In honor of the approach of Halloween, I'm going to be showing bits from a horror movie each day throughout October. I'm a big fan of horror movies and even if they're terrible there's usually something of interest going on… even if it isn't intentional. As the month goes on, the movies will get better and better; we're starting with camp and trash, pretty much, and moving into the wonderful. A note: I know you're a grown-up and you know what's going on but sometimes people can think they're a lot more ready for violence and offensiveness than they actually are. A lot of these entries are going to have descriptions of graphic violence, homophobia, sexual violence and stuff of that ilk that is so native to the genre.
I'm not going to be overly lurid or go into too much detail but I wouldn't want someone to read this and get truly skeeved out. Oh and also, you should consider all of links from these articles to be NSFW and likely to contain gore (or, because it's me, hip hop). Don't worry, this is going to be a blast, I just want to make sure you're ready. And trust me, this first movie's always been a trial by fire for any sensibilities.
It's also important to note that my opinions may differ from The Awl's resident horror expert Melissa Lafsky, and she makes no endorsement, implied or explicit, into perpetuity, for all your heirs and assigns, in any state, etc., etc.
I don't know what's on your resume. Mine has some stuff about my time making sandwiches and some writing that people let me do. What my resume doesn't feature, and hopefully I'll be able to say the same for yours, is melting homeless men, nude corpses and people playing catch with a severed penis. That's just some of what J. Micheal Muro, a Bafta-nominated cinematographer who work closely with James Cameron for the 80s and 90s, included in "Street Trash," the movie he made to show his technical chops to the world.
Upon first glance, "Street Trash" is a standard video nasty with an admittedly great premise: there is a cheap liquor going around that's melting those who drink it. But far from being the focal point, these deaths actually are just the backdrop for several interlocking stories taking place in a particularly grisly junkyard. I would say that "Street Trash" is Altman-esque but I don't need people coming around and punching me in the face later on.
Even more than the melting hobos, the thing that really holds "Street Trash" together is that every single character in the movie is a scumbag. There's no guarantee something in "Street Trash" won't seriously offend you. That's probably because that would conflict with the guarantee something in it definitely will seriously offend you. The writer, Roy Frumkes, has said he wrote it "to democratically offend every group on the planet" and he succeeds pretty well.
What's more, all of the stories in this, from the mob boss' raped and murdered girlfriend to the junkyard owner contracting VD from her body are all played for laughs. I've been raised on the Internet and 4chan (I consider 4chan to be a separate sovereign state) and am immune to pretty much most types of offense. Yet the casual racism, chauvanism and homophobia still made me uncomfortable at times. The rape scene is inexcusably awful (no matter what cut of the movie you watch) and serves no purpose other than to go "Hey guys: Rape! Pretty edgy right?"
"But if it's so awful…" you ask with your questioning nose and frowning eyes "… why should someone watch it?"
Well, aside from just appreciating the pure audacity and weirdness of the thing, it's hard not to appreciate just how incredible it looks.
Yes, despite all the gore and the unrelentingly mean-spirited characters, the most shocking thing about "Street Trash" is how well put-together it is. J. Michela Muro wanted people to know how good a cinematographer he was and pulls out all the stops here. The Steadicam work is so dynamic and interesting, it's almost jarring. It's odd to watch so a proudly low-rent peice of work being presented with such care and quality. The kind of things happening on screen should really be filmed by a locked-off security camera not with dynamic camera moves and intersting cutting techniques. It makes for odd viewing. For instance, look how colourful and dynamic this scene where the inhabitants of the junkyward play catch with a man's severed penis. (You totally don't have to watch this if you're squeamish, I'm on your side.)
Especially worthy of mention are the Vietnam flashbacks of Bronson, the leader of the homeless folk. These were obvioulsy filmed with very little in the way of appropriate props or time but still manage to be wonderfully hallucinogenic and brilliantly lit. Bronson comits some of the more egreiously unplesant acts in the movie but his character also seems to be an attempt to make a serious point about homelessness and Vietnam Vets. This was done in a similar style but to much starker and greater effect in a Troma movie called "Combat Shock."
But the most obvious stand-out of all is still the exploding victims of the toxic liqour. Oozing with multi-coloured gore from the Sam Rami school of splatter, most of these meltings happen and the harsh light of day but the expertly made practical effects still make them look damn impressive. One of them even manages to make flushing his own remains down the toliet his last act on planet earth.
So yes, "Street Trash" isn't pleasant, it makes no apologies and, yes, most of the acting is either silent movie mugging or just shouting. But you should still watch it, if only too see how ignorant and brutish a movie can be while still being incredibly creative and weird.
Sean Mc Tiernan is 21, his favorite rapper is E40 and he wants to assure you he does sometimes go outside. He has a blog and a twitter. So does everyone though. He also has a podcast on which he has a nervous breakdown once an episode, minimum.You should totally email him with your questions / insults/ offers of tax-free monetary gifts.