The Toxic Avenger

Movie Information

Genre: Trash Super Hero Horror
Director: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Starring: Mitchell Cohen, Andree Maranda, Jennifer Baptist, Cindy Manion
Rated: NR

This is the movie that made Troma Films what it is today — and remarkably, its creators escaped prosecution. Prior to this film, Troma had specialized in soft-core porn, which this effort resembles with its bad lighting, bad acting, bad scripting, gratuitous sex scenes and — worst of all — nonstop porno-movie musical score. But the addition of horror, lots of blood and gore, and total irreverence for anything you care to name hit a nerve and changed Troma’s fortunes.

While the movie is still outrageous today — especially in the unrated director’s cut — it’s the sort of thing that’s been done so much that it’s hard to understand completely its original appeal. It helps if you take a look at the state of movies at the time. By the mid-1980s just about anything edgy came from the lower-rungs of exploitation filmmaking — and this was especially true of works that took a swipe at political corruption and hypocritical morality. This made it the perfect time for The Toxic Avenger‘s take-no-prisoners attitude.

Sure, it’s a silly, tasteless movie with a plot only a schlockmeister could love. Essentially, it’s the story of nerdy janitor Melvin (Mark Torgl), who falls into a barrel of toxic waste when a practical joke goes wrong. From this he emerges as the Toxic Avenger (Mitchell Cohen), who cleans up the corrupt town of Tromaville and has his revenge on his earlier tormentors. It’s your basic nerd revenge fantasy, only decked out in gore and over-the-top, bad-taste gags.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

[See for yourself — if you’re up to it — at ACRC’s “Cult/Trash Movie Night,” 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2005 at the Asheville Community Resource Center, 16 Carolina Lane, downtown. Donations to ACRC are encouraged — and so are costumes.]

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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One thought on “The Toxic Avenger

  1. Jeffrey DeCristofaro

    As much as I really like this film, I have only one thing to say about it at the moment – “Best Fast Food Joint Fight Scene EVER!” (I leave it up to others to decide for themselves.)

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