When a liquor store owner finds a case of “Viper” in his cellar, he decides to sell it to the local hobos at one dollar a bottle, unaware of its true properties. The drinks causes its consumers to melt, very messily. Two homeless lads find themselves up against the effects of the toxic brew, as well as going head to head with “Bronson” a Vietnam vet with sociopathic tendencies, and the owner of the junkyard they live in
From the opening scene of Street Trash, it’ll be obvious whether the viewer will want to stick around for the end result. A dirty bum makes his way along the streets of a poor city, where other homeless men fight over three dollars, where they steal booze from each other. Oh yeah, they also break into houses where a couple is having sex, forcing them to run in fear as penis and bush gets flashed all over the screen. Street Trash is just as raunchy and offensive as its name suggests, and though it falls into the “melt” films of the ‘80s, it often focuses more on how far it can take the audience into the grime of the city rather than the horror of drinking acidic alcohol.
Street Trash is similar in style to Basket Case or Dead Alive, movies that don’t take themselves seriously but instead aim for gross-out blackened comedy. The film itself doesn’t have much of a plot; the gist comes towards the beginning, where it’s clear that we’ll follow Fred (Mike Lackey) and his brother as they traipse around the city after stealing a bottle of Viper alcohol from a local liquor store. The film explores the Viper scenario for all of ten minutes before shifting into nonsensical territory about the dozens of bums across the city.
Unfortunately, the middle of the film is quite bland, simply because it feels so unstructured that Street Trash comes off like it’s simply trying to shock the viewer with how dark the humor can get. The film spends minutes exploring how the bums live, hoping to get laughs out of guys stuffing frozen chicken down their pants or symbolizing bums as zombies who pull women out of dumps to be gang-raped and murdered. There are moments where Street Trash occasionally hits on important themes – the bum Bronson (Vic Noto) has flashbacks of Vietnam during his stay in the dump, and it’s obvious that screenwriter Roy Frumkes is drawing parallels to the treatment of war veterans after they return from war. There’s also a feeling of total misanthropy for the human race, with almost every character enacting some sort of reprehensible action during the film.
But director J. Michael Muro spends too much time highlighting the atrocities of the city. It’s good to see Street Trash portraying the terrible aspects of city life and metaphorically alluding to the objectification of bums as the same trash they live in, but the idea keeps repeating throughout to the point where the viewer begins to tire of the script’s sarcasm and bleak humor.
It makes sense, then, to reveal the fact that Street Trash was originally a short film. It would most likely have worked better that way, because the film wouldn’t have been forced to fill large lengths of time with random scenes of bum debauchery. Instead, a greater focus on Viper, which returns out of nowhere towards the end of the film, could have contributed towards a more concise narrative. Instead, what Street Trash gives the viewer is a few ill-connected storylines featuring poorly behaving people who do bad things, aimlessly lunging for jokes and hoping the audience might find them funny.
Sometimes, the comedy does work, if only because of the trashiness of the whole thing. It’s easy to laugh in other’s misfortunes, and sometimes the sheer insanity of situations requires the viewer to either accept the film with a chuckle or simply turn it off in disgust. Not one to be offended, I found some of the black humor slightly funny, while other scenes simply fell flat with little to no redeeming value.
With that said, however, Street Trash has some excellent melt special effects, and the scenes where Viper makes an appearance were easily the most effective in the film. Once the person ingests Viper, their stomach corrodes, they begin to ooze colorful goo, and slowly they dissolve into a rainbow puddle. Sometimes they explode; sometimes they drip acid onto others – there’s really no rhyme or reason to the thing, and that’s what makes the gore funny and creative.
But the film never ties the storyline together well enough to craft a good movie. Sure, it’s sometimes funny in a juvenile sense, and it does have some significant themes about poor slums, but Street Trash simply doesn’t mesh together well. It’s certainly not complete garbage (to those who have the stomach and the humor for it), but it wouldn’t be surprising to find it lining the bottom of a junkyard either.
Street Trash is now available on bluray per Synapse Films
- High-Definition Transfer from the Original Camera Negative
- 5.1 Surround Remix Created Specifically for Home Theatre Environments
- Two Audio Commentaries Featuring Producer Roy Frumkes and Director James Muro
- THE MELTDOWN MEMOIRS – Feature Length Documentary on the History and Making of STREET TRASH
- The Original STREET TRASH 16mm Short Film That Inspired the Movie
- The Original STREET TRASH Promotional Teaser
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- ALL-NEW BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES: Jane Arakawa Video Interview and Deleted Scenes!
- Create Your Own Bottle of “Tenafly Viper” Wine with the Enclosed Label Sticker!
Street Trash (1987)