Fantastic Fest 2023 ‘The Toxic Avenger’ Review – A Horror Reboot Jam-Packed With Splattery Goodness

The Toxic Avenger Issue 1 "A Hideously Deformed Creature of Superhuman Size and Strength is Born" (1992), Marvel Comics. Words by Dough Moench. Art by Rod Ramos, Val Mayerik, and Bob Sharen.

From Macon Blair (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore), The Toxic Avenger is a reboot of the original 1984 film released by Troma Entertainment. Winston (Peter Dinklage) is a mild-mannered janitor who wants to live his life, be a good person and care for his stepson Wade (Jacob Tremblay).

The Toxic Avenger Issue 1 “A Hideously Deformed Creature of Superhuman Size and Strength is Born” (1992), Marvel Comics. Words by Dough Moench. Art by Rod Ramos, Val Mayerik, and Bob Sharen.

Winston works at a health club called Garb-X, run by Bob Garbinger (Kevin Bacon), which is known for dumping large amounts of toxic waste. Bob relies on his brother Fritz (Elijah Wood) to run damage control, even if it means taking specific suspected individuals out of the equation entirely.

When Winston is diagnosed with a terminal brain illness, he tries to rob the company he works for. He crosses paths with a young whistleblower, J.J. Doherty (Taylour Paige), who wants to expose Garb-X for their relentless corruption. When Fritz and his goons accidentally take out Winston instead of J.J., they try to hide his body by dumping it in a pool of toxic waste. Unfortunately for them, Winston is transformed into a green, lethal freak of justice who uses his lethal mop to liquefy evildoers.

Elijah Wood as Fritz Garbinger in The Toxic Avenger.

If you’re unfamiliar with Troma, it’s a studio founded by The Toxic Avenger creator, Lloyd Kaufman, that fully embraced horror tropes such as over-the-top gore and full-on nakedness. While some would view that as trashy cinema, others, including horror fans, were ecstatic to have a studio that was proud of its horror roots.

This new version of The Toxic Avenger is an homage to the original but also updated with a modern perspective. Speaking as someone who hasn’t seen the original films, you can enjoy, or at least view, this reboot without knowing the franchise.

Mitch Cohen as The Toxic Avenger in The Toxic Avenger (1984), Troma Entertainment

The performances are relatively robust for a horror reboot. Peter Dinklage annihilates anyone he points his mop at. Still, you can’t help but sympathize with the character because he has a good heart and is on this unbelievable onslaught for all the right reasons.

Kevin Bacon portrays a character similar to Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class, except with far more yelling and a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde twist. His Jon Bon Jovi/John Rzeznik hairstyle gives him an added layer of pure douchebaggery that doesn’t disappoint.

Kevin Bacon as Bob Garbinger in The Toxic Avenger.

Elijah Wood walks hunched over with one foot longer than the other, as Fritz Garbinger. The character has this pale and greasy smarminess that you’d associate with Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings films.

The eclectic ensemble that Fritz is in charge of, known as the Killer Nutz, is a group of failures that double as a metalcore band trying to make a big break. One of them is obsessed with parkour, and the most muscular runs around wearing a chicken mask, featuring a genuinely bizarre reveal later on in the film.

Lloyd Kaufman Presents: The Toxic Avenger and Other Tromatic Tales #1 (2007), Devil’s Due Publishing. Words by Tim Seely and Tim Straub. Art by Sean Dove, Marco Failla, and James Bernardinelli.

The Toxic Avenger, referred to as Toxie in the original films, never hesitates to annihilate his opponents. He rips off arms, obliterates jaws, tears off heads, and even rips a guy’s intestines through his buttcheeks.

The film never hesitates to be a throwback to its splattery roots and is all the more enjoyable because of it.

Peter Dinklage as The Toxic Avenger.

Even with its crazy gore, The Toxic Avenger is an all-out comedy that is undoubtedly ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny on multiple occasions. Milton rips off a poor man’s beard like a scalping on someone’s chin. Then, he makes him eat it.

Milton’s brain issue is a constant running gag apart from the concept that Milton will potentially die from it. Every time the doctor tries to go into detail about what Milton has, construction noises cover up whatever he’s trying to say.

The freakish and often idiotic henchmen known as the Killer Nutz in The Toxic Avenger.

Milton’s inability to understand his health insurance coverage and Elijah Wood’s “Summon the nutz” demeanor always make the Fritz character sillier than he is intimidating.

Later, when Milton is tied up, he says he has to whip out his junk before rambling about how he isn’t a pervert. After a slight pause, he proclaims that he must urinate on his face.

Peter Dinklage as Winston Gooze in The Toxic Avenger.

Three sequels and an animated series followed the original film, and there’s no reason why this new version of The Toxic Avenger can’t have the same success. Macon Blair has revitalized what made The Toxic Avenger entertaining in the ’80s and ’90s.

This cast seems to be having a blast in their roles, and its entertaining assault of absurd vulgarity and buckets of ooey, gooey, and chunky amounts of blood is hysterical ecstasy. Somebody could make a convincing argument that Macon Blair’s The Toxic Avenger should be the next Deadpool.

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