This examiner's knowledge of 'The Toxic Avenger' was largely informed by watching the Saturday morning cartoon in his youth.
That will, in no way, prepare you for the original movie.
Melvin (Mark Torgl) is an awkward, nerdy shrimp who works at the Tromaville Health Club, toting a mop. He is the constant butt of jokes and is mercilessly tormented by a homicidal gang made up of Bozo (Gary Schneider), Slug (Robert Prichard), Wanda (Jennifer Babtist) and Julie (Cindy Manion). These four troublemakers recreationally run people down in their car.
One day, during an elaborate prank, they chase Melvin until he jumps out of a window and lands into a barrel of toxic waste. He emerges with his flesh burning and runs back home. Before long, Melvin grows in stature and becomes hideously deformed, but also given the gift of super strength.
With this new power, he decides to rid the streets of crime in a very violent and definitive manner. He also takes revenge upon those who have wronged him and so many others. Things are complicated when he meets and saves a blind girl named Sara (Andree Maranda) who falls for him.
Will Melvin be able to make Tromaville safer? Will his beloved town accept a mutant freak running around? Will love work out for....the Toxic Avenger?
For the microscopic budget, some of the effects are halfway decent. A few shots show some real resourcefulness and creativity. At the same time, much of the violence is cartoonish and silly. This isn't meant to be taken seriously at all. With the benefit of hindsight, this lays the groundwork for the elements of most future Troma releases: violence, low budgets, and silly comedy. It's just so hard to imagine how this inspired anyone to make a children's cartoon series: kids are actually killed in this story and the gore is extreme. Heads are crushed, limbs are ripped off and eyes are gouged out.
There are a number of occasions when Melvin seems to forget that Sara is blind. At one point, he asks her if he looks inconspicuous enough (he is in a half-hearted disguise), at another he wears a traffic cone on his head to amuse her during a montage and yet another time, he admits to being the danger to society that she may have heard about (though all of the news seems to appear in newspaper headlines and there is no TV where she stays). Optimism would say that this was intentionally done for laughs, but this examiner doesn't think so.
The end is a little bit anti-climactic. With all of the build-up, one would think things would be more eventful, but with smaller conflicts resolved throughout the course of the film, that really only leaves one problem to be resolved. A few props and extras aside, it isn't anything too special.
By and large, the acting is tragically bad. If you want characters who are either inexpressive, overly hysterical or seem to need a second before they deliver their line, then you are in luck. 'Amateur' is probably the correct word. A strange percentage of the characters are sociopaths and very broadly written. The mutant version of Melvin even seems to have his voice badly dubbed.
Special features include: deleted scenes, movie stills, an interview with Mitch Cohen (who played the mutated version of Melvin, Troma trailers, snippets from the animated TV series, a public service announcement, and Mark Torgl talks about the transformation effects. These are all exclusive to the director’s cut edition of the DVD.
It took a long time to track 'The Toxic Avenger' down. The movie kind of succeeds at being what it is: a low budget, trashy action, horror, superhero comedy. This is important because it effectively launched Troma Films which has gone on to give us countless other cheap, tasteless movies. You either love or hate these kinds of movies and this will do nothing to change you, either way.
For most people, if they even want to see it in the first place, it is probably worth a rental before purchasing blindly.
Rated R 87 minutes 1984