WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Ever heard of the Tromadance Film Festival? Taking place alongside the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the Tromadance festival touts itself as a completely free enterprise utterly devoted to filmmakers and fans. It doesn't charge filmmakers to submit films, and it doesn't charge fans to watch them. Its motto is "Art is for the people!" Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, unfortunately, the terrific potential of such a festival is dashed by the very nature of Troma, whose idea of art is probably very far removed from yours.
Surely you're familiar with Troma Studios, which is behind such dubious efforts as The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet, Surf Nazis Must Die, and Class of Nuke 'Em High. They're the modern equivalents of grindhouse trash, choked with gratuitous nudity, outrageous gore, bad special effects, and cornball humor. There's certainly a place in the world for Troma, but I'm not sure that place is Utah.
The Best of Tromadance Film Festival Volume 1 DVD collects highlights from the first annual Tromadance Festival, which took place in 2000. Plop this disc into your player and prepare yourself for a gaggle of Troma employees shouting at you about how cool their little guerilla film festival is, but the truth is that the films they've collected are Troma products through and through—some of them will make you chuckle, some will make you turn your gaze away in outright disgust, but most will just leave you unsatisfied and vaguely nauseated. They want to shock you, and they want to do little else.
The DVD contains the following 9 short films:
Please Kill Mr. Kinski. This 9-minute short is a Spalding Gray–like story told by a filmmaker who once had the displeasure of working with the late Klaus Kinski, an actor who was notoriously difficult to work with. It's a rather disjointed film that features clips of Kinski misbehaving on the set.
The Psychotic Odyssey of Richard Chase. This 6-minute piece is a true story about a serial killer told with dolls, puppets and props.
H.R. Pukenshette. The most successful short on the disc, this 10-minute film is about a French guardian-angel pile of puke. It's quite hilarious in all its amateur glory, but the ending just falls to pieces.
Family Dinner Party. This one is about a psychotically high-strung host of a small dinner. The lead actor's face contorts into sometimes funny expressions, but the piece as a whole just doesn't hold together.
Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy. Seemingly inspired by the lunacy of Peter Jackson's films, this 27-minute flick is an ultra–low-budget, badly dubbed treatise on robots, zombies, and kung fu fighting. It ain't as fun as it sounds.
Deadbeats. Here's a 30-minute crime thriller starring wrestling star Mick Foley.
Red's Breakfast 2: Dawn of the Red. This 14-minute film is an absolutely disgusting tale about the day in the life of a cannibal. It's essentially a couple of actors playing around with gore makeup.
SPAG. This 22-minute short is a bizarre, surreal gore flick about spaghetti.
Zit Lover. Another highlight. This 11-minute flick is unspeakably vile. A zit-poppin' teen gobbles junk food and spreads processed cheese over his face in the interest of growing horrendous zit farms. When the Rambo-like convenience-store clerk catches our hero stealing a vat of liquid cheese, a war ensues.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Troma presents its festival of films in their original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Image quality is all over the map, as is to be expected from varying video sources. Some of these shorts look passable, but others look terrible. Some are fairly clean, but some are marred by excessive dirt and wear. Most of the dark scenes look murky and lack detail.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The mono sound is recorded at generally high levels, tending toward high-end distortion. Levels vary. The sound presentation gets the job done, but no more.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Chief among the special features is a section called Goodies, in which you'll find four features. The first, Tromadance Sponsors, is simply that—a list of sponsors. The second, called Troma's Edge "Tromadance," is a 24-minute featurette in which Troma president Llyod Kaufman brays about his fabulous festival being the "only truly independent film festival." He and his employees call the Sundance organizers "assholes" for not letting them post flyers on Sundance billboards. The Troma crew all come across as loud-mouthed juvenile punks, I'm afraid—like the stars of the MTV show "Jackass"—which doesn't seem the most ingratiating way to advertise a film festival. The third feature, About Tromadance, is a commercial for the 2000 festival. Finally, the Superstars of Tromadance is a collection of pictures showing celebrities attending the festival in Utah, and it feels like name-dropping.
Under the section Coming Distractions, you get non-anamorphic trailers for Terror Firmer (which is full of nudity and gore), Citizen Toxie, Tromeo and Juliet, and Toxic Avenger 3.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
More a commercial for the festival itself than a selection of films, this DVD has a few entertaining moments, but overall the content is below average—even for Troma.