Everyone Knows Monsters Prefer Blondes: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

There are movies that are ungodly bad, so bad that you shutter at the thought of watching them, yet cannot help but love them.  The Room, Plan Nine From Outerspace, Reefer Madness and even Evil Dead.  In the same vein is the gore-filled, nausea inducing social criticism that is The Toxic Avenger.  I have many bad movies, but to be honest this one lives in its own world.  A cross between a drug PSA and an awkward low budget porn film, The Toxic Avenger starts terrible and only gets exponentially worse.  With that being said I still thought it was an amazing movie...for being self-aware mess.  I laughed at the film out of confusion and befuddlement and was thrown for a few plot loops, which was a surprise given its rather trite narrative.  Ignoring the moment of blackface and perpetual misogyny throughout, The Toxic Avenger is terribly mind numbing.

The plot focuses on a town named Tromaville that is literally decaying in its own filth, whether it is from the ever expanding landfill, beligerent sex-crazed youth, or the corrupt local government.  In fact, the only character with any sense of decency is the local janitor Melvin (Mark Torgl) whose awkward demeanor and unflattering looks make him the butt of everyone's jokes.  One day a group of youth take their mocking a bit too far and chase Melvin around the local gym leading him to jump out a window in a panic, landing in a vat of toxic waste in the process.  Melvin's body sets aflame and begins to boil, yet the kids only laugh at this assuming it to be another level to Melvin's goofy ways.  The film eventually leads to a crime scene in which a group of thugs attempts to berate the one good cop in the entire city, at the point in which it appears that the cop is done for, a large green beast of a person appears to save him.  The thugs assume this entity to be nothing and attempt to fight it, quickly realizing that this creature is immune to all forms of physical attacks.  After defeating this group, leaving only their corpses and mops in the wake, the monster makes papers as the new law enforcement for a town void of justice.  The town even begins wearing shirts that say "I Heart The Monster Hero."  It is not until the monster comes to meet a blind girl named Julie (Cindy Manion) that the creature's identity is revealed.  The monster is none other than the janitor Melvin whose out to with an unquenchable thirst to end bad actions, and to seek revenge to those who mocked him.  The film follows suit in these terms, having The Toxic Avenger face off against the crime-ridden town, eventually coming face to face with The National Guard who decides to spare the monsters life when they realize the monster is in love with a blind girl.  The film ends on a high note positing that The Toxic Avenger will protect the town for years to come, or for at least three more sequels.

I noted the social critique present within The Toxic Avenger as being rather obvious.  While I would be hesitant to applaud such blatant use of imagery to make a social statement, I am making an exception for The Toxic Avenger.  I would instead suggest to others that this film makes a great tool to teach your skeptical friends about film criticism.  In the past few years, I have had many people comment on the implausibility of film as a medium for social critique.  Now do not get me wrong, some films do lack critical value (Think Michael Bay), but are rewarding in artistic elements or pure enjoyment.  The Toxic Avenger certainly doesn't possess the later, but is saturated with the former.  The film was made in the mid-80's a time in which American face increasing urbanization, a growing drug problem and a continuing severance of the nuclear family.  This film is a reflection of that, even if the mirror is a bit grimy and shattered.  It is arguably similar to Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese's films of the era, but without the same budget or maturity.  The idea that the film posits about cleaning up America is obvious and easily accessible, making it a perfect segue film for those burgeoning film critics you may no, and even if they are unable to grasp it after this film, at least you got them to sit through one of the most bizarre movies in existence.  I guess the idea here is to share it for its message, not for its artistic value.

I cannot full out recommend this film to readers, although I plan to get myself a VHS copy as soon as possible.  However, if you like the bizarre, and are a fan of B-movie sloshfests then I would suggest getting a copy of the film in any media form available, it visually will not make a difference, it is a rare gem that is only improved by outdated technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment