It’s too bad when you go in to a Troma movie and know that this isn’t them at their best. While you can kind of blame it on lack of funding, “Volume 2” of the “Nuke Em High” movie series leaves a lot to be desired and never quite sticks the landing in regards to its slew of sub-plots and sidebars. Director Kaufman spends a lot of the first twenty minutes of the movie catching us up to what went down in volume 1 (with the help of narration by the late Stan Lee) and this gives the movie a chaotic pacing that’s tough to focus on.
Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz’s “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is that kind of zany superhero spoof that, with some watering down, probably could have been a Warner Bros. cartoon in the nineties. After having such immense success with Toxie, Troma makes a second grab for cult fame, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle once again. Thankfully, not only is Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. one of Troma’s most iconic and popular characters who stands proudly beside Toxie, but his movie is good to boot. “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is filled with the typical Troma tropes that make it such a blast. The acting is iffy, the violence is gruesome, the humor is off the wall and original, and the pacing is break neck.
I would be lying if I said that “Troma’s War” is one of the best efforts from Troma. While it tries very hard to elicit some kind of political satire and tackle the idea of exploitation movies, it’s kind of a missed effort. Truth be told, “Troma’s War” is more of a chore to sit through than anything. It’s creative and a neat addition to a collection if you love Troma, but overall, it’s a loud, head ache inducing attempt at an action movie that can never quite put a finger on what it wants to be. It’s a disaster movie, a war movie, an action movie, an “Airplane!” style spoof, and then a political satire. It tries to roll all of these genre elements in to one frantic ball, but stumbles left and right with its intentions.
In the small town of Cranberry Lake, a wannabe witch and her succubus assistant attempt to summon a demon, when this goes badly, an army of zombie evil babies is unleashed on the town for which the only hope if a group of teenagers who have seen the evil and want to survive. Writer/director Jeremiah Morehouse has some good ideas in the script that he tries his best to put on screen but the script may have been a bit too ambitious for its super micro budget. This budget is estimated at $10,000 and this unfortunately shows a lot in the film. The story is ambitious and wants to achieve a lot which is lost a bit due to the effects and other issues in the film that are mostly blamed on the budget and a bit on a lack of experience. However, the film’s ambition and love for its genre shows and this helps it greatly.
The character that helped build Troma in to the company we know and love it as today, is still a wonderful and fun anti-hero who finds himself dropped in to fate’s door after a mean prank pulled on him one day. In Tromaville New Jersey, Melvin is a young janitor for a local health club dominated by a pair of muscle bound bullies. By day, the bullies roam around the club taunting Melvin and hanging around with their busty girlfriends, but by night they’re vicious hit and run murderers that take joy in killing children and helpless animals. After Melvin accidentally runs afoul one of the bullies, his girlfriend invites Melvin to a private rendezvous on the condition he wear a pink tutu.
After realizing he’s been the victim of a prank, Melvin crashes through a window and falls in to a drum of toxic ooze. Disfigured and transformed in to the muscle bound Toxic Avenger, he roams the streets of Tromaville murdering criminals and rapists, and laying down the law with his handy mop. Despite the very low budget, “The Toxic Avenger” works as a simultaneous superhero action tale and monster movie. A lot like “Robocop,” Troma’s superhero gets the job done in the most violent manner possible.
Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman are never above being as splatterific as possible, showing off a ton of gruesome moments including Toxie taking off a thug’s nose, and tearing another’s arm clean off. Of course a lot of the movie doesn’t reserve the grue for the bad guys, eliciting genuine cringe inducing moment when Melvin is turned in to the Toxic Avenger. Even for an indie film in 1984, the sight of Melvin’s skin pulsing and bulging from the toxic waste is grotesque and you hate to see such a goofy protagonist be reduced to this monster. Toxie is kept in the dark for most of his introduction, as he begins feeling his way around his strengths and weaknesses, and realizing his mutation allows him a chance to fight evil.
He begins to take on the bigger nemesis when he realizes the local police force is run by a corrupt chief and his sergeant whose attitude is very Nazi like. Herz and Kaufman give Toxie some time to even fall in love with a beautiful blond girl, and do battle with the villains from the gym. “The Toxic Avenger” is still a fun and off the wall action horror movie with its own twist on the superhero sub-genre. Leave it to Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz to take typical superhero tropes and twist in to something wonderfully gruesome and absurd.
Any movie that begins with inexplicable opening narration from Stan Lee is an automatic win in my book. From the opening exposition from Stan “The Man,” to clips from the previous “Nuke ‘Em High” series, “Return Vol. 1” is really a return to form for people that appreciated the punk rock trash “Class of Nuke Em High” series that had no limits in bad taste and grue. It’s an entirely new generation with an entirely new subtext, and Lloyd Kaufman embraces those themes head on and without fear of controversy.
Who among us hasn’t been there? We buy a new computer part, we begin hooking it up, and for some reason the back of our desk has become the amazon filled with a slew of rubber wires that look like vines. But really, who wants to spend all their time sorting wires and color coding them? I sure don’t.
It should serve as no surprise that since its initial release, “Sell Your Own Dan Movie!” has sold big with aspiring filmmakers across the country, and it should also serve as no surprise that “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!” is probably the best how to guide for indie filmmakers on how to get their completed films out there and consumed for mass audiences. Whether you love Troma to death or hate Lloyd Kaufman like date rape, there’s no denying that the man has amassed decades of experience in indie filmmaking and has built an encyclopedic knowledge on the do’s and don’t’s on selling your film and how to get certain audiences aware of your creative work.
Co-author Lloyd Kaufman has a lot of wonderful and genius advice for indie flmmakers on how to sell their movies and get them in to festivals, and he does so with a ingenuity and humor that’s admirable. True, the book is mainly a how to guide, but it’s also laugh out loud funny. The chapters are filled with addendums that will make you giggle more times than you can count, and often times co-author Sara Antill adds her own addendums to Kaufman’s own anecdotes or false information that will spark some real gut busters from the reader. The list of ways you can raise money for festival entry fees is probably the funniest part of the book. While Kaufman and Antill definitely have their fun and lighten the mood with their dry wit and sharp humor, the book doesn’t hold back with its facts and truths. Getting your film seen is tough, getting it out there is even worse. Odds are you won’t get a distribution deal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try as hard as you can.