Street Trash (1987) by #JamesMMuro
A liquor store sells alcoholic beverages to homeless people, unaware that the bottles actually contain toxic brew.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) December 12, 2020
I first rented Street Trash (1987) with a couple of friends in the very late ’80s. I’m not sure if we had any idea of what we were getting into. I was a big fan of horror films, but one of my friends was not. We enjoyed watching B-movies, and what we might refer to as “bad movies”. This generally meant movies that had been intended to be serious, but were instead campy and inadvertently funny to our young, modern minds.
We had discovered The Troma Team, and enjoyed movies like The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986). These films were in a slightly different category. They were sometimes referred to as B-movies, but they seemed very different than the black and white B-movies of yore. They weren’t quite “bad movies” in the same way as some of the incompetent films we had watched. They were, it seemed to us, deliberately made to be “bad” or campy. Almost in the vein of, say, Mel Brooks doing a parody of monster movies. The Troma Team knew that they were making “bad” films and they were having a really good time with it. They wanted us to laugh – and we did. Sometimes uncontrollably.
Street Trash is firmly in the same category. In fact, it has been compared to Troma movies over the years. Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder and president of Troma – and perhaps their greatest auteur – has let on that he is not a fan of Street Trash. He never explains why, and in some ways it puzzles me. It could be that it is simply too much like a Troma movie, and Lloyd feels that the filmmakers were trying to ride his coattails. I don’t know.
I’m not sure if my friends and I knew that we were about to watch a masterpiece of deliberate camp humour, but that’s what we found ourselves doing – and enjoying immensely. The special gore effects were completely over the top, and yet somehow totally convincing. The single most incredible moment, which had us rolling around on the floor laughing, was the very unusual game of “keep away” (which in the interest of not spoiling anything for the uninitiated, I will not describe in any more detail). Suffice it to say that if you are a fan of Troma style insanity, and you have not seen this movie, you really should seek it out. And it’s not hyperbole to say you must see it to believe it.
A few years later, I was lucky enough to buy a copy on VHS. For some reason, it was not a very common tape on video store shelves. And I never saw it for sale brand new, in stores like Eaton’s or The Bay (go figure). it was such an awesome movie, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t better known. Maybe it was just too edgy and offensive for most viewers. Maybe people couldn’t tell what it was from the title and the box art. Maybe it WAS a successful movie on home video, but I just never saw it in the stores I frequented. I don’t know. But the fact is, that for many years I was the only person I knew who had a copy of Street Trash. And as such, I felt it was my duty to show it to people.
I showed it to my friend Ian, who happens to be a respected award-winning playwright, and I guess he liked it a lot. The next day I accompanied him to a special talk that he was giving to theatre students at a nearby university. One of them asked Ian “Where do you get your ideas?”
He stood in front of the crowd of eager young learners, with all the seriousness that only an award winning playwright can muster, and said “I get my ideas in all kinds of different places. Just last night my buddy Angus showed me a movie called Street Trash, in which people drink old, contaminated alcohol and then proceed to melt…”
I think I started to choke on my water. What the hell was he doing?! He’s describing the plot of Street Trash in a serious theatre class as if it was a source of inspiration for future plays he might write?!
Incidentally, he has never written a play remotely like Street Trash. That is more like something I might do. And in fact, I did write a play called The Inner City Dead which was about gangsters and a corrupt politician dumping toxic waste in the inner city and causing poor, homeless people to turn into zombies. It was, as much as any play could be, a Troma Team styled comedy. I actually named one of the characters Mr Troma, as an homage to Lloyd et al. This was before I showed Street Trash to Ian – and before he told a roomful of budding theatre artists that it could be a source of ideas.
In my humble opinion, a more correct answer that Ian could have given on that day might be something like “I get ideas from real life. The behaviours that I see people engaging in, and the injustices that I perceive in this world.”
That, I believe, is closer to the truth. And that is also why he is an award winning playwright, and I am writing this blog.
That beat up VHS tape served me well for a long, long time. But I am now thrilled to have the super-deluxe, Special Meltdown Edition Blu-ray from Synapse Films. It comes with a ton of great extras (including a two hour documentary on the making of Street Trash) which somehow makes the experience even more mind-blowing.
Street Trash (1987) has been a personal favourite of mine for many years. It is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is clearly not for everyone. Some of the over-the-top offensive humour would probably be considered politically incorrect today, to say the least. But for those with a taste for edgy and disgusting material that still manages to push the boundaries more than thirty years after it was created, Street Trash just might be the perfect choice for your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.