Now in its 13th year, the TromaDance Film Festival brought supporters and creators of independent art back to Asbury Park for an extreme movie extravaganza on May 4 and 5 at Asbury Lanes, Fourth Avenue.
Created by Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Entertainment, the festival brought films of all stripes - from the crowd-pleasing post-apocalyptic feature "Manborg" to the touching short love story "Can't Dance" and the vegetarian zombie tale "Summer of the Zombies" - to the Lanes for two days of free screenings.
The weekend also featured a valuable panel on independent film-making moderated by Kaufman and boasting guests such as "House of the Devil" (2009) and "The Inkeepers" (2011) director Ti West, longtime Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, "Street Trash" (1987) writer Roy Frumkes, Katha Cato from the Queens World Film Festival and Troma veteran James Gunn, writer of "Tromeo and Juliet'' (1996) and "Dawn of the Dead'' (2004) and director of "Slither'' (2006) and "Super'' (2010).
West, a 31-year-old Delaware native who visited Asbury Park in the past for shows such as the Vans Warped Tour, shared his thoughts on returning to the city.
"It's gotten a little bit nicer, there seems to be a little more life in the town, which is nice, the boardwalk is still as creepy as it ever was, so that's great," said West in an interview following the panel discussion.
Standing on the steps outside the Lanes and looking out on the city's half-completed construction projects, West reflected on the spookiness of Asbury Park.
"The half-constructed building is leading to it being not as spooky, but you know like the Wonder Bar and stuff is quite terrifying. But it looks like they're building new stuff, it looks like it's coming back to life, so maybe it won't be as creepy the next time I'm here," West said.
What are your thoughts on TromaDance?
I was only here for an hour and a half, and it's been great. I strolled in, we did the panel, everyone seemed to enjoy it, we enjoyed ourselves, and it's been a great day.
Growing up, were you into Troma, movies like "The Toxic Avenger" (1984)?
I remember seeing the Toxic Avenger and it being a sort of traumatizing experience, because it was like I kind of knew it was funny but not really and it was so violent and the satire about it all was lost on me because I saw it very young and it was a really sort of bizarre experience and I remember watching it and almost kind of feeling like I did something wrong after having watched it. It was one of the first movies that I rented that I was like, "I don't know if I should have watched that." So yeah, I have a very strong memory of that.
So now, being an independent filmmaker yourself, can you sense the influence Troma has had on the industry over more than 35 years?
I don't know if they've had an impact on the industry as much as they're their own industry, and I think that's what Lloyd worked so hard to do. So whether it's had and impact or not I don't know because I don't pay attention to the industry but they're like their own thing, they're their own industry, it's their own brand, there is no real crossover, and I respect that and I think that that (Lloyd) is a constant showman and a constant salesman, and I think people should recognize that must be to do to keep this going.
Absolutely. And as a filmmaker, Lloyd has to be someone to look up to. He's been walking the hard road for 40 years, getting his films made for 40 years on his own terms.
Yeah, I mean, he's a workhorse and he's created his own sort of mini-empire, but also what I think people maybe don't know because he has his sort of persona is that he's also a very well-educated, intellectual, articlaute person about filmmaking in general and independent film, and I think that's important. Along with the fun that the Troma movies represent, I think it's nice to see him reference things like Ingmar Bergman movies and talk about how corportations are making it difficult for people to make movies, I think those messages are important and I think it's great to see how he can have that and then a guy with a mop and a Toxic Avenger face.
It's interesting, because he's the fun, goofy uncle type but he's also the chairman of the Indepdent Film and Television Alliance.
Yeah, I think he can be the fun, goofy guy because he's the other. If he wasn't the other, I don't think people would take him seriously and I don't think he would have accomplished half of what he's accomplished.