BluRay/DVD Reviews

TERROR FIRMER

By • Jan 23rd, 2001 •

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A Troma Team Video – 114 minutes
2 DVDs, including “The Making of Terror Firmer”

Love them or hate them, you have to admire Troma Entertainment, particularly the company’s fearless leader, Lloyd Kaufman. With so much homogenized and empty-headed “entertainment” pouring out of Hollywood on a weekly basis, Kaufman and his intrepid team produce films that embrace puerile sex, violence and gleeful chaos. It’s pure punk filmmaking, containing everything that Hollywood’s standards and practices tell today’s audiences they shouldn’t want and cannot have. Nudity and gore for the sheer sake of titillation and escapism. Troma movies relish anarchy and hope to inspire the same. Troma fans are encouraged to rebel against “polite” society, particularly corporations, government corruption, and Hollywood itself, where a good story, the fan is told, will always take a back seat to commercialism. The problem is, these messages are usually swallowed up by the excesses of the imagery.

TERROR FIRMER is the quintessential Troma movie, even surpassing the joyful insanity of the upcoming TOXIC AVENGER PART IV: CITIZEN TOXIE. Ahead of its time, TERROR FIRMER takes place in the Troma universe, where the most unruly band of misfits have banded together to shoot a Troma movie – namely the aforementioned TOXIE IV. Under the leadership of the hypertensive – and blind – director Larry Benjamin (Kaufman himself in a wonderfully manic performance), the insane crew struggles against ridiculous hours and hazardous working-conditions. To make matters worse, there’s a serial killer stalking the set, picking off members of the Troma team one by one.

Every frame of TERROR FIRMER is bursting with details and people. The fictional Troma Team depicted isn’t too far off from their real-life counterparts. On film and in person, Troma Team consist of pierced and tattooed individuals of all shapes and sizes, often abused by the long hours and virtually non-existent pay (or completely non-existent in most cases). They have all come together to, as Benjamin shrieks and Kaufman has insisted, “make some art”.

Amidst the murders, sex scenes, nudity and scatological humor, TERROR FIRMER is practically incomprehensible. The story is bizarre and the viewer is often led through strange tangents – often, the serial killer plot is practically forgotten, and is actually the least interesting aspect of the chaos. The acting, across the board, is terrific – particularly regulars Will Keenan, Debbie Rochon and Trent Haaga, as well as newcomer Alyce Tourelle. The real star of the movie is Kaufman, who is not blind in real life, but is often just as manic. (His performance is the first indication that the movie is ahead of it’s time – years later Woody Allen would play a blind director in the woeful HOLLYWOOD ENDING; the schizophrenic movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie now calls to mind another Kaufman – Charlie – in ADAPTION.) That TERROR FIRMER should be seen by any serious movie buff is debatable. It will be another “love it or hate it” situation. It truly is an experience.

The DVD, however, is outstanding, and a particular treat for fans. It’s a two-disc set dense with extras, trailers, three commentaries, out-takes, Easter Eggs and music videos. The centerpiece of the set, however, is the documentary FARTS OF DARKNESS, detailing the insanity that occurred during the making of this film that, once seen, makes the movie seem even more surreal. Stunts misfire, personalities conflict, crew and cast storm off the set while Kaufman seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown one moment, and an epiphany the next. Here, the messages are a little more clear: fight the system, take back control of art and put it back in the hands of the people – and remember that the idea of “art” is subjective.

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