Memories of Tromadance 2011
Memories of Tromadance 2011
As any self-respecting horror fan should know, the Toxic Avenger is a native of New Jersey. So it should come as no surprise that Troma Entertainment, the studio behind the 1984 cult classic "The Toxic Avenger,'' has found a home in the Garden State for its annual celebration of underground art and cinema, the Tromadance Film Festival.
After 10 years in Park City, Utah - also the home of the Sundance Film Festival - Tromadance headed east to Asbury Park last year, and it returned to where the city meets the sea this past weekend (April 22 and 23).
While last year's Tromadance was an undisputed success (read more about it here), in many ways this year's festival raised the bar even higher.
The festivities kicked off on Friday night with a live Q&A on stage at the ShowRoom on Cookman Avenue between myself, Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton and Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Entertainment and the founder of the Tromadance Film Festival. We talked about Tromadance's origins, how the internet provides support for independent filmmakers are the new books Kaufman and Plympton have coming out (Plympton recently released "Independently Animated," while Kaufman's "Sell Your Own Damn Movie" hits shelves this summer.)
Following the Q&A were a pair of feature films and, like every other screening at Tromadance, both the films were free. First up was the gory and campy "All About Evil," which featured a revelatory lead performance by '90s actress Natasha Lyonne ("American Pie," "Slums of Beverly Hills.")
Next up was the film that had everyone talking all weekend long: "The Taint." A unique and virtually indescribable movie-viewing experience, "The Taint" is a gory, crude and deceptively smart examination of misogyny in horror films that has elements reminiscent of "Napoleon Dynamite," David Lynch and classic Troma.
Tromadance was the perfect proving ground for this film, and the audience went wild for it: the filmmakers, who were in attendance, sold out of all "The Taint" merchandise - shirts, DVDs, posters - except for a couple of copies of the film on VHS.
The fun continued Friday night with a packed house at the opening night party held at the Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room on Cookman Avenue. The party was presented by one of the festival's sponsors, Brooklyn Brewery. (Metromix Jersey Shore was also a sponsor of the event.)
Starting at noon on Saturday, I took in more than 30 frequently excellent short films in genres ranging from animation ("Birdboy," "Devil Town," "Return of Ghost Tank") to surreal comedy ("Domestic Disturbing," "Mommy's Boy," "Brutal Relax") to impressive horror ("36th Underground").
Plympton also screened a trio of shorts: "The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger," "Guard Dog Global Jam!" and "Flying House," a stunning in-progress restoration of a 1921 short by early animation great Winsor McCay that received its world premiere at Tromadance.
Later on Saturday, Plympton took part in an informative and entertaining panel discussion moderated by Kaufman that also featured Fangoria magazine managing editor Michael Gingold, animator John Goras and Kaufman's wife, New York State Film Commissioner Pat Kaufman.
Saturday's block of films wrapped up with the east coast premiere of the unsettling and accomplished home invasion film "Kidnapped," directed by Miguel Angel Vivas. Last year's closing feature was "The Human Centipede" and, in its own way, "Kidnapped" is as disturbing as that controversial medial horror film.
Presented in approximately six extended tracking shots and employing a brilliant use of split-screen, "Kidnapped" derives its horror from a grounded sense of realism and its unflinching depiction of violence. While I wouldn't go so far as to call it an enjoyable film, it is certainly an effective one that will make a big impact on viewers.
In an interview prior to this year's festival, Kaufman discussed the variety of films that typically screen at Tromadance: "This is totally art-driven and totally eclectic. There are G-rated movies to movies that are pretty raunchy." The films at this year's Tromadance came from around the globe, spanned all genres and had one thing in common: they were independent to the core and perfect for this festival.
Following the films, Tromadance attendees flocked to the Asbury Lanes on Fourth Avenue to view the lovely and talented performers in the Peek-A-Boo Revue burlesque troupe and then rocked out to the official Tromadance after-party featuring Psychocharger.
A mecca of independent music and bowling in Asbury Park, the Lanes was the perfect spot to once again close out Tromadance. According to the festival's program, the event will return to Asbury Park in 2012, and its return can't come soon enough: over two years, Tromadance has become the definitive film festival at the Jersey Shore.