Once in a blue moon, a movie comes along that provides like no other. It can contain in-depth analysis into the human psyche, a romantic tryst that inhibits the world from rotating on its axis, profound intellectual human emotions on galactic levels, and/or redemption that sustains your inner wisdom that unchains the shackles of remorse or guilt.
Street Trash has NONE of these!!
Where other films deliver on the abovementioned goods (bads?), Street Trash emits a giant “Fuck You”, and then sodomizes you while simultaneously belittling you for contributing to the human race! Never has a film raped the corneas, as well as the silver screens, of the world with such gusto and abhorrent negligence.
Okay Straw Dogs did a similar thing for its generation as well, but did Straw Dogs have derelict-melting hobo hooch, a crazed (yet VERY funny!) Mafioso hell-bent on burying his (even more hilarious!) usher, a junkyard Colonel Kurtz-esque vet who butchers “weekend warriors”, cops, and hobos, and an actor with the name M. D’jango Krunch?!
The first time I ever laid eyes on Street Trash was by accident.
As I relayed in my article Origins: The Meateater – Part I, I stumbled across a copy of Street Trash as a kid of maybe 5-6 years old while buying stacks of random VHS tapes at a flea market to be used to dub episodes of Beavis And Butthead as well as music videos from MTV (remember those things?).
I always checked the labeless tapes I bought to look for anything interesting such as a homemade porn tape or an old TV taping with some retro 70s-80s commercials (yes I eventually found plenty of each). As I began screening the first few tapes, an image of a dirty, hobo-looking man walked through a bombarded and rubble-filled building. The low-grade of the EP tape made the scene almost snuff-ish. As he walked through a door and sat on a toilet he pulled out a bottle of what I presumed to be liquor.
Despite the cool setting, I was not amused as he took his first sip. But it didn’t take long after he started drinking for me to bolt out of my room and run to my great-grandmother for assistance of any kind.
As she came back in the room and rewound what I had watched she chuckled and said, “Yes! We have this on order from the video store.” Needless to say, even after we got a legit copy of Street Trash from our video store hook-up a few months later, I still kept my bootleg copy of Street Trash and I still have it to this day.
Street Trash was the brain child of Roy Frumkes, who is more notable for writing/producing/directing the amazing documentary on George Romero/Dawn of the Dead titled Document of the Dead. As a writer, Frumkes is dead on, conveying all his inner most delusions of grandeur into a titillating melting pot (pun intended) of dark humor, depravity, sub-humanoid cultures, and the inevitable gluttony of alcoholism (I cannot help but chuckle “that stuff’ll kill ya!” every time the malevolent liquor claims another poor soul).
The crew that Frumkes assembled (mostly students of his) captured the quintessence of a straight-laced, 100%, no additives, no preservatives, independent horror flick. It helped that he latched on to up and coming SFX artists like Jennifer Aspinell (The Toxic Avenger, Spookies), Scott Coulter (Plutonium Baby, Slime City), and Gary Yee (The Island of Dr. Moreau, Iron Man). The make-up and special effects alone are sufficient to get your wobbly bits shaking!
Aspinell’s use of startling fluorescent and deeply enigmatic colors that stands in for the product of the liquor’s metamorphosis differs from victim to victim, so as to give each melting soul a unique palette to their demise.
The addition of Troma alumni R.L. Ryan (aka Pat Ryan) as the seedy (and somewhat demented) junkyard owner cemented the film into B-Movie schlock-shenanigans. I can imagine Troma nerd’s expectations of this film, anticipating the typical Troma trademarks of sadistically comical SFX gore, oblivion-black humor, and of course lots of exploitative nudity. As far as nudity is concerned within Street Trash, well two words…dick football.
Jim Muro’s (now a renowned Hollywood Cinematographer and premiere steadicam operator) decision to helm the camera work for much of the film, gave some intellect to the celluloid which, highly set it apart from Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma line-up.
The non-established, as well as seasoned actors, that litter Street Trash scene after scene put forth valiant efforts in portraying characters immersed into the sub-human customs of winos, derelicts, and drifters. Notable characters include SFX artist turned actor Mike Lackey (who wrote for our October 2010’s My Favorite Zombie Month), Mark Sferraza (Lackey’s younger on-screen sibling), Bill Chepil (real-life/on-screen detective following up on the melt cases), and Vic Noto (the aforementioned Colonel-Kurtz-turned-to-11 inspired hobo that is as dangerous as the toxic hooch).
Chepil and Noto were both fierce, hulking men who, as the two have relayed on the excellent documentary The Meltdown Memoirs (included on the DVD/Blu-ray Special Meltdown Edition from Synapse Films), continuously threw down in real-time in order to establish ferocious onset chemistry.
I’d be remiss not to mention the wonderful turn James Lorinz provided as the usher for Nick Duran‘s (Tony Darrow) restaurant. The on-screen chemistry of Lorinz vs Darrow is a pure highlight of the film and gives a nice finishing touch as the films ending credits roll. Lorinz could have stopped making films after Street Trash and he would still be remembered for his comedic genius.
Street Trash emerged as one of the more garishly interesting installments into the Body Horror pantheon (where films like Rabid and Videodrome eschew the black humor for a more intellectual palette) and has established a superior cult following like no other. Thanks to Synapse Films, Street Trash has found a new legion of fans in high-def while giving old fanboys like me a beautiful presentation of what once was an exclusive lo-fi exploitative VHS experience.
You can argue among yourself about the validity of my retrospect and if I make any sense at all, but the truth is, Street Trash is like a prime bottle of Tenafly Viper…it only gets better with age!