You know, it’s easy to write off filmmakers like Lloyd Kaufman simply because the guy decides to load his movies with more smut and bloodshed than a stack of prono mags stored in an abattoir’s bathroom, but this true veteran of the independent scene has quite a few things to say. In fact, he said a lot of them in his book “All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger” which he co-wrote with James Gunn back in 1998 which acted as a autobiography for one of cinema’s last living hucksters. Of course what with Lloyd Kaufman being Lloyd Kaufman he then cheekily took that his life story – and then made a slasher movie out of it loaded with gore, nudity, gender-confused murderers and that same car crash footage he’s been reusing from Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD since 1990. Strap yourself in, fellow Tromavillians, it’s Uncle Lloyd’s most personal film yet. Kinda.
An independent film crew labours to finish the latest Troma movie in typical fashion by moving as quickly as possible while spending as little as possible, but as they soldier on shooting outlandish gore on a shoestring, a serial killer is stalking Tromaville. Having already ripped a man’s leg off and torn a foetus out of the belly of a sunbathing pregnant woman, the seemingly female murderer targets the production by taking out the sound guy with a funnel full of drugs up the anus and a glass bong through the brain, but the crew has no time to take a break.
Lead by tenacious, blind director Larry Benjamin (yup, you read that right, blind) and backed up by a crew made up of freaks and geeks from various alternative lifestyles, the film forges ahead as more bodies begin to pile up in evermore gruesome ways, but among the carnage, straight laced, boom operator Casey makes a play for Jennifer, the awkward production assistant who is struggling to care for her drooling grandmother. However, after a date reveals Casey to have a rather, um, eclectic method of love making (he uses pickles), Jennifer finds he eye being drawn to rebellious special effects technician, Jerry, who regularly clashed with Casey on set due to their opposing views in independent film.
But when one of the major investors is violently fed through an escalator by the killer, the crew find themselves under close scrutiny by the police – is there a chance that the killer is actually working on the film? Of course there is, this is Troma movie for fuck’s sake and when the identity of the murderer is finally revealed, their twisted backstory will shock, amaze – and provide a informative PSA about it hosted by Lemmy from Motorhead and featuring Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Terror Firmer is unlike any other movie Troma has ever released before – well now, no, wait… that’s not entirely true, it’s exactly like other movies Troma has released before, but lodged in among the cheap jokes, ratty gore, copious male full frontal nudity and endless crowd scenes of people acting like idiots, it seems Lloyd Kaufman actually has a few things to say. Troma has always taken obvious swings at corporate America and politics ever since Kaufman and partner Michael Herz first stepped behind the camera and started making weird movies instead of distributing them, but here the director has turned his sexually deranged, gore comedy into an abnormally strange, yet genuinely impassioned plea to save truly independent cinema. It’s a subject that obviously means the world to our cheeky auteur and while it’s delivered with all the tact of acupuncture being performed with a javelin, it’s still nice to see Troma trying something with a little more substance than just jiggling boobs and fat guys with micro penises.
Of course, anyone not used to the Troma method of filmmaking will look at Terror Firmer and wonder just what the fuck am I blethering on about, as the typically extreme nature of your average jaunt to Tromaville is borderline unwatchable to your average moviegoer thanks to the standard, chaotic nature of the studio’s output. Featuring such instances of zero taste such as child abuse, mutilation and, in it’s most extreme moment, a rape victim raping her rapist to take the power back, the movie attempts to tale aim at some pretty risky subjects, but thanks to its adolescent goofiness, it somehow squeaks through.
Terror Firmer also features a high contingency of queer and transgender characters, but how it treats them is a matter for debate (the killer turns out to be a hermaphrodite with a partially amputated nub for a penis who dresses like a woman when they kill and is finally vanquished by being lit on fire by a fart and stabbed through the vagina with a boom mic by a mute child), but considering that Kaufman usually treats all races, creeds, religions, genders and sexual orientation with the same scatalogical cannon, any offence will most likely lie with your personal preference. But if this sort of thing offends you, why the hell are you even watching it?
Yes, it’s infantile beyond belief with one joke featuring the blind director – played by Kaufman himself – pissing all over a shagging couple and another involving an extended streaking sequence as an obese man runs around New York with his tackle flapping around for everyone to see, but it’s also one of Troma’s strongest titles outside of the more well know classics like The Toxic Avenger and Class Of Nuke ‘Em High. It still exists in that constant state of childish anarchy that their movies all display, but Terror Firmer benefits massively from central performances that are actually coherent and an extra dimention to the usual frat house malarkey due to the director’s personal connection to the material.
The ironic poster tag line “Let’s make some art” may be debatable, but this is still Troma at it’s best as it features more glamous trash than a Hollywood dumpster.