The idea of the “Fan Made Film”(or Fan Film for short), is a concept that has been around for quite sometime now. A DIY spiritual successor/companion piece to the pre-existing work(s) that inspired fans to the point of adaptation. With roots beginning in the confines of fan-fiction literature, the idea of helming one’s own extension of his or her favorite chunk of cinematic/penned/digital media is one too easy to materialize these days. Even I myself lay claim to having been part of one of these niché efforts, in the form of a live-action adaptation of the popular video game, Red Dead Redemption. It’s a wonderful world to invest in when the overbearing lurch of Copyright Law is on your side(or at the very least, willing to give you a pass). However, there is one other method such a film can be made without a run-in with the free speech police. This of course being a production in which the original creator not only gives their blessing… But is actually IN the damn project itself!
Since 1974, Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz’s Troma Entertainment has been a production company giving a voice not just to the voiceless, but to those who never had a platform better suited for their particular voice. Throughout the company’s 40+ active years, they’ve not only provided us with many a laugh or two, but have given us a decent percentage of Hollywood’s contemporary body of talent. Including the likes of J.J. Abrams, James Gunn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kevin Costner among way too many others. Those who would not fall into the realm of modern A-List talent would still find fame as beloved members of the cult film world. That being said, with the company’s mascot and primary claim to fame being The Toxic Avenger, it was only a matter of time before one of those aforementioned fan films shined a spotlight on Toxie™ himself! Enter New York based filmmaker Joe Nardelli to get said job done.
Toxic Tutu is a mockumentary film depicting a “what if” storyline revolving around the creation of the original Toxic Avenger film. Made in the same B-movie vein as its predecessor, the film uses a mixture of actual non-fiction interviews and scripted narrative sequences as its primary foundation. It stars and centers around Mark Torgl, who played Melvin the Mop Boy in the famed Troma film, as he documents a piece of mysterious lore birthed by an accident he succumbed to on set of said movie. As the film progresses forward, revealing more to the mystery as it goes, the film also seemingly gets more zany and ridiculous at the same pace. As a die-hard Troma fan myself, this is a highly welcomed creative decision for a film of this genre and basis alike. Add in a huge and ever so colorful cast of characters to help drive the film’s kinetic energy levels to suitable sustainment and you’ve got yourself a recipe for the perfect batch of toxic waste.
Having stayed out of the limelight for many years now, the film’s first act follows Torgl as he begins re-engaging with his fans at various comic & pop culture conventions. It’s also early on that we learn most of the film’s premise is driven forward via the use of its carefully selected McGuffin, “the toxic waste”. Legend has it, when Mark Torgl’s famous free-fall scene commenced, the vat of toxic waste his character fell into was not a result of special effect artistry, but a real radioactive substance. The effects it had on him and anyone else for that matter have since become subject to immense scrutiny, leading many people eager to “get their hands on some”(as the film’s trailer aptly suggests). Acting as a place holder for a highly addictive narcotic or even an incredibly profitable resource, the substance is sought after by multiple parties throughout the film. Seeing Torgl as a direct link to said green ooze, the Troma star is kidnapped at gunpoint by unknown assailants. Not much is known to the audience nor the protagonists who rally to rescue their missing hero. The only thing that is for sure up at this point… Is that Mark has a secret and unless he is found, said mystery could be lost for good.
One thing the viewer must know before pressing play is that this is a low-budget film. I don’t mean original Toxic Avenger low-budget either. I’m talking limbo world championship “low” here. But don’t get me wrong, this is not a warning nor an insult. Rather, this is a compliment based on how well this film fares on one’s personal engagement regardless of the limited financial backing. The narrative moves at a lightening-quick pace without ever becoming illegible to those following the story. This begets a pace that somehow doesn’t falter in momentum too often(save for a couple length heavy dialogue segments)and smoothly shifts in tone to adapt to various critical plot points as they arise. This is mainly attributed to a very simple storyline made to look more complex than it is. We owe that to some massive post-production work by Nardelli. The film is almost experimental in it’s presentation, best described as a B-Movie’s answer to The Big Short(but with more mops and ballet garb). Non-traditional yet compelling, the barrage of cutting isn’t used to just create visual energy, but to allow the film to occasionally ditch the standard docu-narrative in order to explore some storytelling perspectives that any other non-fiction-ish film could never dream of getting away with.
The performances given, when not showcasing actual interview footage, are exactly what you’d expect from a Troma film. They’re fun, campy and just self-aware enough to give off the feel that it could be an actual Lloyd Kaufman helmed project(Well, granted, it also helps that Lloyd stars as himself in the film too). It’s truly an authentic Troma tribute complete with gore, gross-out humor and lots of fun cameos from the types of names you’d normally see lining your local convention autograph area. When all’s said and done, Toxic Tutu succeeds on its own unique level. Though it looks and acts leagues different than the material it pays homage to, it has the genuine charisma needed to take the original cast of said material and give the lore a legitimate expansion. Depending on if Kaufman himself ever claims this film’s storyline to be canon in anyway, it could forever change the way millions of people view one of the world’s greatest cult films ever made. The power this film potentially has is something that may not immediately cross the minds of those watching it, but in due time, that very well may change.