Hey, y’all! McEric here with some news that has me… Well, shit; I don’t know. I’m conflicted. I think that’s why I chose this story. Because I don’t know how to feel about it and talking it out might help me arrange my emotions.
First off, I’ll just come right out with it. We came across this breaking news from our friend, Jeff Sneider:
Check it out here.
Any time a beloved franchise can come back from the dead, it’s cause for celebration. I may be stretching it with the moniker “beloved franchise”, but I’m speaking for myself here. I loved THE TOXIC AVENGER when I first saw it, and even more so I loved the story of Troma Studios. Llyod Kaufman and Michael Herz were two guys who wanted to make movies and just… did. They were mavericks in every sense of the word who changed the movie industry by just hanging out in New Jersey and doing what they felt like doing. It inspires the shit out of me that these two guys wanted to make weird movies, did make weird movies, and those weird movies reached a hungry audience, endured, proliferated, and they are now the heads of the longest running independent movie studio in North America. Troma Studios has contributed to many of the nightmares I see when I close my eyes at night, including scenes from TROMEO & JULIET, TERROR FIRMER, and to a much lesser extent, CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL.
I had the opportunity to meet Lloyd Kaufman when he toured for his book, “Make Your Own Damn Movie” back in 2004 in San Diego. I told him what a pleasure it was to meet him and what a fan I was, but I had a friend back in Texas who was an even bigger fan (her dream was to apprentice at Troma), and could he sign a copy of the book for her? He did so, happily, and even went to the in-store cafe and bought a pastry, which he signed with a Sharpie. The salutation stated: “Here’s a rol(e) for you.” What a great guy!
Through some further digging I am glad to see that Kaufman and Herz are on board as producers for the new feature at Legendary Pictures, but it still seems like an odd fit. The studio that brought us the franchises of Jurassic World, the DC SnyderVerse, The Hangover, and the Godzilla MonsterVerse seems a bit too… bloated to take on Toxie and the residents of TromaVille.
See, I know this seems weird, but I see more sincerity in The Toxic Avenger than in many of our more conventional superheroes. Kaufman and Herz were skinny young Jewish kids bullied in New Jersey; the Toxic Avenger is a testament to the fantasies of the downtrodden seeking power, not for the sake of vengeance, but to smite the cruelty which blights all of humanity. That Toxie begins as a frail little weakling of a manchild and becomes a hulking monster able to stand up for himself and others is a twisted response to bullying: that even if it makes one a monster, it’s worth it to be able to avenge others. He’s not a Super-Soldier Adonis; he’s a melted monster of immeasurable strength doomed to be spurned by the society he seeks to protect. His newfound strength comes at an incomparable cost, and even those whom are avenged are repulsed by and afraid of him, but he perseveres, to see evil thwarted. This philosophy is perhaps told best through their movies.
THE TOXIC AVENGER is rough around the edges, and insides, and throughout. It’s clunky, it’s dingy, it’s blurry, it’s punk rock. It’s not for everyone, even though their purpose was to show that film belongs to everyone. These guys wanted to tell a story, to make a movie, and so they made it; it doesn’t matter how ugly it is. It’s their fantasy. It’s them telling all the bullies and doubters "You can knock us down but we’ll get back up and make a fucking movie! Didn’t see that coming, did you?"
Kaufman and Herz’s original film is a direct response of the oppressed to the establishment, their oppression being lack of money and exposure. And just look at what their response accomplished! To have that now folded into the mainstream money machine of modern blockbuster film seems perverse.
But, then again, perversity is what we’ve come to expect from Troma Studios.
Damnit all, I am no less conflicted than when I began this article! Regardless, when this monstrosity rears it (hopefully) ugly head, I will be there to see it. Because Lloyd Kaufman is a stand up guy with a role for anyone who truly desires it. And that is worth celebrating.
We’ll be keeping our one good eye on this story and updating it as news becomes available. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies.
-Eric McClanahan, aka McEric-