Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jim Muro and Roy Frumkes' STREET TRASH (1987)

The bums of the side of NYC in Street Trash aren't dudes to mess around with - most of them anyway are at best thieves and liars and will stop at nothing to get that windshield washed (ah, panhandlers, those were the days), and at worst some of them will just flat-out kill you (hey, Nam was a bitch).  In this story a new booze has come into town called Viper, and when a few of the local bums who are able to buy it or steal it and then drink it MELT!  Oh, what a world!

It's not until late in the story that it becomes something of a local epidemic, but its full Alien alien-blood acid powers still loom large as we meet the rag-tag group of rapscalians here, such as Freddy, who looks like he's winning Manos the Hands of Fate's Torgo look-alike contest, or Bronson, the aforementioned Vietnam Vet who has nightmares that look like the VC are really vampires.  It drives him to basically become the main villain of the piece - rather, he's the one that is craziest, and not in the fun-way like the big black dude who steals anything he can at the supermarket.

Remind anyone of Pink Floyd's The Wall?
Jim Muro's only feature film as director, from a script by Document of the Dead maker Roy Frumkes, is an odd bird of a movie.  It's a little too well-made to sink to the level of a Troma movie, though as a 21 year old director with only limited training, Muro is far from having a handle on horror-comedy narrative like Sam Raimi.  It's made up of cast members who mostly came out of gyms or (as Frumkes noted at a Q&A I was lucky to attend) an anorexia clinic!  It's also juvenile, crude, tasteless, and within its small scope is ambitious.  It's also something that I can describe properly as "Bumsploitation".  Street Trash is not even for a lot of the movie so much about the horror but about just following around these weird and crazy characters, who sadly don't always quite go crazy enough.  It wouldn't be until Takashi Miike's Visitor Q, for example, that we would get a really proper necrophilia joke.

Special guest appearance by Mick Jagger!  This is what happens when the Stones aren't around

The movie has its moments that justify its existence and it has a few scenes specifically (one with the big-bad black dude with the beard and gas-mask who throws around 'motheruckers' like Dolamite is out of town and needs a stand-in, another involving a cut-off penis throw-around in a junk-yard) that are totally a laugh riot and awesomely staged and executed.  And Jim Muro, who spent the rest of his past twenty-some-odd years as a stedicam operator and sometimes-DP, is an excellent hand at those roving shots.  And there is plenty of energy and fun vibes coming from such a cast set against a back-drop that may or may not be as filthy and decrepit as it looks.  But there is also a lot of excess fat on the movie - for one that is under 100 minutes it feels longer - and even at the Q&A with the director he *admitted* that there was some stuff that could be cut.

 Where the phrase 'Down the Tubes' really kicks in
There is a cool cult-movie feel to it that works, though it could've been really great instead of just good.  I wanted personally to see more with the Tenefly Viper booze, specifically considering that there's the indication on the label that it was booze made by a manufacturer in 1924, during prohibition, that must have been done to go against booze-hounds.  The back-story there has such potential, and instead there's sub-plots that don't really go anywhere.  It also isn't until the last 20 minutes that the film really picks up steam with its excess and gruesome violence, with a lot of cleverly done gross-out special effects; the topper is one that is different from all the others as a fat guy who drinks the booze gets all Violent ala Willy Wonka - only this one explodes.  Take THAT Mr. Creoste!

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