It’s that time of the year again. The month of October is upon us. So to celebrate, we at Full Circle Cinema put together another curated, month-long series with Screen Screams. This year, we will be checking our clocks as we wait in anticipation for the forbidden delight we call “the midnight movie”. And with midnight movies comes a variety of projects that are perhaps too niche for the masses. Today, we look at what I consider to be the holy grail of all midnight movies, 1984’s The Toxic Avenger.
The Toxic Avenger is basically B-movie Spider-Man. You have your nerd, Melvin (Mark Torgl), bullies, and a radioactive accident that brings that nerd from zero to hero… but with a lot more gore and facial deformity.
Our story starts off with Melvin, a nerdy janitor who work at a gym. He’s your over the top, 80’s nerd character. James Rolfe, of The Angry Video Game Nerd fame, describes him as George McFly and Steve Urkel fused together, which is scary spot on. After being thrown into toxic waste by the local bullies, Melvin is transformed into the physically deformed juggernaut Toxie, “The Toxic Avenger” (Mitch Cohen).
Toxie decides to take it upon himself to get rid of the crime and corruption of his town, Tromaville. In the process, Toxie finds confidence, support, and someone to love him for who he is. Despite the good he does for Tromaville, the local authorities decide they need to destroy him, while some of the townspeople come to his defense. It’s a Beauty and the Beast meets Spider-Man type of story.
The Toxic Avenger is very over the top. The fight scenes turn into bloodbaths. The bullies are downright murderous. They spend a night running over children with their car just for fun! Normally I’d chalk it down to “It’s a B-movie, so don’t take it too seriously,” but I feel like the film takes place in a realm of hyper-reality.
This may seem off topic, but bare with me. I’ve always felt like some movies and films actually suffer from Blu-Ray releases. For example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), kind of has a home movie type feel to it. So, VHS would be the best format to enjoy it, but The Toxic Avenger actually gets better on Blu-Ray! The cheap, yet realistic effects are surprisingly impressive. Because of the hyper-realistic vibes, the grime and charm of Tromaville and Toxie as a character are enhanced. A little known fact about The Toxic Avenger is that this was actually Marisa Tomei’s first ever role, though she was uncredited.
The Toxic Avenger is a great, 1 hour 27 minute B-movie that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The effects are great, given the shoestring budget. The acting is over the top, but in a way that seems appropriate for the world it is hosted in. The ending is downright heartwarming. If you’re not a fan of gore, I would avoid it. For me, however, it is one of my favorite midnight popcorn flicks. –Derek Flores
The Toxic avenger stars Mark Torgl, Mitch Cohen, Andree Miranda, Dan Snow, and Rick Collins. The Toxic Avenger can be found on Blu-Ray and for rent on Amazon Prime.