Without a doubt in my mind, I am a dirty person. I enjoy dirty jokes, and things that some may find offensive, crude, and even indecent. So it occurred to me upon first viewing this film that it seemed to be tailor-made for me, the grimiest movie ever made. Everything I love in a movie is here: Vulgarity, Gore, Nudity, Gore, Violence, Toilet Humour, Gore, Sleazy Sexual Content, did I mention that it’s gory? Street Trash is without a doubt one of the most original, imaginative, and unabashedly offensive horror films of the eighties.
The plot, aside from being filled with gratuitous gore, is actually rather multi-layered, consisting of several different stories interacting with one another. The core of the film involves a greedy liquor store proprietor (M.D’Jango Krunch) who finds a hidden batch of liquor called Tenafly Viper, which is over sixty years old. Ever the eternal salesman, Ed (The Store Owner) decides to sell the bottles at a buck a piece. The majority of his customers are bums and derelicts, so he doesn’t have much of a problem selling the ancient booze. However, a dark and horrifying truth awaits all who drink the booze, because whoever does……..melts. Crazy, right?
As the acidic hooch makes its way through the New York underground, hobos and winos are melting left and right. Two runaways, Fred (Mike Lackey) and Kevin (Mark Sfrezza) run afoul of Bronson (Vic Noto), a shell-shocked (Insane from Nam), murderous psychopath who is the proclaimed “King of the Winos”. And to top it all off, a rough, slightly unorthodox cop is investigating the murder and rape of a Manhattan woman. A couple of melting winos and exploding fat guys later; you have what I have no problem calling the best independent horror films of the 1980’s. Troma fans will definatley enjoy the presence of R.L (Pat) Ryan, star of such Troma classics as The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke’Em High. The cinematography is fantastic, with director Muro operating the steadicam and David Sperling serving as main director of photography, the camerawork adds, believe it or not, a touch of class to an otherwise abrasive film.
The effects are wonderful, just the right level of professionalism with plenty of cheesiness. The scene when a heavyset wino drinks the booze, and then respectively explodes, is definitely something that has to be seen to be believed. The main signature special effect, the one that is remembered above all the other visions of grue and gore, is definitely the castration, which then leads to an impromptu game of penis-football. The only down point for me is the number of scenes between Tony, the (possibly) Mafia-employed restaurant owner (Tony Darrow) and his smart-ass, wise-cracking doorman (James Lorinz). They have such wonderful chemistry, and it’s a shame that they don’t share more screen time, they’re hilarious!
Despite the complete lack of moral fibre in the film, I also do believe that it has something to say about the dehumanization of the homeless. Too often we as a society look down and mock them, not realizing that they are indeed people too. These characters are winos, hobos and derelicts, this is true. However, they also display a lot of character and emotions, making us all remember that we’re really not all that different. I also believe that this film was made, harbouring more than a little anger towards the Viet Nam war, or perhaps war in general, as it turns an otherwise normal man into a human-femur- bone-knife-wielding psychopath, as well as the banter between brothers Fred and Kevin about their shell-shocked father (In an early cut of the film, cut footage revealed Bronson to be Fred and Kevin’s father). It also has something to say about the rotting of New York, with a plethora of badly cracked city streets, and horribly crumbled and decomposing buildings. All social and Economic commentary aside, the artistic merit of the film is immense, rich with different colours of melting human manner, and unique and creative graffiti covers damn-near every wall in every shot. Along with the thick layer of dirt that covers nearly everything and everyone, this movie looks dirty and grimy, but has a technical brilliance that also makes the film beautiful, It’s ugly and beautiful, all at once.
After Street Trash, director Jim Muro never directed another film. Instead he became one of the world’s most sought-after steadicam operators, working on such prestigious films as Paul Haggis’s Crash, Flicka, Field of Dreams and Dances With Wolves, among others.
All in all, Street Trash is a film I hold very dear to my heart, and will for some time. It has its point to make, but does not bog the viewer down with pretentiousness and boredom, and it shamelessly splashes blood and guts all over the place with such a huge sense of child-like innocence, that you can’t help but smile. I could not recommend this movie enough. So turn down your lights, grab your Tenafly Viper, and prepare to be melted out of your seat, you’ll be glad you did.
- Justin “Lecherous” Tunny