Greetings from Tromaville!
Launched in 1974 by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma is the longest-running truly independent studio in moviemaking today. Troma films are Z-movies known for their surrealistic or automatistic nature, along with their use of shocking imagery; some would categorize them as “shock exploitation films”. They typically contain overt sexuality, nudity, and intentionally sadistic, gory, and blatant graphic violence, so much that the term “Troma film” has become synonymous with these characteristics.
Though Troma has distributed over 1,000 titles, most of those are pick-ups – independently made and financed films that are sold to the studio for them to deliver to the masses. And while some people don’t consider these to be “true” Troma movies, we will be including them as we rundown some of the greatest films that the studio has to offer.
Be warned, some descriptions for the films contain spoilers in order to entice and/or repulse, and are definitely not for the faint of heart. For those of you who wish to continue on, remember to have some Pepto-Bismol close by and enjoy!
15. Killer Condom (1996)
Director: Martin Walz
Cast: Udo Samel, Peter Lohmeyer, Iris Berben, Leonard Lansink, Marc Richter
New York. A living, squirming, and worst of all, biting condom, grips the city in prophylactic panic. Especially hard hit is detective Luigi Mackeroni. As chomped corpses pile up, no one believes his carnivorous contraception theory. Then when Mackeroni loses a testicle to the latex menace, his pursuit becomes personal. Soon enough, he blows the lid off a cult of Christian fundamentalists bent on eliminating New York’s sexual deviants.
So yeah, this movie is pretty insane. Beautifully so. Adapted from Ralf König’s 1987 comic book Kondom Des Grauens, Killer Condom is one of those rare gems of trash cinema that manages to deliver its exploitative schlock with adept filmmaking and a cohesive and pointed aesthetic. It traverses the dark alleyways lined with the soot of urban decay in a search for a quick midnight fix, and through its camp and satire it delivers the goods that trash cinema junkies desperately crave.
14. Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)
Directors: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Cast: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden, Thomas Crnkovich, Larry Robinson
You can throw out any number of explanations for the enduring popularity of superheroes – the flashy, larger-than-life battles, the never-ending soap opera storylines, the desire of fans to immerse themselves in worlds where good and evil are easily delineated, etc. With that being said, this brings us to one of Troma’s most popular characters (despite having only one film to his credit).
Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. tells the story of Harry Griswold, a NYPD detective who witnesses an onstage slaughter during a local Kabuki theater production. During the massacre, elderly Kabuki master Mr. Sato is shot and must pass on the ancient spirit of Kabukiman. Sato’s grandaughter Lotus hopes to inherit the spirit but instead it enters Detective Griswold. Soon enough the spirit completely takes over and Griswold is transformed into Sgt. Kabukiman. Using an unusual arsenal of weapons, including fatal sushi heat-seeking chopsticks and pyro projectile parasols, Sgt. Kabukiman is the hero that genre fans need, but not the one it deserves.
13. Rabid Grannies (1988)
Director: Emmanuel Kervyn
Cast: Catherine Aymerie, Caroline Braeckman, Richard Cotica, Danielle Daven
Troma picked up this Belgium made horror-comedy back in the late ’80s, and it has since gone on to grow quite a cult following. The basic premise is that a rather large rich family are all reuniting to celebrate the birthdays of two elderly sisters. As this dysfunctional family get to the mansion where the party is to take place, the old women get a gift sent to them by their estranged nephew. The present is a wooden box which is filled with some sort of demonic mist that turns these grannies into murderous creatures. Much like the original Evil Dead, these murderous monsters go after everyone in the mansion, killing them off one by one.
Despite the obvious budgetary constraints, the gore here is quite well done and original. One of the highlights include one of the grannies literally biting her rotund nephew’s butt off. And as you could probably surmise, all of the violence has a strong undercurrent of black humor, which thankfully is never constrained by the bounds of good taste.
12. The Children (1980)
Director: Max Kalmanowicz
Cast: Martin Shakar,Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin, Tracy Griswold, Joy Glaccum
“You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms.” It’s not clear where this particular phrase originated, but it was almost certainly on the minds of the creators of The Children, an anti-nuclear parable dressed up as a zombie movie, with a twist. The twist is that all the zombies are rugrats from a school bus that drives through a toxic cloud leaked from the nearby nuclear power plant.
While the adults are unaffected by the gas, the children are turned into little black-fingernailed goths-in-training that have been fed too much Ritalin. With arms outstretched, they get all affectionate and huggy on you, which is bad news since a hug from one of these kids burns your flesh up until you resemble a pepperoni pizza. Nice job polluting the planet, boomers – now you’re the main course for the next generation’s barbecue.
11. Mother’s Day (1980)
Director: Charles Kaufman
Cast: Tiana Pierce, Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Frederick Coffin, Beatrice Pons
Three female friends head to the woods to remember their collegiate good times, all the while with no idea that they’re being hunted by a dysfunctional hillbilly family. Mother is teaching her backwoods boys how to rape, torture and kill young women – and her adept pupils are more than willing to practice their lessons.
Roger Ebert famously hated this film. Upon its release, he wrote (for the Chicago Sun-Times), “So far there seems to be no end to the vogue for geek films. And there seems to be no limit to the inhuman imagery their makers are prepared to portray in them.” He then concluded with the death nail, “The question, of course, of why anybody of any age would possibly want to see this film remains without an answer.” Well, as much as Ebert knew films, his reviews were for the masses, recommending films to anyone and everyone. Thankfully, with bloody fantastic sites like this one, fans know where to go to enjoy the movies they love without shame.