7. Toxic Avenger (Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman, 1984)
Certainly one of the funniest ones featured in this list, and one of the funniest horror trash movies to be made. Toxic Avenger is an offspring of independent company Troma Entertainment, founded in 1974. Troma is known to produce and release movies that are low-budget, exploitative (show a great deal of sex and violence) and that usually play with the genres of horror and comedy, besides presenting us with some social commentary, every once in a while.
Toxic Avenger has all of that. It depicts a universe where all the characters and situations are over the top and exaggerations of real life, in order to send its message with more impact, what we call “camp”.
We start the film following the daily routine of Melvin Ferd, an awkward and geek janitor at a local health club, who’s constantly bullied by everyone in the place, until one day, in a particular shocking scene, he accidentally falls into the back of a truck filled with toxic waste. Guess what? He then becomes the Toxic Avenger!
Exploiting the stereotype of the man done wrong, who will stop at nothing to have his revenge, mangled with the subject of radioactivity in touch with the human body, we have the birth of an anti-hero, who basically just goes around beating on “mobsters” and spending time with his blind girlfriend.
The love scenes in this movie are the funniest thing, they take an absurd amount of the runtime and seem to last forever, in repeated takes that use the same soundtrack, over and over – an annoying song called “It’s This Love”, performed by Mark Hoffman and Race. Well, at least we get to see hysterical scenes like Toxic Avenger playing with a Hula Hoop. Movies like this one will be marked forever in the trash horror history.
8. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
Filmmaker George A. Romero barely knew he would be making history with his low-budget zombie film, “Night of the Living Dead”. It was shot in B&W, so the production wouldn’t have trouble with the make-up or the blood, and it was supposed to be a midnight movie – a movie that would play in a rather select group of theaters for mostly a college audience – so nobody expected it to be good.
Actually, no one who watched the movie at the time of its release even knew that they would be witnessing a change in filmmaking history when they first heard the iconic lines: “they’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
What seemed to be just another horror movie turned out to start a revolution in the ways filmmaking was being conceived in the 60’s, especially horror movies. Zombies had a brief appearance in the screens before “Night of The Living Dead”, mostly related to voodoo religions, scientific experiments or alien abductions. Now, for the first time, these were real monsters, and nothing could save the characters from their terrible fate.
The movie is clearly a sub product from the time it was made, the 60’s were filled with social and political transformations, and we know we are not witnessing an ordinary movie, because the protagonist is a black man, and all the characters seem to be real people, showing real reactions to a public calamity, leaving behind all horror movies stereotypes.
There is a great amount of gore scenes, which was expected of a low-budget horror film like this. Overall, it is known Night of the Living Dead came to influence basically all of the types of horror movies that came later on, including the gore factor of trash horror films featured in this list.
9. Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato, 1980)
Controversial film by Italian director Ruggero Deodato suffered with various problems concerning censorship and took a while before being released in some countries. People who went to see it were shocked mostly by its graphic imagery, which features a tribal rape and animals being tortured and killed. But there is a purpose behind the whole story, to show the decadence and moral decay of our western civilization.
While in contact with Indian from the Amazon, American reporters attempt to make a documentary about their lifestyle and singular battlefield techniques, however, they go about their business with complete disregard for the internal rules of these Ethnic Groups, which by the way, are also known to be cannibals.
The Americans risk their luck in acting superior to the natives, but are they really? In one of the first found-footage films, we see Deodato depict the foreigner’s fates inside the forest once they choose to do what it takes to achieve their goal. There is a lot of blood and guts and various shocking scenes, but the most controversial of them all comes when the American crew encounters the law of the cannibals.
It’s a valid movie to this day because of its social commentary; the way Deodato chose to make that critique of western society was raw and violent, but even so more effective. Cannibal Holocaust deals with a clash of cultures, and what happens when one doesn’t even consider the other to be a culture.
Also, a pretty accurate depiction of the American media, a TV company who would rather go all the way by showing the bloody found-footage, without any kind of respect for the victims or viewers nor any kind of self-awareness whatsoever about its influence on people. Real life murder and mayhem sells, that is what Deodato is ironically saying to us.
10. City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci, 1980)
Zombie movies are so abundant that they stand as a horror subgenre alone. This list features this particular zombie movie because it’s scary, dark and bloody. Fulci’s depiction of an apocalyptic world comes in great gulfs of guts, with various trash scenes, such as a girl vomiting her intestines through her mouth and a human skull being cleanly drilled. The zombie makeup and overall acting is one of the best within the genre.
The story starts with a séance, where a psychic named Mary is having a vision of a priest who is about to kill himself by hanging, and that suicide will somehow unleash the end of the world, when the dead will walk the Earth. What we experience throughout the movie is a tension that only grows, as the characters attempt to stop the apocalypse from unraveling, by trying to locate the tomb of the priest and destroy his remains before All Saints Day.
Turns out the tomb of the priest is in a town called Dunwich, and there is a talk about the town’s inhabitants being descendants of witch burners, as well as Mary’s vision being present in the book of Enoch, but not much of it is developed in the plot, though. All we encounter is a dark environment, where just anything is possible, as the undead rise, one by one, and the winds bring malady and worms (literally!).
11. Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987)
Clive Barker’s hellish creation started off well in the first installment of the franchise. Based on his novella “The Hellbound Heart”, the movie tells the story of Frank Cotton, a man who buys what appears to be a puzzle box from a dealer in the Orient.
What seemed to be a harmless object turns out to open a portal to another dimension, filled with bizarre creatures that will make Frank’s innermost desires come true. These creatures are “Cenobites”, and their purpose is to pleasure whoever solves that puzzle box, taking that person to the extremes of sadomasochism.
Frank is killed in that process, and we see macabre scenes of what happened to him. Throughout the rest of the movie, he attempts to come back to life, but in order to do so; he needs the help of his sister-in-law, Julia, whom he once had an affair with.
In order for Frank to become a complete person again, she must feed him with the flesh and blood of other men, so Frank will absorb them and grow. We are introduced to one of the most well done makeups in horror movies in the following scenes, seeing Frank go from a gross pile of goo to a skeleton with tissues and bones, and so on, until becoming a full formed human being once again.
We also have the presence of a strong female character, Kirsty, played by Ashley Laurence. She is the one who puts at risk Frank and Julia’s plan when she finds the puzzle box and accidentally opens it. Then we encounter Pinhead, one of the Cenobites (the one who became mostly associated with the movie), who wants to take Kirsty to another dimension and make all of her supposed wishes come true.
Hellraiser is certainly one of the most gore and high quality horror movies from the 80’s, presenting us with its creative idea of the concept of hell and the depths one will go to fulfill their desires.
12. Night of the Demons (Kevin Tenney, 1988)
What at first seemed to be just another cliché horror story, where a group of teenagers go to an isolated place on Halloween and end up being chased by a monster, turns out to be something else. Kevin Tenney’s Night of the Demons is similar to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, in the sense that it involves possession by wicked demons and a great amount of blood and guts, but it’s also creative in its own right.
The poster of the film is already an indicative of what we are going to find. Several characters that suddenly turn evil when possessed, gain macabre make-ups and perform gruesome killings they wouldn’t have imagined one moment ago. The usual stereotypes are all personified in the characters, but the creative art direction saves the movie from what could’ve been simply another trash 80’s movie.
13. Street Trash (James M. Muro, 1987)
This movie is definitely in every top list of “melt movies”, that’s what’s called any movie where the body of a human being is depicted as it bubbles and dissolves itself into a liquid or any nasty residue. The story of “Street Trash” starts as a man in a liquor store discovers a box in his cellar containing a mysterious drink called “Viper”, he doesn’t hesitate in selling it cheap to make a profit, turns out it was a wine gone bad, from more than half a century ago.
Ironically, the only people who end up buying the bottles are hobos from the neighborhood, and they soon find out Viper won’t only make their troubles disappear, it will also make them disappear. In one of the most creative scenes featured in this list, we watch one of the men be literally drained down the toilet, as the blue liquid corrodes and melts all of his bones, tissues and flesh. Another infamous scene includes several people in a dumpster playing catch with one of the hobo’s severed genitalia.
For the rest of the movie, we get a different tone and various subplots, as the director pushes the story to be some kind of police drama (there is even a Vietnam War drama, if you can see it to believe it). However, the movie is worth more for its dark humor and trash scenes than for its attempt at drama, of course.