The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger
The Toxic Avenger
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For a remake of a cult horror movie, The Toxic Avenger does all that one would desire, it respects the original, but does not recreate it thoughtlessly. Instead, it takes some new directions with the storylines in an interesting way, but it never forgets what made people fans in the first place.

It might seem strange because they have no idea what The Toxic Avenger is anyway. The first was 1984’s B schlock horror cult film by Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Entertainment. It was cheap, filthy and bad taste rendering which is among other reasons why this movie had a cult following. It was very much a product of its time as well as punk rock superhero for Reagan’s America that spoke to the outcasts and misfits. Even though quickly made on low budgeting also had so much heart in it.

It started out as a slasher film but quickly transformed into more of a superhero pastiche playing off genre conventions expected by audiences from Christopher Reeves’ Superman, Adam West’s Batman and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman only with darker edges and far more violent graphic scenes.

This new film from writer-director Macon Blair sets out to update Toxic Avenger to be this era’s hero. And while there are few things that stand between this story line and others before us- most evident being some nice nods towards the previous version(s), we can still see that there is something completely different here.

The Toxic Avenger remake follows certain basics from its predecessor: an unlucky man becomes part avenging monster/part superhero when he falls into toxic chemicals and needs to get back at those who did him harm. Howeverm mostly everythingelse differs (except for some cool throwbacks), thus creating anew tale instead.

In this version, Winston Gooze (Peter Dinklage) plays a janitor working for an evil chemical plant headed by Bob Garbinger (Kevin Bacon). Living with his wife’s son, Wade (Jacob Tremblay), who doesn’t take kindly to stepdad, Winston is a single step-father. Moreover, after finding out that he also has brain cancer which is terminal — and that his insurance is being denied by the company, while the boss makes fun of him – he tries to steal the money but unknowingly comes into contact with ex-employee J.J. Doherty (Taylor Paige) who wants to expose the corporation for poisoning her family with their chemicals. He was mistaken for J.J by killers employed to hunt her down and they ended up killing him and throwing his body into a toxic waste; therefore, turning him into the Toxic Avenger.

Now Toxie, he becomes the main target of a vengeful boss who wants to pay him back for hurting one of his own members, and Garbinger wants to analyze Toxie in order to create a perfect human. He is backed by his assistant as well as lover Kissy Sturnvan (Julia Davis) and brother Fritz Garbinger (Elijah Wood). In addition to saving his son, Toxie has to expose the company’s wicked crimes.

What makes this remake so good is how much it differs from the original. Most times remakes of popular 80s horror properties especially barely introduce anything new when they try too much stick close to their respective originals (think of 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street). The same can be said with reboots of popular superhero properties. How many times have we seen Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot in a crime alley? But then again, unlike other tales that will not dare experiment with the formula such as this one.

Mr. Blair knows how to keep the heart and soul of this story. It’s about an antihero fighting against a system that desires nothing but “perfection” and indulging itself with extreme kills and gore but also stands alone all at once. This is obviously made by lovers of the original which means that even if you never watched it before you would still love it as its own film separate from any franchise connections. This family-themed movie works because each actor has fully accepted what is asked of them.

Peter Dinklage is one of the best actors working today, so it’s great that he does not only get a lead role but gets placed into this genre where he can really highlight all his greatest features. Sometimes he shows himself very sweet and kind-hearted; however there are moments when he bursts out in rage like nobody else could ever think possible for him. And Tremblay loved him so much, they had a real strong emotional bond and can’t believe how far Tremblay have grown up. Room was eight years ago; it is almost impossible to believe that it did not happen overnight, and now he is a young man. He has always been good at what he does, but his career is clearly on the rise and audiences should be excited for the slew of interesting films that await them.

Paige’s role as the sane one in amongst all of this craziness helps give the film some normalcy. Everything else in this movie that is absurd or over the top stems from her level-headedness. One of the highlights is Kevin Bacon as a villain, who seems to be having so much fun hamming it up here. Bacon often gets typecast in those roles because he does it so well with his charming but also menacing smile. Yet people often forget how incredibly funny he can be, and never fails when doing comedy roles. This also sees him return to bloody B-horror territory after 1980’s Friday the 13th launched his career.

Elijah Wood may stand out here. He looks totally different from whom he is in this visual representation that could as well be Danny DeVito’s Penguin in Batman Returns and Richard O’Brien from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Elijah Wood has done his best to break away from being associated with the good guy Frodo of Lord of the Rings, for instance by acting as a cannibalistic serial killer in Sin City and staring opposite a man dressed like a dog in Wilfred. It is one of Woods’ finest performances since it strikes an overblown attitude as well as one constructed with complexity that underlines its underlying theme on the outsider character suffering misunderstanding.

From the start of The Toxic Avenger, realism was never an aim for this film at all. This is an exaggerated comic book world that seems like Dick Tracy mashed together with The Crow and Evil Dead 2. Everything is played up to the hilt for laughs, many great audio gags populate their world. However, this gonzo approach may put off some people; not every person will enjoy it though it really does work when serving genre audiences who are horror buffs or love dirty, grimy overly violent action.

The Toxic Avenger knows how to walk both sides of the street. It has some elements of juvenility which make it cool. In such movies, death scenes can be so overly dramatic that they appear crudely cartoonish; yet, they revel in bad taste and would want viewers to have fun clapping each time body parts are blown off and intestines spill all over while other deaths seem ludicrously hyperbolic.

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