Troma’s War (1988)

If you knew nothing of this movie (as I did), you’d think that this movie was meant to be a genuine action thriller that was repurposed into a comedy.

Also known as 1,000 Ways to Die, the plot revolves around a group of plane crash survivors that get caught up in an armed conflict on an island. Various characters include a deranged Vietnam vet, a blind woman, a saucy Latina, a (probable) British secret agent, an asshole Wall Street broker, etc. Apparently this was Lloyd Kaufman’s response to the glorification of war and violence during the Reagan era.

I’ll admit, the opening few minutes are quite funny. Through the credits, we hear a voiceover from the pilot calmly and casually inform the passengers that the plane’s about crash and the opening scene depicts a woman losing her shit as she watches people flail around while on fire. It sounds horrible, but it accurately sets the tone for the rest of the film. We watch as the survivors slowly evolve into full fledged commandos as they fight a hodgepodge syndicate of terrorists and communists that occupy the island.

There are a few lines here and there (“I don’t know if the guy’s psycho, or just crazy”) that might crack you up. But there are also a few moments, like an interaction with a villain where a priest’s tongue gets ripped out, that feel a little too real. Of course, that was the filmmaker’s goal. However, the satirical points never quite mesh and honestly it mostly feels like an awkward mess. When compared to other self-aware 80s parodies like Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke Em High, Troma’s War falls short in my view.

That being said, I’ve been waiting a long time to see something like this. Whenever I watched Apocalypse Now as a teenager, I’d always laugh at the thought of replacing Wager’s Ride of the Valkyries during the helicopter attack with a bangin 80s soundtrack, complete with synthesizers and electric guitars. Suddenly the complexion of the movie would change. So thank you Lloyd Kaufman, I guess, for thinking the same things I did.

the long, hot summer

Where were my parents growing up?

What was I doing watching such classics as The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Paris Texas, and Caligula before the age 13?

In fact, I was right about to turn 13 when I watched Caligula for the first time. It was a long, boring summer. I was dragging ass on mowing the yard. My dog puked on the tile floor. And instead of taking care of both of those problems, for whatever reasons we had a rented copy of Caligula so I popped it in the DVD player.

I remember the moment better than I remember 9/11.

Next thing I know, Malcolm McDowell was fucking his sister, penises were everywhere, and there was blood. So, so much blood (with a few blowjobs to boot).

I just didn’t see it coming.

Hardcore porn and bloody movies weren’t anything new to me. But when they got mixed together, you go from being aroused to utterly horrified in one frame. It’s too much for a young mind to take in.

I was so traumatized by the experience, I couldn’t watch it again until I was 20.

But now I’m happy that it’s being recognized as a truly awful classic, and a marquee role for Malcolm McDowell and a disgustingly hott Helen Mirren. It’s been therapeutic for me to say the least.