gang, the Irish local Jake (Jack Huston, the latest entrant in the Huston thespian dynasty). Her friends on the other hand have a slightly more mischievous goal of having Jake, a connoisseur of the hallucinogenic fungi, host them to a wild ‘Magic” mushroom camping trip.

As Jake drives the vacationers deep into lush and damp forests of the Emerald Isle the trip is temporarily marred when their camper van runs into a wild goat only to have a pair of hillbillies gladly scamper off with the roadkill, presumably for dinner. Later while harvesting the psilocybin mushrooms Jake neglects to inform everyone in the party that they are to avoid the similar looking “Death’s Head” Shrooms as their effects go way beyond mere head trips and can lead to paralysis and even death. Unaware of this little fact Tara ingests a Death’s Head and has a near deadly convulsing episode.

As Tara recovers later that night Jake entertains the others with a campfire tale of the Legend of the Black Brothers a religious order who ran a young offenders institution in the area. Suffice to say that local legend has it that the lone surviving victim of the most sadistic of the Black Brothers is said to roam to forests. Tara begins to experience both sightings of shadowy figures while at the same time having premonitions of ill fated demises of her friends as they begin to disperse and disappear in the backwoods. Is the legend true or are Tara’s experiences all in her head?

You would think that the filmmakers would capitalize on the possibility that Tara may merely be experiencing a distorted perception of events and her surroundings as it is made clear that that is one of the effects of the mushrooms. But unfortunately this is only hinted at briefly and then discarded as the plot evolves into a ‘by the numbers’ horror in the woods suspense with the archetypal Scooby gang as fodder (jock, primadonna, stoner, outsider, etc.) Worse yet, we have little empathy for the group of snot nosed friends as they can barely tolerate and take every opportunity to backstab one another. The hillbillies do figure in the plot but only as a distraction that further complicates the viewers take on what’s really going on. What we do get is a lot of running around, glimpses and hints of some feral child or animal, and a lot of psychotropic visuals.

The film’s marketing tagline is “Get ready to be wasted” but I didn’t realize that that would include my time watching this tale from the Land of Leprechauns. This is one bad trip and you’d be better of settling for a bowl of Lucky Charms.  At least “They’re Magically Delicious!”

Movie Reviews 291 – Garden of the Dead (1972)

March 17, 2017

If you think that this movie is geared to horticulturalists seeking to prolong the lifespan of their petunias or azaleas, drop your hoe right now. Although manure does figure prominently in my assessment of the film there is a seed of low budget wholesomeness that levitates Garden of the Dead for the bottom of the barrel, but only by a fraction.

Credit DVD distributor Retromedia for including a drawing of a bombshell to create an nontraditional FBI DVD warning, but I had to question the introduction with Ohio horror host “Son of Ghoul’ who lambastes the film before egging Retromedia founder and B movie producer, director Fred Olen Ray to hurl a bowling ball through a TV set before we get to see the opening credits. This was not an option on the DVD mind you but built right into the Play command. Not sure what all that was about but whatever.

A snazzy, catchy Jazz beat gets things rolling with a bunch of prisoners hauling formaldehyde barrels around a worksite, as we cut to some of them hiding from their guards and sniffing the stuff as they plan for their not so great escape.

Clearly divided into groups that want to partake and others that want to know nothing about the impending outbreak, those determined soon make their getaway. With one of bumbling escapees taking in one last whiff of the noxious gas, he soon stumbles, alerting the guards which leads to an inevitable motor chase, the end result of which is the convicts crashing into a graveyard and having formaldehyde spill across the plots.

Within seconds hands of the living dead are bursting through the soil grabbing ankles amidst a futile shootout with the prison guards. So what do the zombies do? Why they head for the garden tools in the getaway pickup of course as they merrily chant “Destroy the living”. I only mention this since honestly it’s the only tie in to a garden that could explain the title.

The plot includes one ‘good’ prisoner named Paul who has an emotion filled visit from his lascivious lady Carol. After a few zombie battles that take out some of the neighbors and the perpetually gloved warden, those that are still alive, prisoners and guards alike, get holed up in a standoff on the prison grounds. In the end, twas beauty in the guise of Carol that killed the … zombies.

Clocking in at a merciful 58 minutes, this will never make anyone’s top ten zombie movie list. Or top twenty. But I’ve seen far worse so I’ll leave it at that.

One last thing about the Retromedia DVD. The trailer included as the only extra is for the wrong film. But the trailer that was included which was for the co-feature Grave of the Vampire actually looked more interesting than this movie.

Movie Reviews 289 – Discopath (2013)

March 3, 2017

DiscopatheWhen the guys from Black Fawn films discussed and ran the trailer for Discopath (original French title Discopathe) at a comic con nearly three years ago I was stoked. Shot mostly in Montreal and featuring a Disco era slasher, the trailer highlighted lofty production values that accurately captured the mid 70’s smoke filled discotheques, funky duds, and gleaming chrome bumpered wheels. I was even kind pissed not being able to get a copy then and there and was only able to buy my DVD from them the following year.

A few DVD synch issues resolved, I finally got around to spinning this disc anticipating a nostalgic reprise of movies like Joe Spinell’s Maniac, or perhaps another musically inclined light horror like Phantom of the Paradise. The premise was rife with possibilities, the trailer looked promising, how could things go wrong? But somewhere along the way a few ‘mis-steps’ were made on this dancefloor and the end result was no chart-topper or even a one-hit-wonder.

The disquieting ripples begin with the first scene where we find Duane (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne) chatting with Valerie (Katherine Cleland) in full roller skating regalia. The wardrobes are perfect but the ‘New Yawk’ accents are grating. The two are chatting in what is obviously a modern day cement sloped skateboard park because back in the 70’s no such public parks existed for roller skaters. Valerie becomes Duane’s first victim that night at the local discotheque which befuddles the NYPD officer Paul Stevens (Ivan Freud) as the case remains unsolved.

Leap ahead five years later to a religious all girl residential school in Montreal  where Duane, now using an assumed name is handyman. When two of the girls sneak back into the dorm as all the other students head home for a long weekend, the music they play on their rickety 45 RPM record player touches off Duane’s memory of his father being electrocuted by his HI FI stereo system when he was a child. Transfixed by the traumatic sonic memory, Duane viciously slaughters the girls, and miraculously the news reaches the ears of detective Stevens who must plead with his supervisor to allow him to revisit the cold case on his own dime.

By the time Stevens arrives in Montreal to work with local inspector Sirois (François Aubin), Duane has nabbed one of the teachers, Francine (Sandrine Bisson), that has caught Duane’s eye. Unknown to all, the sultry and flashy Francine was also having an affair with Sister Mirielle (Ingrid Falaise), the straight laced and bun coiffed head teacher. After a car crunching and body strewn car chase, Duane finally gets cornered for a Dyno-O-Mite denouement.

While the film has a lot going for it, it does suffers from a ridiculous script, lame acting by lead Earp-Lavergne, and other factors that could have been easily addressed. From a plot point of view the worst assault is the fact that Stevens takes the merest of hints that his original killer was triggered by music – music was playing in the background – and then links it to another murder in another country five years later simply because the killer diced victims with 45’s. As for the acting one could argue that the role of Duane is arguably impassive when in a semi-trance state committing his crimes, but Earp-Lavergne’s portrayal is as rigid as a vinyl disc throughout.

An example of the nuisance factor are the choices made for the score. You’d think that with a disco themed film the musical selection would be pretty obvious. Expecting only an original soundtrack reminiscent of the disco sound, I was a bit surprised that the budget even allowed for procuring the rights to one or two bona fide hit songs of the time. Hearing K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “I’m your boogie man” was fine, but was totally stumped as to why the main featured track ended up being Kiss’ “I was made for lovin you”. Great sound mind you, a huge hit, but hardly disco.

One the positive side, both Mirielle and Francine are credible and downright appealing as they coo and tease over the phone about their clandestine lesbian affair while Sirois is great playing the cop with just the right touch of humour. The costumes reign with period clothing featuring wide collars, tank tops and skin tight gym shorts. Aside from the aforementioned ‘Death by 45’s’ there is also an appropriate strobe lit kill and other fair carnage effects, some done notably by Rémi Couture, who gained notoriety for having so vivid artwork he was prosecuted.

With apologies to my disco trotting friends the final verdict is the same as that applied to the disco music of that era. Disco(path) sucks.

Movie Reviews 284 – Theater of Blood (1973)

January 8, 2017

Theatre of BloodThe late prince of horror Vincent Price had a knack for coming back from the dead and tormenting those who have crossed him in the past. He did it in the role of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in which he took revenge on the doctors who were unable to save his wife after a car accident injured her (and supposedly killed him). As professor Henry Jarrod, his partner at the House of Wax thought he had killed him for the insurance money before Jarrod started creating remarkably lifelike wax creations of his victims. In Theater of Blood Price once again becomes an afterlife tormentor, this time focusing his daggers on a circle of theater critics who denied him his due.

Rejected a theatrical award he believed was rightfully his, Shakespearian thespian Edward Lionheart (Price) confronts the circle of critics who humiliated him and, snatching the trophy that was withheld, makes one final dramatic posture as he throws himself into the river Thames to end his life. But soon after those very critics start dying one by one, in each case the fatal injuries exemplifying scenes from a Shakespeare play. It does not take long for the police detective on the case to tie the murders into a pattern, the common thread being a playlist of Lionheart’s oeuvres.

Luring his former detractors, Lionheart’s kills are as dramatic as his performances, first reading the defamers back their derisive reviews of particular past performances of his which he has meticulously clipped and saved from newspapers over the years. After each scalding review is brought back to remind the critics of their stinging scrutiny, Edward then fashions their impeding methods of dying based on the very acts of death in those plays. With the final recitals exhausted, his doomed victims get their comeuppance in grisly fates that include quartering, stabbing, heart extraction, force feeding, swashbuckling swords, vat drowning, and (my fave) decapitation.

The few leads the cops have in trying to apprehend Lionheart include tailing his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) and vainly trying to sequester the remaining critics from opportunities to snatch them. But the dimwitted and vain ensemble each have their vices which, exploited by Edward, are often the eventual cause of their ruination.

The prose of Othello, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus are all delightfully mixed in with a few corny one liners to make this film enchanting. Whether you’re a fan of the Bard or not, you’ll relish this film. Honestly, this is the only way I can really sink my teeth into Shakespeare.

Movie Reviews 283 – Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)

December 28, 2016

frankenstein-and-the-monster-from-hell

As a tail end baby boomer who loved genre films, when it came to horror the prevalent and easily accessible films were not the Universal studios classics but the Hammer gothic renditions that, pardon the pun, gave new life to the old staples. Those late sixties and early seventies Dracula flicks gushed with the blood the early censors forbade, gave glorious morbid colors to the black and white celluloids, and for good measure threw in a bit of sex taking advantage of that revolution as well. The Karloffs, Lugosis and Chaneys were replaced by Hammer principals Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and I loved every minute of it.

As much as I enjoyed The Curse of the Werewolf, The Horror of Dracula, Quatermass and the Pit or a personal nostalgic favorite The Reptile, it was impossible to catch them all in the pre-videotape, pre-DVD days. And Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell was one of those movies that I never managed to catch. Until now…

Simon (Shane Bryant) is a young doctor infatuated with the work of Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) and vainly tries to recreate some of his experiments in body reanimation as he studies Frankenstein’s notes and publications on the topic. When his hired body snatcher gets caught he leads the police to Simon’s makeshift home lab where he is arrested and brought before a magistrate who summarily sentences him to the local asylum for his crimes. Unfazed, Simon goes to the asylum and immediately runs afoul of the director, who instructs the guards to ‘give him a good washing’. But the spectacle of his torturous cleansing under a high pressured hose with an audience of the other inmates is interrupted by the asylum’s medic, who is none other than Baron Frankenstein himself.

Initially an inmate, Frankenstein had managed to usurp power over the director due to some indiscretions, and then had the director fake Frankenstein’s death in order to assume a new identity. Working within a secret lab in the asylum, Frankenstein has continued his experimentation. Simon immediately recognizes Frankenstein, and devoted as ever, begs him to let him learn more as his apprentice. With his own hands scared and useless, Frankenstein had been using the mute Sarah (Madeline Smith) as his hands for surgical procedures. Learning that Simon is a surgeon by trade, he agrees to let him help with his experiments. But Frankenstein does have some dark secrets he keeps to himself.

Simon soon learns of a monstrous creature (Dave Prowse, a semi Hammer staple himself having played a completely different looking Frankenstein creature in The Horror of Frankenstein) Frankenstein has caged in his lab, but is astounded by the progress Frankenstein has made. But Frankenstein is not as pleased with the shortcomings of his creation – feeble minded and with hands as useless as his own. Fortuitous events in the form of timely passing of other inmates allow Simon and Frankenstein to give the creature new eyes, dextrous hands, and finally a brilliant brain.

But just as Simon begins to take Frankenstein to task on his methods to acquire suitable body parts, the creature goes on a rampage. The end is grisly but almost without skipping a beat Simon and Frankenstein begin planning their next experiment …

While not as highly regarded as many other Hammer horrors, I must say that I was more than pleased upon finally seeing this one. There are a few additional angles lurking in the plot which includes Sarah’s secret, and the past of some of the other inmates. Cushing is more cold and callous than his usual Frankenstein, and the other actors all hold their own. One aspect that may have been received negatively is the unusual, grotesque non-traditional look of the Frankenstein monster, but I thought it’s uniqueness entrancing just the same. The Hammer touches are all present with the gore mostly delivered via the surgical procedures.

Sadly this was the last Frankenstein movie that Hammer made, a tragedy that may be corrected with the recent rivival of the studio.

Movie Reviews 282 – The Toxic Avenger (1984)

December 23, 2016

The Toxic AvengerThe Toxic Avenger was not only an indie horror sensation, it was what made Troma Entertainment a household name in the B-movie industry and introduced us to the straight-laced but dark minded Lloyd Kaufman, producer and frontman for the enterprise. The character of the toxic avenger, now revered and affectionately nicknamed Toxie by fans, became the de facto mascot for the company and spurned a number of sequels over the years, but it all started right here.

Melvin Ferd (Mark Torgl) is a mop slopping human punchbag at the gym he works in, the perennial butt of jokes and target of muscled jocks and workout leotard wearing prima donnas alike. After one particular incident Melvin gets chased by the entire gym and thrown through a second storey window only to land in a barrel of toxic waste that is conveniently located on a parked truck out front. With oozing and bubbling skin he then transforms into a toxic monstrosity taking another dent in his already pathetic social life and any chance of getting a hot chick like those who surround yet despise him.

But things take a turn for the better when he rescues Sarah (Andree Maranda) from a bunch of thugs robbing a restaurant, an act that not only begins his career as a vigilante but ends his search for love and acceptance. From that point he begins to clean up the town of all evil, moving into a dilapidated makeshift home in a junkyard surrounded by bubbling slime and puffing swamp gases. But for a time he is happy as long as Sarah doesn’t accidentally kill him with her cooking.

Unfortunately his efforts to cleanse the town does not sit well with the evil mayor and his crony councilors who practice all manner of illegal activity and strong arm tactics backing their embezzlement and narcotics operations. Worried that Toxie will eventually get to them, they decide to throw all their resources to taking him down while he continues to aid the poor, the elderly, the downtrodden, and any victim of crime.

Pushed to the limits, the mayor manages to get the US army tanks and troops staring down their barrels as Toxie stands in front of his home as the town dwellers, friend and foe stand as an audience to the final showdown.

Like a modern day Frankenstein, Toxie is the embodiment of the outsider who only searches for acceptance in society. But instead of dark gothic drama The Toxic Avenger delivers the story amidst blowups, boobs, and flying bodies. The effects, while decidedly low budget are effective, but most of all fun.

The success of this movie gave rise to three sequels, a Saturday morning cartoon and even a musical. I especially looking forward to watching The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie if only for the numerous celebrity cameos. And you may want to keep a lookout for Marisa Tomei as she is in this first film. My 15th anniversary DVD was chock full of goodies including a whole bunch of clips showing the Troma studio digs in Manhattan and what other goods lurk in the offices and corridors. I think I spent as much time checking out the Extra Features as I did watching the movie.