The first time I saw The Toxic Avenger — possibly on HBO or Cinemax — in the late 1980s, I was floored. It was absurd, graphic, gross, and fit into none of the movie archetypes I was familiar with. Needless to say, I was hooked — and I wasn't alone.
Part campy superhero spoof, part '80s time capsule and all gruesome cult movie, The Toxic Avenger, released in 1984, tells the story of Melvin, a 98-pound weakling hated by every jerk in town. After Melvin falls into a vat of bubbling toxic waste, he turns into a horrible-looking creature of superhuman strength who takes his revenge on criminals and other creeps by dispatching them in horrible yet satisfying ways.
Troma Pictures president Lloyd Kaufman, who produced this and many other B-movie classics, has said his goal was to make pictures that shocked audiences enough to keep them in their seats, and that is certainly the case here. Kaufman will be in town for the brief engagement — part of the Esquire Theatre's Midnight Madness series.
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Toxic Avenger screens Friday and Saturday, January 16 and 17, as part of Midnight at the Esquire, 590 Downing Street; tickets are $7.25. For information, call 303-733-9939 or visit www.landmarktheaters.com/Market/Denver/EsquireTheatre.htm.