Directed by:Gabriel Friedman, Chad Ferrin, Dave Paiko, Brian Spitz & Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Mark C. Adams, Lloyd Kaufman & Gabriel Friedman
Starring: Julie Strain, Lloyd Kaufman, Gabriel Friedman, James Gunn, Debbie Rochon, Joe Fleishaker, Ron Jeremy, Trey Parker, Ted Raimi & Trent Haaga
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“And… and, maybe you can wear a pair of pants that’ll cover your stinkhole. You never know when some crazy stripper is gonna come along and shove a whip up your ass, right? How do you think I met your mother!?”
I have never experienced anything like Troma’s Tales from the Crapper. I’m actually sitting here dumbfounded trying to decipher just how I’m going to portray this film to an unsuspecting reader with any shred of precision, criticality or to adhere to my standard review guideline. Tales from the Crapper defies logic and is perhaps unlike any other movie ever made in history. Troma’s motto is ‘movies of the future’, but time will never catch up to this one. So, I guess I’ll start from the beginning. At some point in time, India Allen was contracted to create a two-part (?) web series for the Tromaville site involving aliens and vampires. It was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. The lighting was messed up, sound was missing; nothing made a lick of fucking sense. Troma isn’t exactly Warner Bros., so they needed a way to salvage this footage into something viable for their company, so Lloyd Kaufman organized some re-shoots with friends and former artists he’d worked with in the past. Essentially, the crapper’s roof was caving in, and they went in to seal up the cracks (or gaping holes). This review will not be in regards to just the film in itself, but basically a comment on the whole DVD experience. There’s no other way to do it because it's barely a movie. But, it is raunchy and deplorable. Troma, indeed.
As the DVD begins, we’re treated to Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (played by Joe Fleishaker) talking about how they got their start in filmmaking. It’s hilarious per usual for Lloyd’s intros, and essentially it boils down to them each wanting to make their own visions into movies, but only having the money for one. They combine their ideas into an anthology, both segments very the same, but very different. As for the actual movie, it begins with a cameo of James Gunn (of Tromeo & Juliet and Slither fame) meeting up with the Crapkeeper (Lloyd Kaufman), explaining how he hit it big in Hollywood. The Gunner pleasantly informs the Crapkeeper that he sold his soul to Satan, sacrificed a young child and he wants Crappy to join him; they’re going to give him two hundred million dollars to make a picture! A jive-talkin’ picture, for sure! Of course, The Crapkeeper refuses and stays true to independent art, where visions never need to be compromised. This pisses James off and he tells Lloyd that he sucks and everyone knows it. The film then cuts to a warning screen. It kindly informs the viewer that some scenes in the movie do not contain nudity. A true travesty indeed, so Troma has introduced Boner Vision to the masses, which plasters nude women in scenes that are boring and plot-heavy. And now, our little two-part anthology shall begin.
I can’t tell you what happens in either of these little stories, both of course are derivative from Kaufman and Herz’s earlier fictional dreams from the intro (or is it the pre-intro intro?). The first is called The Case of the Melon Heavy Alien Man Eater and is a sort of softcore-alien-gore-murder-mystery with Julie Strain as a woman cop kicking major ass. Oh, and there’s the Tromantis (which just happens to be as awesome as it sounds). The second is a sort of teen comedy with vampires called Tuition of the Terror Twat and involves a kid’s dad not being able to put him through school, so he goes Risky Business on everyone and hires Julie Strain to entertain random people he meets at a huge soiree. In between the segments is an extension of Kaufman’s Make Your Own Damn Movie! book and DVD series where he instructs budding filmmakers the ins and outs (especially if you’re working with Troma) of making your own art. The kind of art that’s lovingly grounded in excessive violence and gratuitous nudity. Lloyd basically creates a plot and scene (with a couple lesbians and a guy named Jamie Greco as a transvestite, whom I recognized from Poultrygeist) and tells you how to do it. Basically, the opposite of what actually happened in the movie.
The “movie” itself basically consists of Lloyd and Gabe doing MST3K style narrations over footage that was shot from the previous director. Almost all of which includes nudity in some form and is set mostly in a strip joint like The Shimmering Beaver in the first or at a party in the second. Some footage is framed improperly, the lighting is abysmal in certain shots and the film lacks taste in the nudity department, even for Troma. Julie Strain runs around naked most of the film and has no qualms about spreading her legs for all to see. In one shot, the lighting is a nauseating lime color straight out of an Argento movie but without style or coordination. Camera placement? Let’s just say you get a relatively clear shot of what is between pretty lady’s cheeks. And, we’re not talking about her nostrils, if you catch my drift. But, the re-shoots will clear all this up, right? Wrong!
The re-shoots went as terribly as the original series, with a crew basically there to get wrecked on booze rather than make a movie. Most of the footage shot was gore related (the ending of the film is a wonderful bloodbath), but a lot of it was rendered as unusable as the original aborted footage. The beauty that eventually birthed from this nickel whore’s ass is in a series of hilarious, vulgar cameos and an outrageous and unsettling behind the scenes documentary to be viewed after the film. In addition to this, Gabe and Uncle Lloyd are on the ball providing ample voice-overs, dubbing (when at its best, of the hilariously homosexual variety) and changing the plot as they go along. Parking cone ass-vengeance? You got it. Gooey Tromantis rape? Of course. Faux artistic commentary by guest director Oliver Stone (an early Kaufman collaborator) within the actual movie? You bet your ass!
Don’t kid yourself, the resultant of this mess of bullshit is downright hilarious, but if you’ve not been around the Troma block, it’ll be of slightly less entertainment. A lot of the laughs are universal; who wouldn’t bust out in laughter when the kid throwing the party wouldn’t let his brother (played by Ron Jeremy) in because he’s always trying to show people his dick? Trey Parker’s obscene bodily fluids/solids sexual joke is disgustingly hilarious and you can tell everyone involved in cameos are happy to help out Troma in this time of need (and get a gallon of stage blood dumped on them in the process). The only people unhappy to be there are certain crew members featured in the documentary, whose actions are truly more offensive than all the films in the Troma library combined. First and foremost, they chose to get drunk as hell and piss around (all the while filming it, knowing full well Lloyd would watch the footage one day) and blatantly insult Troma and director Chad Ferrin even writes “Lloyd eat’s dick” on a balloon in marker (yes, that is how he spelled it). It gets even worse. Wes Craven stops by the set and chats with people, generously donating $100 from his own pocket to the production of the film. When he leaves, people like Adam Jahnke cowardly insult his movies.
To add further insult to injury, three months after this all transpired, Troma left their LA headquarters and the guys filmed themselves smashing the Troma sign from atop the building as each letter fell into a dumpster below. Lloyd comments on this and you can tell he’s genuinely hurt and shocked that people calling themselves artists would behave in such a manner. Since many people work for free on Troma films, it’s a very touchy situation. If you were working for free and then got the chance to get paid for the same work, would you not go? It’s complicated. It’s Troma. The (mostly) proper fullscreen DVD release is loaded with special features and includes a couple commentary tracks that tie into the madness, some deleted scenes, trailers, and a Julie Strain featurette that basically has her running around naked some more. The video quality looks pretty bad in spots (it was shot on digital video) and it doesn’t help that a lot of shots weren’t properly lit to begin with. Audio varies, but you can hear the quips (which is most important) loud and clear. If you’re lucky and get a copy from the early run, your version will come with a 3-D cover and a signed Julie Strain mini-poster. It’s yet another display of why Troma puts out the best DVDs in the business in terms of fan-pleasing special features and items. Tales from the Crapper is not meant to be enjoyed simply as a movie. It’s an experience in hell that you can look back and laugh upon (unless you’re Kaufman or Herz), but I wouldn’t have wanted to live through it. This toilet humor fuelled package is as amusing and entertaining as it is shitty and capricious, and that’s pretty high praise. Rent it!
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