Posts Tagged ‘Peter Jackson’

Tonight’s double feature is a double dose of comedic horror (pre-Shaun of the Dead), featuring The Toxic Avenger and Dead Alive (aka Braindead)

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Directed By Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman

“Criminals, beware of the Toxic Avenger.  He will kick your butt HARD!!”

So this was the first time I have ever seen The Toxic Avenger.  Of course I have heard of it, and I have also of course heard of Troma Entertainment.  I have even seen a movie or two produced by them (okay, just one- Beware! Children at Play), so I knew sort of what to expect.  My brother suggested I watch it, and called it the cheesiest cheese he had ever seen, and after having watched it, I have to agree, not that cheesy necessarily equals bad.  I like cheese, especially fried stuff with cheese….So what about this little movie called The Toxic Avenger.  This is the movie that put Troma on the map as far as horror films go, and it set a precedent about what to expect from them in the future- such as cheese, blood, humor, and over-the-top ridiculousness.  Prior to The Toxic Avenger, Troma produced sex comedies, but after The Toxic Avenger, they became a horror movie production studio.

So what happens in The Toxic Avenger?  Well, in Tromaville, a town full of steroid-abusing gym goers, punks, corrupt politicians, and the like, a 98-pound weakling named Melvin (Mark Torgl) works as a janitor at a gym.  He is made fun of, and abused by the gym-goers.  One day they decide to play a practical joke on him.  They lure him into dressing up in a leotard and tutu, and kissing a sheep, and then they chase him around.  Unluckily for him, and them, he falls out a window into some toxic sludge.  Instead of dying though, he becomes the toxic avenger!! (after his toxic sludge adventure he is played by Mitch Cohen.)  His face gets distorted, but he gets really strong and powerful!!!!  (Kind of like in Family Guy where the family is exposed to toxic waste and they all get super-human powers.) Then he dispatches those that do evil, saving a blind girl named Sarah (Andree Maranda) in the process, and they become lovers.  There is even a lovely falling in love montage, which rivals the montages in Rocky- in which they dance, and even hula-hoop!!  Not everything is all fine and dandy in Tromaville though, because, although the citizens (except the bad guys) feel that the Toxic Avenger (called the “monster hero” throughout the film) is a hero, the mayor (Pat Ryan Jr.)wants to kill him because he is an awful corrupt guy, and most of the problems in Tromaville are because of him.  After the toxic avenger kills a little old lady, the mayor tries to use this to his advantage, but this doesn’t work because that little old lady actually ran a white slavery ring!!  So does the toxic avenger continue with his hero status, or does the mayor get his way?

What’s awesome is that they tried to make a kiddie cartoon about the toxic avenger, unfortunately it only lasted for a few shows.  If you watch the movie, is that it’s not so much of a kiddie movie- there is plentiful nudity, the deaths are very gruesome, and if you tried to edit the movie to make it child accessible, you’d be cutting out half of the movie.  It does have a good message though, somewhat.  The nerdy dork gets his revenge, and works for the good of Tromaville, and the corrupt and evil people are punished in gruesome ways.  There are some very creative and over-the-top deaths.  For example, the toxic avenger makes an ice cream sundae in a guy’s mouth, and then forces him underneath an ice cream shake blender.  Another death involves a fryolater!!

So is this movie for everyone?  Definitely not.  Did I love everything about it?  No, but it’s a lot of fun, and a lot of cheese, and it should be watched with the attitude of just have a cheesy grand old time.  The characters are stereotypical, majorly over-the-top, and somewhat abrasive and annoying, but it is all in the spirit of fun.

Dead-Alive (aka Braindead) (1992)

Directed by Peter Jackson

“Some things won’t stay down… even after they die.”

Dead Alive begins on Skull Island in 1957 where an explorer is attempting to bring a Sumatran Rat-Monkey back to New Zealand to display in a zoo.  The natives of the island attempt to stop him from taking the monkey, but he brandishes a gun, and scares them away.  They chase after him though, and just when he thinks he’s safe, and he is getting away in a vehicle with his guides, he is bit by the monkey.  The guides obviously know something about the bites of this monkey, and they cut off the infected parts- unfortunately one of these infected parts happens to be his head…

We then cut to Wellington, New Zealand, where a guy named Lionel (Timothy Balme) lives with his overbearing mother (Elizabeth Moody).  We also meet a girl named Paquita (Diana Penalver) who is the daughter of a shop-keeper there.  She badly wants to fall in love, and due to a foretelling by some tarot cards, she believes that Lionel is the one she is to have a romantic entanglement with.  Well, Lionel and Paquita end up going out, and for their first date go to a zoo.  Lionel’s mother follows them, and unfortunately while she is there spying on them, she is bit by the hideously ugly Sumatran Rat-Monkey.  Thinking that this is just any old bite, she asks Lionel to take her home, and they call a nurse to attend to her.

The next morning however, all is not well.  When trying to get ready for a lunch with a member of the WLWL (Wellington Ladies Welfare League), part of the skin on her face peels away, and then when eating, one of her ears falls off…things are not looking to good.  Lionel calls for the nurse, and soon after she gets there, Lionel’s mother dies.  Not for long though.  She awakes as a zombie, and rips the nurses head off (almost completely), thus causing the nurse to become a zombie too.

Lionel decides, rather than trying to kill them, or calling for help, to lock them up in the basement, using tranquilizers to keep the pet zombies under control.  Soon, Lionel’s mother escapes, is hit by a car, and has a proper burial (somewhat).  Lionel knows that she is going to come back though, so after she is buried, he goes to dig her up, as she needs constant injections of tranquilizers to stay sedated.  Things do not go as Lionel plans when a group of punks comes with the intention of making trouble.  His mother escapes her grave, bites some of the punks, who in turn become zombies.  The priest comes and kicks some arse for the lord, but unfortunately he is zombiefied too.  Lionel ends up taking some of the remaining zombies home, where is keeps them sedated in the basement.  He has also blown off Paquita due to his zombie issues.  All goes well for a bit, a zombie baby is born, and he seems to have things under control, until a greedy uncle shows up, finds the zombies, and blackmails Lionel.  All hell breaks loose when he decides to throw a party in the house…..lots of blood and guts follow.

Dead Alive is a highly amusing horror comedy, and it is definitely one of the bloodiest and goriest movies I have ever seen.  There are so many hilarious and disgusting parts.  Some of my favorites include the lunch scene with the woman from the WLWL, Lionel’s attempt to have a civilized meal with the zombies, Lionel bringing the zombie baby to the park, the animated intestines, and of course the lawnmower scene, among many others.  This movie is well-shot, and the special effects for the most part, are awesome.  Personally, Dead Alive is more my cup of tea than The Toxic Avenger.

Thoughts on the Double Feature

–        Obviously both of these movies are made to be humorous.  The Toxic Avenger is more a campy cheesy type humor, whereas Dead Alive is more of a bloody slapstick type of humor.

–        In each movie people are dispatched in creative ways. In The Toxic Avenger we have weapons such as a fryolater, ice scream shake blender, and oven used.  In Dead Alive we have a lawnmower, food processor, hedge clippers, and even a gnome used as weapons.

–        In each, the main protagonist is a young man who lives with just his mother, and our protagonist is an unconventional hero.  In The Toxic Avenger we have a wimpy weakling, who turns into a mutated monster hero, and in Dead Alive our protagonist is a wimpy momma’s boy.

–        Each movie has a love story among the horror.  In The Toxic Avenger we have a love story between Melvin and Sarah, and in Dead Alive we have the love story between Lionel and Paquita.

–        Each has a group of violent punks.  In The Toxic Avenger we have our roid-rage punks, and in Dead Alive we have the cemetery punks.