Traumafessions :: Reader Matthew H. on The Toxic Avenger

Hello! I love your website. I would be surprised if I were the first person to suggest this film scene but I did not find it with the search tool. Here’s my story:

I went from being more scared of horror movies than anyone as a kid to a slightly older kid who loved EVIL DEAD 2 and the like. The first 10 minutes of THE TOXIC AVENGER took the piss out of me and made me radically reassess my assumption at age 13 or so that I had because I’d seen CALIGULA and DEAD ALIVE, nothing could shock me; nothing in a cult movie, anyway. THE TOXIC AVENGER is one of the biggest bad-taste, gross-out must-see legends, like PINK FLAMINGOS or THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. So of course I had to see it.. I’d already read a brief description of the scene in Troma Films president and director LLOYD KAUFMAN‘s book, ““All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger.”

The group of bullies, which accidentally send a nerd into toxic waste after a prank gone wrong, thus transforming him into THE TOXIC AVENGER, also drive around the little town playing DEATH RACE 2000 where different types of pedestrians are worth different amounts of points. Like most 13-year-olds, I’d already thought of some variations on that joke myself, but had never seen it in a movie outside the ultra campy and sci-fi oriented DEATH RACE 2000. I figured I’d be ready to watch some equivalent.

Boy, was I wrong. This scene is ridiculously effectively disturbing for three big reasons and it’s probably the one movie scene I still feel queasy watching to this day – and was almost violently ill when watching as a kid.

Despite THE TOXIC AVENGER being full of bloody slapstick, the hit-and-run scene is not slapstick except for the laughing drunkenness of the killers. The kid they run down doesn’t make any wacky sound effects, he gets run over, wounded, and run over again pretty much the way 10-year-old kid on a bicycle would. Child murder is pretty rare in movies period, but playing it for sadistic laughs is something I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Also disturbing is that this is the first act of violence in the movie. Because of Troma’s attempt at a comedy/horror dichotomy, the opening scenes of the film which precede are basically your average 1980s comedy where a nerd is picked on at a health club by goofy jock bullies and their 1980s hairdo bimbo girlfriends. Seeing those same comedy stereotypes mocking and then murdering a child creates a slight mental shock!

In fact, the jovial comedy mood carries over from those scenes so much, there’s a catchy tune playing on the soundtrack through the entire scene, making it funnier or more disturbing depending on the viewer.

The ONLY thing I could be grateful for is that I hadn’t seen this when I was just a little younger. I’d been spooked when riding around the neighborhood on my bike, a few more years earlier could’ve been horrific — ESPECIALLY since THE TOXIC AVENGER was turned into a cartoon in the early ’90s, and the original movie was there in the video store for the kids to find! Later I met people who’d fallen into that trap, and some Kindertrauma was healed…

Still, this scene remains immortal.

AUNT JOHN SEZ: To read more by Matt, be sure to check out CINEMACHINE!

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14 years ago

I agree, that scene was hideous. I saw it in my early twenties and it stayed with me for a very long time. The scene that followed of the girl looking at the picture of the little boy she and her friends had run over while she masturbated was equally horrible – in some ways that was even worse than the murder.

14 years ago

I was seventeen when I saw that movie, and the kid on the bike is the only thing I remember. The sick, sick detail of the safety helmet is just as bad as the masterbation scene with the polaroid that occurs later. Really, really horrible.

14 years ago

I was a pretty jaded, lifelong horror film fan in my mid-twenties when I saw this  back in the late ’80s & was so offended by it that I not only never saw another “Toxie” film, but have never even seen another Troma film of any sort with the exception of  their disc of Argento’s  THE STENDAHL SYNDROME . 
Which is, despite my being a huge fan of his work ( & of his daughter Asia as well )  probably  not so surprisingly, the only one of Argento’s films that I actually dislike.