Fantastic Fest 2023: THE TOXIC AVENGER

I was initially bewildered by the idea of “remaking” the Troma cult classic, The Toxic Avenger when it was first announced that it would open this year’s Fantastic Fest. As a fan of all kinds of cinema, my first reaction is normal. I am sure several fans of the original film currently feel this way, too. However, my curiosity was extraordinarily piqued by this idea, and considering that not only Macon Blair, who wrote and directed this reboot, is involved, along with an exceptional cast, I had to see it for myself. So, yes, the 2023 version of “Toxie” is not exactly a remake but is a reboot. I hoped this movie would expand on the lore in fun and creative ways. Thankfully, that is the case, and Blair, who has much love and admiration for the original movie, has managed to capture this universe’s weird and exciting spirit.

Peter Dinklage stars as Winston Gooze, a good-hearted but downtrodden, single stepfather who is charged with raising the son of his beloved late wife and struggles to make ends meet as a sanitation worker for a major corporation called BT Lifestyle. While stepson Wade (Jacob Tremblay) feels sorry for Winston, he doesn’t have much respect for him. As expected, an unfortunate chain of events befalls the protagonist, leading to his immersion in toxic chemical waste. Though Winston emerges from the ooze intact and more powerful than ever, he is freakishly deformed. BT Lifestyle president Bob Garbinger (Kevin Bacon) becomes obsessed with Winston’s strength and abilities and wishes to capitalize on them to save his falling empire.

This movie is so freaking fun! Everyone involved is on the same page and understands their assignments. Blair has done what many people feel is impossible and has enriched the universe of The Toxic Avenger with a movie that is often hilarious ridiculously gory, but still has a golden heart. The overall tone, thankfully, captures the spirit of Troma and does so with the utmost earnestness.

Peter Dinklage is the most unlikely actor to be cast in the title role. Still, the actor is a consummate professional and is obviously in love with the original movie. Kevin Bacon is having an absolute blast as the wicked, sleazy, and opportunistic villain of the film. The movie also features a fantastic performance by Elijah Wood, who has fun as Garbinger’s brother and chief minion, Fritz.

Though I was worried about this new take on Toxie, I can guarantee that fans of Troma will have a great time with this movie, which never steals any of the original movie’s thunder. So far, there has been no mention of distribution. Still, I hope this movie sees the light of day to reinvigorate Troma and inspire the uninitiated to explore this wild and wonderful world of cinema.

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