Troma Entertainment is one of the last great independent film companies out there. You may know them for the many gross-out horror comedies created by founder Lloyd Kaufman. Rightly so, some of his films are downright iconic, if not at least somewhat entertaining. However, Troma has made a business of releasing other independently made films that otherwise would not see the light of day. They range from brilliantly done to god-awful.
The Toxic Avenger and Poultrygiest are films you can rely on. However, you can’t always trust movies not made by Lloyd Kaufman to be that great. With hundreds of movies in their catalog, it’s very hard to find the diamonds in the rough. I’ve watched a metric ton of Troma movies and I’ve picked out a list of five films that I think are some of the best they have to offer:
Combat Shock (AKA American Nightmare)
This movie is not a conventional horror movie. There are no monsters or supernatural elements, but it is by far the most horrific movies in Troma’s catalog. It’s a movie about the Vietnam War, which interestingly enough is not set in Vietnam. The movie is about a Vietnam Veteran struggling with finding work and supporting his family (which includes his wife and a child that gives the baby from Eraserhead a run for its money). Set on Long Island after the war, this makes for an ugly look at what soldiers had to look forward when they got home: rampant unemployment, poverty, crime, and drug addiction. It’s like the Bicycle Thieves if the main character had a heroin addiction.
This movie is not for the faint of heart because it is super depressing. If you can handle it, I recommend the uncut version (titled American Nightmare) since Combat Shock is heavily edited.
Okay, now that you are thoroughly depressed, here’s something that is slightly more uplifting. Fathers Day was a film put together by Astron-6, filmmakers from Winnipeg who specialize in genre films that have all the trappings of the genre. You might remember some of their other films such as Manborg and The Editor.
Fathers Day is a love letter to the Grindhouse films of the 1970s. By the time Fathers Day came out that may have been done to death, but trust me this movie is entirely worth your time. The movie follows Ahab, who is on a seemingly never-ending quest to put down the notorious Chris Fuchman, a notorious serial killer.
… You know what, I just realized just how little I can tell you about this movie because Fandom is a soft PG-13 site, so um…
If you’re old enough watch it. If you’re not, keep a detailed list of questions to ask your parents.
The title says it all about this movie. But why are the grannies rabid? Well, it turns out that they are going to leave a massive inheritance to their family. One such family member has been disowned because he was part of a Satanic cult. So, in turn, he sends them a magic box that turns them into demonic centennials on the eve of their birthdays. They are twins or something? I think. The movie isn’t quite clear on that. But, whatever, because after all the boring exposition and pheasant plucking, there is granny murder carnage that happens.
Honestly, the plot is awful, and the acting is only marginally better, the reason why you watch this movie is for the special effects. Those are pretty amazing. So if you’re going to pop this one in and watch it, turn your brain off at the door.
Beware! Children at Play
Have you ever been to New Jersey? No? Well, there is only one place that is worth checking out. No, I’m not talking about the Jersey Shore you philistine. It’s the Pine Barrens. It’s incredibly creepy. Which makes for a great setting for horror movies. Case in point: Beware! Children at Play takes place in the Barrens. It’s about children being lured out into the forest by a teenager who thinks that he is Grendel from Beowulf. The movie is creepy in that you have kids coming out of the woods in the middle of the night and murdering parents. The acting is sub-par, but the special effects — again — are fantastic.
This movie also paints an interesting picture of the effects of literature on impressionable youth as well as the effects of hardcore religion on adults. It ends with a pretty upsetting slaughter scene where the grown-ups, who think their children are possessed by demons, slaughter all the kids. Not for the faint of heart, it’s pretty graphic, but if you can get past that it is totally worth the watch.
Teenape Vs. The Nazi Zombie Apocalypse
Okay, so I made you watch all manner of horrific things that are depressing and heartbreaking. You’ve just seen things that might make you feel uncomfortable. So let’s cap this one off with something that is silly and entertaining. Teenape vs. The Nazi Zombie Apocalypse. This film was made by Chris Seaver who has been slogging away at making some of the silliest independent horror movies of all time.
Seaver has been making Teenape movies for years. The best way I can describe them is this: If the Teen Wolf movies were made by a pop-culture junkie and they made like a billion movies, you’d get Teenape. Anyway, given the title you already know it’s going to be downright absurd. It stars a guy in a monkey mask fighting zombies. What more do you need to know? Other than the fact that it stars legendary scream queen Debbie Rochon, not a whole heck of a lot. Just watch it. And after you watch it, look up every Chris Seaver movie published under the Low Budget Pictures or Warlock Home Video banner, the guy is a genius.