Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz Present a Troma Team Release: Toxic Schlock!
Prepare to enter the wild and crazy world that is Toxic Schlock! A quiet seaside town is stalked by a killer while a group of environmentalists lay low. But will Mae and her Dad discover who the killer is before the zombies invade?
Okay, I have a confession to make. I haven’t watched a Troma movie in YEARS. In, like, a good amount of time. I loved Troma growing up, their theatre of absurd offerings would play on late night TV and I was introduced to the weirdest and most wonderful characters imaginable. I have Uncle Lloyd’s books on my shelves and his films in my heart, but I haven’t indulged them in a long time.
I sit down to watch Toxic Schlock after years, nay decades, of being a “serious” horror fan, more concerned with subtextual analysis and icons of inclusivity than these oddball little corners of the genre. Was I prepared for what I saw? Absolutely not. Was I impressed? Absolutely not, it was garbage.
But was it fun..? Well, yes it was! But the biggest surprise is that it was also strangely endearing…
The Seaside strangler is a naked man in a clown paint body suit. He lies prone on the beach, waiting for good Samaritans, then throttles the life out of them.
Dad (Martin W Payne) and Mae (Cindy Valentine) run a bed & breakfast in a seaside town in Post-Brexit Britain. This Britain looks familiar. It looks a lot like the Austerity Britain of the last decade, as once vibrant seaside haunts turn into ghost towns, the affluence of tourism long since departed for sunnier shores. Toxic Schlock offers us a glimpse at an economic apocalypse that I, as a citizen of the UK, know all too well.
We spend a lot of time with Dad (a trans woman) and Mae (a sub) and their pet gimp. Their life is mundane and unremarkable, and their conversations are long, uneventful and awkward.
Soon, some outsiders arrive. Three city folk, eco-terrorists escaping a job gone wrong, worried that they may have released a deadly toxin into the air.
The film’s lack of budget shows, and not necessarily in its ingenuity. We are treated to a 15 minute (I counted) exposition scene, where “show” is dropped on its arse in favour of “tell” and a round-the-table conversation delivers the plot in its entirety to us.
These mundane scenes continue, almost looping, until the last 20 minutes or so when we finally get the Grand Guignol that was teased throughout. It’s pretty good, all things considered. There’s blood galore, convincing zombies and lots of toxic goop. At the very end, a daytime scene of brain-dead zombies shuffling around the deserted beach is actually very eerie, and does recall some of the scenes from Night of the Living Dead (I honestly didn’t think I’d be comparing this little British microbudget affair to George A Romero, but there you go. I’ve done it, and I won’t retract it). Mae, suddenly brandishing a samurai sword, goes all “The Bride” on the shuffling horde of the undead and murders the lot of them. The End.
But there IS more to it than that. We get to spend a long time experiencing the relationship between Dad and Mae, who have great chemistry and embrace the material. We see their lives and they are much like our own – boring, mundane, repetitive, but filled with genuine love and affection. This portrait of a trans B&B owner and her daughter becomes genuinely quite endearing, and there are some truly touching moments. One scene in particular sees Dad have a breakdown, remembering the years gone by, an unhappy childhood filled with bigotry and hate. It is a surprisingly affecting moment, and kudos to Martin W Payne for embracing this poignant material and elevating it from the absurdity that surrounds it.
POINTS DEDUCTED: For the use of the chant “United Lives Matter…All Lives!” and for the framed photograph of Hitler. Unnecessary and in poor taste, using real world fears and horrors in the flippant service of throwaway references was unnecessary, and it did leave a bad taste in the mouth. Sorry guys, but I have to call that out – be better next time.
With an original score from Oleg Hammal that is part demented fairground, part industrial sea shanty, Toxic Schlock delivers a strangely touching portrait of the declining British seaside, filtered through League of Gentlemen grotesquery and the mundanity of daytime soap operas.
Competently directed by Sam Mason Bell and Tony Newton, it is worth a watch if you’re a fan of this kind of thing. 44 years after they started out, the Troma team still excel at bringing us low budget oddball features featuring kooky characters and a strange, pathetic romanticism that melts the heart even as it turns the stomach.
About the filmmakers
Sam Mason Bell was born in Portsmouth UK (1989). Since 2007 he has produced/directed/written several short films and several zero budget feature films including Flummox (2007), Love You Too (2009), The Wasters (2012), Evol (2014), Drug Tours (2014), The Animals (2017), IA (2017). Sam is also a director of The “Making Waves Film Festival” in Portsmouth, UK.
Tony Newton is a UK based filmmaker, Writer and producer, owner of Vestra Pictures, BodyBag Films and Schlock Films who has produced over 15 distributed films including Troma's "Grindsploitation" film series. Tony is a Troma addict who has been obsessed by Troma ever since he first saw The Toxic Avenger on VHS in the 80s.
This week on Beyond The Void Horror Podcast they take on the Italian Horror genre again with Fulci’s Zombie 3 & Claudio Fragasso’s Zombie 4 After Death. Lot’s of fun trivia on both the movies as well as their reviews! Check it out! You can listen here or you can Listen/Subscribe on iTunes here!