Friday, April 3, 2015
TOP 10 TROMA FILMS
Do you like shitty movies? Who doesn't am I right? Well, there's different brands of shitty movies. There's shitty movies that are processed and pumped out at exponential rates all the for the sake of making money like "Transformers" and most other franchises that make up the heart of mainstream American film culture. Then there's shitty movies that are shitty just because well...because the filmmakers behind them just make them for the sake of getting their names out there and move on to bigger and better things, much like many of the future hall of fame directors that worked under Roger Corman decades ago.
Then finally, there's the kind of shit that gets pumped out by Troma Entertainment. Now when I say that Troma makes pure shit, I don't mean that in a negative way. Far from it. Troma Entertainment makes and distributes films that are one hundred percent true to the heart of real independent cinema. They make the kind of films they want to make: politically incorrect, totally irreverent, loaded with tits and obscene amounts of gore, and purposely terrible acting. They make these films because they genuinely love making them. They don't do them for the sake of box office receipts and toy sales and worldwide grosses, they do them because they fucking can.
Founded and still operated by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz over 40 years ago, Troma Entertainment had a brief run of prominence as a mainstream American movie studio back in the day, before shifting to the direct to video market and independent film circuit. They continue to produce and distribute films to this very day, and have recently revisited some of their old franchise properties for new generations. When I was a young, would-be perverted cinema snob (no, not THAT Cinema Snob), I would catch the "Toxic Avenger" movies and "Class of Nuke Em High" flicks on Cinemax late at night hoping to see boobs. I did see boobs, a lot of boobs...along with melting body parts and a kid getting his head crushed by a car wheel.
Yep...that's Troma...and goddammit, I love them so fucking much. So, I made a list of my Top 10 Troma Movies. This was a moderately hard list to come up with, yet nowhere near as difficult as coming up with the Pre-1960s Horror List I came up with last time around. There were a handful of films that didn't make the cut here, including "Bloodsucking Freaks", "Rabid Grannies", "Surf Nazis Must Die", "Graduation Day", and "Monster in the Closet" among others. "Troma's War", they're big budget attempt at war satire that nearly bankrupted the studio, has not aged well at all and came nowhere near making this list, but I watched it again because why the fuck not?
Anyway, here we are. Bring your barf bags...and possibly lotion.
10. SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (1990)
Not nearly as beloved as many of the films featured on this list, "Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD" is a glorious clusterfuck of a film. Allegedly conceived while Kaufman and Herz were in Japan, the duo was approached by Namco (the video game company) to create a Japanese-inspired superhero. They even threw a decent amount of money towards Troma to make it happen. Needless to say, Namco was more interested in a family-friendly creation, and the Troma guys were more interested in...well, making it a fucking Troma movie. The end result is an often uneven but still plenty entertaining, even if it manages to all but fall apart by the time the end credits roll.
9. COMBAT SHOCK (1986)
One of the very few films on this list not directed by Lloyd Kaufman (instead by novelist Buddy Giovinazzo, who also wrote the script), "Combat Shock" is far from typical Troma fare. It tells a tale of urban degradation through the eyes of a Vietnam vet living in a squalid New York City with his pregnant wife and deformed, mutant baby. The film is unflinching in its violence and portrayal of mental decay. Granted it often walks that line between being unintentionally funny and full on heartfelt, "Combat Shock" packs a punch, especially at its conclusion. "Taxi Driver" it isn't, but it's still worth seeing for those with strong stomachs.
8. MOTHER'S DAY (1980)
An exploitation film in its truest form, the original "Mother's Day" is something that is an acquired taste to say the least. Three female friends out on a camping trip run afoul of a couple deranged hillbillies, and their even more insane mother. Terrible things happen, to everyone involved. That pretty much sums up "Mother's Day" in a nutshell. What it lacks in technical prowess it makes up for in pure ferocity, and there's some scenes that you'll never forget. This actually received a half decent remake a few years back too.
7. CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL (1993)
I can't say enough about the love I have for this movie. Before they created "South Park", Trey Parker and Matt Stone crafted this gory musical based on the real life cannibal event of Alfred Packer. Well, loosely based. Parker plays Packer (I just re-read that after I typed it and I absolutely love it, say it out loud), who recounts his story of what happened on those fateful days. There's lots of blood, eating body parts, and wonderful musical numbers that were only the beginning of the duo's amazing work to come in the following years with "South Park" and "The Book of Mormon". It sat on the shelf until 1996 when Troma acquired it and distributed it, making it an instant cult classic. It still holds up today and is fucking hilarious.
6. TERROR FIRMER (1999)
This movie is fucking crazy. I can't put it into any other words, it's just fucking insane. A low budget film crew trying to make the ultimate piece of B-movie "art" is stalked and terrorized by a sexually confused serial killer. There's love triangles, orgies, Ron Jeremy in a cage with mutilated genitalia, and cameos and small roles from Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Lemmy from Motorhead, Eli Roth, and that funny crazy broad from "Reno 911". Co-authored by future "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn, "Terror Firmer" is a blast. It often crosses lines, but sweet fucking Christ, that's what makes it so damn enjoyable.
5. POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2006)
This movie is disgusting. I can't put it into much more words than that. It's also a totally fucking hilarious musical with exploding genitals and plenty of offensiveness...and zombies...and sex with food. With all that sickening material, "Poultrygeist" actually manages to pack a little bit of social commentary into it involving the fast food industry and ultra liberalism. Of the modern Troma movies, this is one of the finest...and most gross.
4. TROMEO & JULIET (1996)
Co-written by James Gunn, "Tromeo & Juliet" is regarded as one of Troma's best films...and also one of their filthiest, nastiest, and most hilarious. A modern day, Troma-tized (see what I did there? I'm putting that English degree to good use) take on Romeo & Juliet, this focuses on the warring families of the Capulets and the Ques, and star-crossed lovers Tromeo and Juliet. There's plenty of disgusting material, boobs, blood, and incest: all of which helps make "Tromeo & Juliet" one of the most well-regarded Troma films, not just among die hard fans, but even among mainstream media. The film received a surprising amount of attention and recognition, helped pave the way for James Gunn to have Hollywood success, and boasts a kick ass soundtrack to boot.
3. FATHER'S DAY (2011)
Crafted by the awesome crew of Astron-6, "Father's Day" is a tour-de-force of insanely violent absurdity. A serial rapist/murderer/cannibal named Fuchman is on a rampage, and the only man that can stop him is a one-eyed ass-kicked named Ahab whose own father was slaughtered years prior. It's gross, funnier than hell, boasts the best cameo/small role that Lloyd Kaufman has ever done, and without a doubt one of the absolute best modern day exploitation movies ever made. In fact, you guys should check out everything that Astron-6 has done over the years. Look the m up and thank me later.
2. CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH (1986)
Tromaville High School sits next to a nuclear power plant. Nothing can go wrong right? Smoking some radioactive marijuana leads high school couple Warren and Chrissy into having strange hallucinations, followed by grotesque mutations, leading to a showdown with the deranged gang called the Cretins. Probably one of Troma's most well known movies, "Class of Nuke 'Em High" is tons of fun and almost endlessly enjoyable. The film was followed by two shitty sequels, along with a Kaufman-helmed fourth installment that came out in 2013. This was one of the first Troma movies I ever saw in my youth, thanks Cinemax.
1. THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)
You didn't think it'd be anything else did you? "The Toxic Avenger" isn't just Troma's flagship film and franchise, it was what put Troma on the map. Most know the story: a geeky janitor gets bullied by a bunch of asshole jocks, culminating in him getting drenched in toxic waste and mutating into the disfigured superhero known as Toxie (even though he's not called Toxie in this film). Super violent for its time (including the infamous scene of a hit and run involving a kid getting his head crushed), "The Toxic Avenger" is everything that defines Troma as an independent studio: filmmakers doing whatever the fuck they want and making the kind of movie they want to make with no punches pulled. The film would spawn three sequels, merchandise, and even an animated series aimed at kids in the early 90s (and yes, it was terrible...although I had my share of action figures from the show). Over 30 years later, the film remains iconic, and its legacy remains unchallenged by anything else from the studio to go and come in the years that followed.
Does any of this sound remotely entertaining to you in the least? If so, you should check these films out and anything else to come from Troma. You'll find some pure shit without a doubt, but that's part of the charm about Troma...you're sure to enjoy yourself one way or the other. If none of this sounds entertaining to you in the least...well, I guess stick with the mainstream everyday bullshit instead. At least that's safe for consumption...Troma definitely isn't.