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Movie Review: Terror Firmer

By Mike Everleth ⋅ December 1, 2000

Terror Firmer DVD box artwork

I’ve never seen so much shit and vomit in one single movie.

This also must be the year for making movies about independent filmmaking, although technically I think Terror Firmer was made and released in 1999.

But I saw it in 2000 and earlier this year I saw John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented, both movies being made by pioneers of the trashy side of independent film.

John Waters can be definitively classified as a comedic movie director. He’s never made a drama, sci-fi, documentary or horror film, tho’ some of the things he’s shot have been horrific, such as scenes of emasculation, cannibalism and shit eating, all of which are contained in his most notorious film Pink Flamingos made in the early ’70s.

Lloyd Kaufman is a little harder to peg down. He and his producing partner, Michael Herz, are the founders of Troma Entertainment, which used to specialize in straightforward horror fare such as Mother’s Day and Bloodsucking Freaks, but shifted sort of into the horror-comedy genre with the release of The Toxic Avenger in the early ’80s, which is more of a superhero parody than a horror film.

Since then, Troma has specialized in the gonzo gross-out gore genre. It’s kind of tough to label their films other than just calling them “Troma movies”. Terror Firmer is based on Kaufman’s autobiography All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger and it stars Lloyd as a fictional, blind low-budget movie director trying to get his current film done despite most of his cast and crew being killed by an unknown assailant.

The film is wantonly disgusting, with several way, way, way over-the-top scenes of vomiting, dismemberment and shit-eating (which unlike Pink Flamingos is fake but revolting nevertheless). I haven’t seen any of Troma’s films in awhile, but they seem to have developed this overly manic style that’s a little too much to take. Terror Firmer moves at such a frenetic pace that it was it’s choppiness that I found so disconcerting, not the wildly gross-out humor.

I saw Terror Firmer as part of a retrospective at the Anthology Film Archives here in NYC. I don’t think Troma’s movies even play in regular theaters in the city, which is odd since they are based here and are sort of a New York institution. Lloyd Kaufman and a large contingent of Troma-ites showed up at two of the films. Lloyd looked as happy as a pig in shit (and eating it) to have his flicks playing at what he kept calling a “film museum”, which the Anthology is. He even gave the guy who coordinated the whole thing, some kid named Jonathan, a special plaque.

Movies that also played at the retrospective that I checked out were Bloodsucking Freaks, which is probably the most hideous movie of all time featuring a woman getting her brains sucked out through a straw and a midget giving himself fellatio with a severed head. Then there was the original Toxic Avenger, which completely pissed me off because they showed the “R” rated version that had all the gory bits edited out. I also saw a work-in-progress edition of Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part 4 that was a little overlong but Troma is still working on editing it before it’s officially released. And the last film I saw was The Stendhal Syndrome, a 1996 Italian horror flick from the legendary Dario Argento. It was pretty decent, except for an overly obvious, cheezy ending.

There were several other movies I wanted to check out, such as Troma’s War, Tromeo & Juliet, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD and Story of a Junkie, but it was a little overwhelming to go see everything I wanted to.

Watch the trailer: