PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Melvin Ferd III, a stereotypical 98-pound weakling, works as a janitor at the Tromaville Health Club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey. There, he is tormented by his customers Bozo, Slug, Wanda and Julie. The Mayor of Tromaville is Peter Belgoody, who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up. As days go by, Melvin’s tormentors grow more and more violent, even killing a young boy on a bike in a hit and run and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. Finally one day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and jumps out of a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.
Elsewhere, a group of drug dealers led by the criminal Cigar Face are harassing a police officer by the name of O’Clancy, trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepares to castrate Officer O’Clancy with his gun, a large creature comes out of nowhere and violently kills Cigar Face’s goons Knuckles and Nipples, and leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O’Clancy is initially terrified of the creature but soon learns he was only trying to help him as the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior as he has “never done this sort of thing before”. The officer’s rescuer, dubbed the “Monster Hero”, is the now-profoundly mutated Melvin. He tries to return home, but his mother ends up fainting upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, the Monster Hero builds a makeshift home in the junkyard. Mayor Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.
Elsewhere in Tromaville, three men named Leroy, Frank and Rico hold up a Mexican fast food restaurant. Leroy kills one of the patrons and Frank attacks a blind woman named Sara after Leroy kills her guide dog. Frank attempts to rape her, but is attacked by the Monster Hero, who ends up ripping off Frank’s right arm. He wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men: Leroy is first covered in whipped cream (and a cherry) before having a milkshake stirrer rammed into his throat, Rico has his hands and wrists plunged into a deep-fryer and Frank is stuffed in an oven. The Monster Hero takes Sara back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and progressively fall in love. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer by crushing his face with a weight-lifting machine. There, he attacks popular girl Wanda. Afterwards, the Monster is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him. When he starts to fight back to save the girl, a group of men come out of the limo. He fights them all off and saves the girl. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of “superhero” work from saving two younger boys from being run over by Bozo’s car to even helping the elderly to cross the street.
Meanwhile, Mayor Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons as not only are they being killed one by one by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves over to the police for their own safety. He is now worried that their deaths will lead up to him sooner than he expects and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody’s goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other with Cigar Face getting away. The Monster Hero returns to the health club again and attacks Julie. Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors, Bozo and Slug, who have attacked an old woman and stolen her car when Julie doesn’t show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car and grabs Slug crushing his neck and throwing him out of the moving car. The Monster Hero then confronts Bozo by grabbing him by the face and terrifies him by revealing himself as Melvin from the accident to a horrified Bozo. After several accidents that occur because of Bozo’s driving, the Monster tears off the wheel to the car causing Bozo to drive off the side of a cliff. The car crashes and bursts into flames burning Bozo alive, but unaffecting the monster. One day, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old midget woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade) by throwing her into the store’s washing machine, the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home revealing his true identity to Sara and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sara however tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like and the two decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods.
However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero’s “mishap” and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sara and the Monster are discovered in the woods and now surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. Mayor Belgoody comes intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard’s request was originally for capture). But thanks to the Monster’s kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville including the Monster Hero’s mother will have none of it. Mayor Belgoody’s evil ways are exposed after he threatens to kill O’Clancy for trying to take his gun away from him. The Monster Hero then kills Mayor Belgoody by ripping out his organs to see if he has “any guts”. The film ends with the townspeople’s celebration at the Monster’s acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin the Monster Hero, now dubbed the “Toxic Avenger”, will be there to protect the town
Man, you could away with just about anything in the 80s and call it a film, couldn’t you? In what other point in time could you have a mutated freak, who is a 7 foot tall killer, basically become a superhero? Only in the 80s, my friends, for today, this would be some hardcore horror picture complete with deep, and unnecessary, character development. Thanks goodness The Toxic Avenger just kills a couple of people, then moves on to the next scenes, rise and repeat!
What is this about?
In this satirical spoof, the meatheads at a local health club push around the geeky janitor who works there. One day, however, the bullies push too far, and the janitor falls out a window and into a dump truck filled with toxic sludge. The toxic dip transforms the janitor into a hulking superhero — the Toxic Avenger — who fights for justice at all costs and is plenty popular with the ladies too!
What did I like?
Defend the little people. After he turns into the Toxic Avenger, Melvin is compelled to defend the citizens of Tromaville. In some random scene, which was obviously placed there to explain to the audience why he was killing people, it said that the toxic waste, along with the way he was turned subconsciously made him want to obliterate evil. No problem with that from me. I actually liked that the little guy who gets constantly picked on turns into a big guy and can return the favor!
Gratuitous 80s. If you’ve ever seen a movie from the 80s, then you know that back then they didn’t hesitate to show as much skin and violence as they possible could whenever it was possible. Why else would there be girls in bikinis in the gym, or return trips to the steam room, or the crushing of a kid’s head, etc. In today’s cinema, these things don’t happen without someone getting all up in arms and offended, but back then no one even batted an eyelash. Sure, the picture could have done without some of this stuff, but what fun would it be?
Monster no more. After his change, the director made a brilliant move with Melvin. For about 30 minutes or so of his killing spree and daily life, we don’t see his face. All we do is hear him growling, crushing skulls and whatnot. Then, as he is about to exact revenge on a girl in the steam room, he dons a cloak a la The Elephant Man, and sneaks up on her (something her boyfriend had done earlier in the film). She thinks it is her beloved betrothed, rips it off and we see the face of the “monster”. Genius way of introducing us to the hideous face, as well as developing the mystery notion of is he friend or foe up to that point.
What didn’t I like?
Muscles? Isn’t it amazing the varying effects toxic waste can have? Apparently, it can turn you into a homicidal maniac clown that terrorized Gotham City and Batman, it can totally kill you (hence the word toxic), or it can change you from a 90 lb weakling nerd to a 7 ft muscle-bound mutant with God-like strength. I don’t question the mutation, especially given the cheap look of this film, but I do wonder what it is about toxic waste that made Melvin grow a couple of feet and add on muscles, not to mention totally change his voice. I guess it is the same thing that was in those old milk commercials from the early 90s. Kudos if you remember those!
Thing, is that you? As I’ve been typing this post, a thought came to mind. There are similarities between the Toxic Avenger and Thing from the Fantastic Four. For instance, they both are hideously, seemingly irreversibly disfigured/changed. Also, they have blind (and hot) girlfriends. Now, isn’t that one of the weirdest coincidences? What are the chances? I don’t mind that Melvin has a blind girl for a girlfriend, I just question why she had to be blind to fall in love with a hideously disfigured superhero when usually all it takes is for them to save their life a time or two *COUGH* Lois Lane *COUGH*
Out of place. Earlier today, I was reading an article about how a fat woman wore a 2 piece bikini to the beach. She has been getting mostly praise and accolade for taking that step as a positive image for women’s body images. Truthfully, I don’t think she looked that fat from the picture they showed, but that’s neither here nor there. In the gym scenes, though, we have all these fit, attractive, scantily clad girls running around, and then there is this one chick in sweats, looking miserable, and I think at one time she was eating a donut. Yes, there is a random fat girl in these scenes. I don’t mind that she’s there, but did they need to make her stick out so? Especially since she’s not really a character in the film! I don’t recall her having any lines or being addressed in any way. This just seemed to be a mean-spirited joke by the filmmakers that didn’t go over very well with me, that’s for sure.
All in all, The Toxic Avenger, for all its B-Movie level acting, special effects, and dialogue is a fun time. Believe it or not, there are a couple of plots in here. One involving the corrupt mayor and the other with the bullies that are responsible for Melvin’s transformation, inadvertently. Neither is really that important, though, as the big story is the life and time of our hero, which is who and why you are watching this film anyway. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so, but I warn you about the sequels (and apparently a musical?). It is all downhill from here, so enjoy it while you can, or check out the cheesy cartoon that is fun, too…in that early 90s kind of way.
4 out of 5 stars