Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Jim Muro’s Street Trash.
Much like Basket Case, this is a movie that’s slightly more well-known than the stuff I generally review here on Cult Corner, but Street Trash is a movie that tends to fall into that “I’ve heard of it, but haven’t seen it” category. Images of a brightly colored melting man on a toilet have become a bit infamous, but the movie itself? Not quite as much. That being said, it’s absolutely worth a watch.
Street Trash centers around the homeless population of lower Manhattan, but explaining the plot is a bit difficult. Roy Frumkes’ script doesn’t have a three act structure in the traditional sense and instead shifts randomly from story to story in a way almost similar to that of an anthology film. It’s more of a series of vignettes than anything. First, we have the Tenafly Viper, which is the most famous storyline. A liquor store owner finds a crate of this stuff in the wall of his store and decides to send it to sell it to the homeless for a buck. Unfortunately for them, drinking even a drop causes them to melt. On top of this we have Bronson, a Vietnam vet who rules the junkyard with an iron fist and a cop who’s made it his mission to solve the grisly series of murders that’s been taking place, even though we (the audience) know that none of them are connected in the least.
The big selling point of this movie for most people is the gore. There’s your basic stabbing, shooting, and decapitation, all done in glorious practical fashion. The real star is the melting, though. This is the most cartoonish violence ever put to film, it is totally out of the box and ridiculous. Every time somebody melts they dissolve into bright saturated colors like purple, yellow, or blue. I have no idea what the FX team was thinking when they decided to go this route, but I’m glad they did. The color palette totally adds to punk rock tone and aesthetic of the film as a hole. On top of that, each melt scene is a totally different effect and they never repeat the same gag twice, so it’s always a blast to watch.
The cast is actually pretty much on point as well. They all tend to ham it up and play the roles over the top, but given the types of characters being portrayed it totally makes sense. We have bums, scumbags, degenerates, crazies, and a cop that definitely thinks he’s in an action movie. Vic Noto as the homeless Vietnam vet Bronson is particularly great. He’s a completely despicable scumbag, often seen abusing his girlfriend or murdering people with a makeshift knife constructed out of human bone. Noto plays the part as troubled though, haunted by memories from his time in the war. He’s a fascinating and layered character, maybe in spite of the nature of the film itself.
Probably the strangest thing about this whole movie is how damn beautifully it’s shot. Other than a handful of tv show episodes in the past few years, this is the only thing Jim Muro’s directed. He hasn’t been inactive for the last 20 years however, just focused on other things. Namely, he had become James Cameron’s steadicam operator of choice, working on such films as Terminator 2, True Lies, and Titanic. Yeah, that’s right. The same person that shot Jack and Rose’s love affair began his career by filming melting hobos. Considering all of this, it makes perfect sense that this movie looks so good. This is something that really makes it stand out as there’s a professionalism to the entire production that just doesn’t exist in other films like this.
Street Trash is totally bonkers. It’s a violent and gritty punk rock look at another walk of life and it’s an absolute blast to watch. The cast kills it, the practical effects are always creative, and everything is completely over the top. It’s hilarious and upbeat while still packing in tons of moments of real dread. While the random and meandering nature of the script can be a bit off-putting on a first watch, once you settle into the rules that the movie wants you to play by it totally works, and it only gets better each time I see it. Must watch!
Oh, and Brian Singer (X-Men) was a PA on this. I don’t really have anything to say about that, I just think it’s an interesting spot of trivia.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.