3 out of 5
Directed by: Jim Muro
At the point in time I saw Street Trash, it had just been reissued by Synapse on DVD, and I was deep in a phase of working through all of the most garish and offensive horror / exploitation flicks I could. I wasn’t necessarily interested in “shock,” but you start going down the road of gory horror flicks and then you start to get to some more vile stuff, and recommendations of more and more “extreme” films starts to veer off into some bizarre dredges… But I was gobbling it up, I guess in pursuit of my limit, for whatever reason. And some disgusting form of destiny occurred during which I watched several movies in a row in which vomit – simulated or real – played a prominent role. This wasn’t my bag, and I wasn’t enjoying it, but I still hadn’t found whatever my limit was. And then I watched Street Trash.
Streeth Trash is much less offensive than the majority of those movies, and only features one fake vomiting scene. But something about it was (is) so grody, that I realized I no longer needed to keep going down this road of exxxtreme flicks. So for that, I guess I should thank it.
The sequence in question has a tuff cop (Bill Chepil) investigating the deaths of several vagrants, which kinda sorta intertwines with the death of the girlfriend of a local mobster type, and in the process of his detectivin’, he beats up a thug, then drags him to a urinal, pees on him, sticks a finger down his throat and vomits on him. The start of that explanations allots 100% more plot to Street Trash than it actually has, but the latter bit is a pretty good example of the flick’s m.o.: it’s out to offend. And it goes about it in such a lackadaisical, casual manner that it’s pretty successful: the whole movie feels grimy. Every interaction gives me the heebie-jeebies, even though I know all the bums are just smeared with makeup to look dirty, and the various sweat-stained shirts everyone wears are just costumes. I know that a tossed-off scene featuring gang rape and then necrophilia – partially set to, like, Benny Hill music – is committed with the same, “let’s just keep going” brashness as that vomit capper. Every opportunity to insert an off-color joke is taken, and then taken to ridiculous extremes, such as when a bum gets his penis cut off so that the other bums can play catch with it.
On some level, I’m laughing at this stuff, but on another level, christ – my heebie-jeebies. Real vomit apparently doesn’t gross me out as much as the pile of spaghetti dumped on an actor when it’s done so in a flick as willfully grimy as Street Trash.
And yet, you might notice that it’s shot incredibly well, with competent scene setting and compelling pans during conversations that most low-budget horrors / shockers would just shoot straight – director Jim Muro would go on to become a pretty in-demand steadicam operator – and, as pointed out in this review for Synapse’s bluray release, there’s some timely context to the intentional offensiveness of the flick, which can be sniffed out through the fact that there’s actual dialogue and some acting sneaked in amidst all the off-color remarks and mugging. There’re also the special effects: when the film isn’t hanging around bums on the street, or following the cop through his random day-to-day, it’s focused on what happens when people drink “Tenafly Viper,” an unearthed, cheapass liquor. Namely: they melt in neon colored gore, and / or explode. These effects have all the charm and grodiness of the best low-budget horror, and undeniably entertain, even while I’m gritting my teeth and squinting my eyes at the sweaty, piss-stained veneer.
James Lorinz of Frankenhooker is also here, keepin’ it real.
Setting this aside – if it can be – Street Trash suffers from a lot of bloat (no pun intended), as it very early on devolves into just a sequence of unrelated gags, loosely strung together. A plotline about a Vietnam-affected bum (Vic Noto) goes exactly nowhere, and even the Viper stuff is just there for some bookending goop – there’s no real consequence to its inclusion. So, instead, I’d treat Street Trash as a sort of acid test for what kind of gore and schlock is your bag. We all love Evil Dead and Dead Alive, but put this flick on, and if you’re having a grand ol’ time and laughing at the sight of dirty, overweight men joking about raping girls, then there’s probably a line of movies out there waiting for you which I’ve chosen to pass on. (Though I loved Frankenhooker, so I’m sure we can still share some viewing experiences together, you and I.)