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An Intro To Troma: The Best/Worst Horror Filmmakers Out There

The distributors for all that is campy, culty and of indelible bad taste for over four decades, Troma Entertainment to many is the holy grail of purposefully horrible, low-budget exploitation films -- and for good reason. 

Founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974, all of their films draw influences from the likes of B movie genres, à la sexploitation and grindhouse, reveling in all the atrocious nature of the film industry through satire, trope-laden sleaze and desensitized bloodshed. So in the Halloween spirit of celebrating of all that is slightly spooky and gratuitously gory, we rounded up a few of Troma's essential watches...you know, just in case you prefer your horror with a side of bad taste.  

The Toxic Avenger Series (1984-2000)
The definitive standard-bearer of the Troma franchise, the extended Toxic Avenger series is probably their most famous offering to date -- aka the best place to start any B movie-related conversation. Following the journey of Melvin Ferd, a shrimpy gym janitor who falls into a vat of toxic waste that gives him superpowers, the series sees him saving the town of Tromaville, New Jersey (and Tokyo in one sequel) from the evil forces that be. Obviously start with the original cult classic and then move in serial succession. 

Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)
You know your film is a definitive arbiter of bad taste when Roger Ebert walks out of its Cannes screening in the first 30 minutes, but with a synth-tastic soundtrack, laughable dialogue and neurotic editing, what's not to love? Set in a world where a massive earthquake ruins the California coastline, it's a so-bad-it's-good shitshow that sees a revenge-driven retiree gunning down Neo-Nazi surfers for an hour and a half.

Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)
Another film set in lovely Tromaville, New Jersey, Nuke 'Em High is one of the franchise's most popular films...and for good reason. After all, nuclear power run-offs always make for good stories, especially when they begin to change the students of a nearby high school into violent killers. Bonus points for radioactive joints, teen necking and, uh, monster babies.  

Cannibal! The Musical (1993)
This gem comes from none other than South Park co-creator Trey Parker who wrote, produced, composed, starred and directed a gruesome, gory, "based-on-a-true-story" musical about a West-ward journey gone amiss. Think less Oregon Trail and more Donner Party...with lots of "eat everything but the butt" interludes.

Killer Condom (1996)
Carnivores condoms are eating unsuspecting user's peens in this German horror flick distributed by none other than the tastemakers at Troma. Not exactly something I'd show in sex ed, but definitely a riot of a monster mystery. Talk about giving Benson and Stabler a run for their money.

Tromeo and Juliet (1997)
A surprisingly close retelling of the Shakespearian original, Tromeo & Juliet is just like your high school required reading...just smutted-up and with a lot of oral sex. And while (spoiler alert) they might end up happily ever after in this version, there is one terrible, taboo twist at the end that no one will expect.

Dumpster Baby (2000)
Terrible premise, surprisingly good content. An abandoned crack baby becomes a little bundle of blessings/curses for the array of misfits he's handed off to. Strangely beautiful in a warped, surreal, Buñuel-inspired way, it's a collection of sprawling, interlocking narratives that serve as a (relatively) heart-warming alternative to the rest of the Troma backlog. 

Rabid Grannies (1988)
A family dinner party goes awry in this underrated Belgian goldmine of blood, blasphemy and good old-fashioned cannibalism. Guess it goes without saying that the squeamish should beware, especially since this one is one of the more, ahem, gross Troma releases out there. Probably don't opt to watch this over Thanksgiving.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)
Nothing is probably more nightmarish than a fast food-themed musical about killer zombie chickens, which is what makes Poultrygeist one of the Troma franchise's better "new" films to date. Filled with food-themed ballads like "Slow Fast Food Love," chicken fucking and cute corporate nods in the form of characters named shit like Carl Jr., there's also biting satirical commentary on the fast food industry and food politics, so you can swallow down this one with a little less guilt.

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