Five Free Full-Length Troma Musicals To Watch This Halloween (When Your Power Is Back)

If Mother Nature hasn’t already shaken you to the core, and you find yourself in need of a good scary movie this Halloween, New York’s Troma Studios have got you covered. Most known for the cult classics The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Troma holds the distinction of being the world’s longest running independent film studio. They’ve recently uploaded over 200 of their films for free viewing on YouTube, some of which are musicals (or is that musi-kills?) which perfectly fit the budget of anybody looking for a great soundtrack to go with their scares. We’ve gone through their extensive catalog and have chosen our five favorites.

Cannibal! The Musical 1996
Years before he won the hearts of Broadway and took home multiple Tony awards for The Book of Mormon, “South Park’s” Trey Parker took his first crack at a musical with his college film Cannibal! The Musical. A legitimately delightful romp featuring original music, all composed by Parker himself, Cannibal! The Musical is the most fun you’ll have learning about the cannibalistic Colorado legend Alfred Packer. Underground film fans will also love the cameo by the late Stan Brakhage.

Rockabilly Vampire: Burnin’ Love 1996
Can’t decide if you would rather watch a vampire movie or something with Elvis? Let Troma solve that problem for you with Rockabilly Vampire: Burnin’ Love. The story of a girl trying to prove Elvis exists, who falls in love with a veritable doppelgänger for “the King,” who turns out to be a vampire–it’s the ideal love story for people who didn’t find the Twilight saga to be particularly swingin’ enough.

Frostbiter: Legend of the Wendigo 1996
The late Stooges guitarist and frequent Iggy Pop collaborator Ron Asheton stars here in Frostbiter: Legend of the Wendigo. A winterized re-imagining of the Evil Dead films, Frostbiter contains all the dark humor and gore you would want from a bone-chilling isolationist horror film, with the perfect mix of a great soundtrack and stop-motion animation that makes for ideal holiday viewing.

Superstarlet AD 2000
A post-apocalyptic Rocky Horror Picture Show, John Michael Montgomery’s Superstarlet AD is the tale of an Earth dominated by tribes of burlesque dancers who fight off cavemen in search of the pornography of yesteryear. The distinctly Memphis soundtrack makes Superstarlet AD a memorably catchy venture through one of the most glamorous wastelands in cinema history.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead 2006
Troma president Lloyd Kaufman was at the helm of this horror-comedy-musical which continues the studio’s tradition of environmentally-conscious messages with biting social commentary. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead in an honest-to-goodness musical critique of the fast food industry that contains fun, original songs as well as the best reference to Ice Cube’s The Predator album you’ll see in a movie this year.


Team America: World Police

Dir. Trey Parker (2004).
More audacious than any Pixar opus, this mock Bruckheimer action spectacle features a ridiculous cast of puppets fighting, dancing, and having sex. Unfortunately, the marionettes show more guts than the filmmakers. Far from for satirizing the war on terror, Team America promotes its own fear factor. Bellicose Bushies may resent being praised as stupid “dicks” in a dirty-mouthed animation, but this is the perfect date flick for a drunken frat boy trying to impress right-wing skank like Ann Coulter.

Fri., Nov. 18, 11:30 a.m., 2011


‘Fuck You, God!’

No, that’s not me talking.

I don’t believe in God, so why on earth would I tell Her to fuck off?

It happens to be a line from The Book of Mormon, the reportedly wacky musical by the South Park guys that just started previews on Broadway.

Murmurs say — SPOILER ALERT — that in one scene, missionaries come across Ugandan tribespeople singing a “Hakuna Matada”-like happy spiritual.

But it turns out what they’re really singing (when translated) is the not very lilting “Fuck you, God!”

And by the end of the song, it becomes “Fuck you, God, in the cunt!”

Yikes! My mind is swimming with questions!

Is this the first “cunt” musical to hit the boards since Hair?

Will bedraggled tourists wish they were instead seeing The Sound of Music?

Or will the c-word set to music be such a hit that Chicago will suddenly change its name to Cunt?

And most importantly:

Dear God, how do I get tickets?



The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and the wind is getting . . . windier. Who’s responsible? Follow the lead of a town that knows winter almost as well as they know fart jokes, and pin it on our seemingly benign neighbors to the north at the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut Sing-Along. Belt out “Blame Canada” with Kyle’s mom, who points a finger at the country for the misbehavior of the town’s children, and other nonsensical hits from the cartoon movie. Join Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny as everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed third-graders take on all the usual trials of elementary school like parents, censorship, Saddam Hussein, and Satan. The movie’s 12 musical numbers by Trey Parker and Matt Stone secured its Guinness World Record status for “Most Swearing in an Animated Film” and “Blame Canada” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. Between classics, such as “Kyle’s Mom’s a Bitch” and “Uncle Fucka,” get ready to not watch your language, mmkay.

Sat., Dec. 18, 10:30 p.m., 2010


Attack of the Puppet People

“I really do not think terrorism is funny,” sputtered a senior White House adviser to Matt Drudge this summer, “and I would suggest Paramount give respect to those fighting and sacrificing to keep America safe. This is just unconscionable. Not funny.”

The question about Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s marionette cocktail Team America: World Police isn’t whether or not it’s funny—even the Bush flunky might admit to being reduced to reptile-brain guffaws once he actually sees the film. The authentic question remains: Who is this movie taking aim at, and with what guns? Madly Rorschachian, TAWP appears to rub its shitty boots on U.S. militarism as well as Hollywood liberals, Arabs as well as the blinkered American perception of Arabs, unilateral destruction and Kim Jong Il. Is it just an Uzi spray of yuks or are there right and wrong ways to read it?

You’d think critics would be stimulated by a film loaded with so much nervy, discussable stuff. But they seem flabbergasted, producing some of the most ludicrous reviews of the new decade. The Post‘s Megan Lehmann seemed unfazed from her seat at the Rupert Murdoch Ministry of Truth, assessing the film’s farcical mayhem (the heedless decimation of Cairo and Paris, for example) at the hands of patently jingoistic puppets as “a remarkably sensible, even optimistic, worldview that lets some air out of the inflated state of the current political climate.” Roger Ebert tossed a fit for the other camp, growling that the filmmakers “may be right that some of us are puppets, but they’re wrong that all of us are fools, and dead wrong that it doesn’t matter.”

Some reviewers—including the Voice‘s J. Hoberman—read the movie as right-wing, but its representational chicanery has driven many to distraction. Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers celebrated the fact that “the film targets a clear and present danger: liberal Hollywood,” daring to turn Janeane Garofalo “into a puppet and blow her head clean off. Sweet.” The dissonance reached a kind of solemn acme with A.O. Scott’s review in the Times, which suggested that the fuck-you puppet Kim’s plot for world domination might reflect reality, and that the movie is to some extent intended as a straight action film. “When Team America blows things up in other countries, they do it by accident, in the course of their sloppy but zealous fight against the people who want to do it on purpose. . . . The obscene patriotic ditty that is the Team America theme song might be hyperbolic (and impossible to stop singing), but it is not sarcastic. Nor is a speech [about dicks fucking pussies and assholes]. . . . [I]t is one of the more cogent—and, dare I say it, more nuanced—defenses of American military power that I have heard recently.”

Not sarcastic? Cogent? It’s possible that the muddle of interpretations is partially responsible for the film’s mediocre box office performance. Parker and Stone’s interviews don’t help—the boys are inherently incapable of attributing larger sardonic meaning to anything they do, wisely characterizing their approach as fifth-grade potshots lest they be accused of grandstanding.

The question is as old as Voltaire’s wig powder: How close can you get to what you’re satirizing before the line between target and vilifier all but disappears? Indeed, Scott’s review could be read as straight on—that is, certifiably absurd—or a spoof itself. Of course, puppetry, a dramatic form with a built-in diegetic remove, has a 500-year-old history of socially subversive comedy. The very presence of ludicrous marionettes performing atrocities insists on a derisive agenda and an ideological response. Or so you’d think. No one mistook Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) as a cheer for the arms race, but his anti-military rip Full Metal Jacket (1987) was not widely perceived as a satire, and emerged in the culture afterward as a set of armed-forces catchphrases and gung ho clichés. Few know this dynamic’s double edge better than Paul Verhoeven, whose Starship Troopers (1997) made an even bloodier hash of U.S. might-is-right than TAWP, and yet was largely seen as a failed hairy-chested action film.

Like South Park, TAWP seems to me a fairly consistent attack on Middle American slope-headedness, reproaching the millions of Bush voters for their love of balls-out martial power, their gut-level xenophobia, their suspicion that “durka durka!” is an accurate-as-far-as-it-matters facsimile of how Arabs speak, their instinctive hatred for outspoken liberal celebrities, and of course, their ardor for Jerry Bruckheimer movies. Being professional sophomores, Parker and Stone may very well fall into the demographic they’re mocking without being aware of it. Even so, let’s not forget that the instruments at deliberate use are bleeding, cumming, vomiting, cocksucking puppets. How the dick-pussy-asshole speech can be heard as anything but a burlesque of barroom nationalism is beyond me. Because the movie doesn’t trust the average American citizen, it’s a sharper election year prod than The Manchurian Candidate. Parker and Stone aren’t the first satirists to underestimate their own aggression or be accused of selling what they’re telling us not to buy.


Unstrung Heroes

A would-be equal-opportunity offender, Team America: World Police sets out to skewer both hemispheres of the American brain—and mainly yours, dear liberal. This shish kebab is cooked on one side. No matter how you parse it, the South Park guys’ election-season intervention is a flag-waving, fag-baiting farce that—all puppet all the time—celebrates, even as it debunks, good old-fashioned American know-how.

As animated filmmaking, Team America—directed by Trey Parker from a script co-written with partner Matt Stone and Pam Brady—is far more audacious than any Pixar opus. It’s a Bruckheimer-style action spectacle with puppets fighting, dancing, and having sex in a variety of positions while being manipulated by absurdly visible strings. From the opening shot of a French marionette show in a marionette world to the final gag of a live cockroach blasting into outer space, Team America is at once grandiose and tacky, elaborate and deflationary.

The geopolitics are brazenly insulting. Battling bin Laden’s minions on the banks of the Seine, the inanely gung ho Team America commandos inflict maximal collateral damage—toppling the Eiffel Tower, pulverizing the Arc de Triomphe, and blowing up the Louvre. Then, like good Americans, they retreat to their Mt. Rushmore fortress to await further instructions from an eminently fallible supercomputer code-named I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. So much for satirizing the war on terror—Team America has its own fear factor.

Often funny but seldom uproarious, Team America purveys a post–9-11 irony that’s founded on a combination of schoolyard insult, belligerent patriotism, and the absence of irony. The villains are Kim Jong Il, an irate little puppet who furnishes Arab terrorists with WMDs; Michael Moore, who appears outside Mt. Rushmore with a hot dog in each hand and a bomb strapped to his belly; and a gaggle of prominent Hollywood stars led by Alec Baldwin, head of the Film Actors Guild. So far as the latter’s acronym goes: How much of Parker and Stone’s anxiety is based on the fact that their songs are the movie’s wittiest aspect—are they closet show-tune queens?

In the service of human interest, Team America recruits a replacement commando from the Broadway hit Lease. (He’s first seen singing “Everybody Has AIDS.”) His job is acting, something that intrinsically amuses animators Parker and Stone. Their marionettes vomit, bleed, and explode into organ parts. Indeed, these puppets show more guts than the filmmakers, who direct their fire at very soft targets: French and Egyptian civilians, a Communist dictator, and a bunch of Hollywood showboats. Despite some pre-release Drudge-stoked hysteria regarding an “unconscionable” attack on the administration, no American politicians appear in the movie. (The movie has since garnered Fox News’s seal of approval.) Nor do any media moguls. The filmmakers never satirize anyone who could hurt their career—not even Michael Moore enabler Harvey Weinstein.

True, Team America is not family friendly. Parker and Stone are so proud of their rap about the relationship among dicks, pussies, and assholes—”pussies are only an inch and a half from assholes. . . . Only dicks can fuck pussies and assholes”—that it’s delivered twice. If war is hell, the Team Americans are dicks, Hollywood liberals are pussies (as well as F.A.G.’s and presumably “girlie men”), and terrorists are assholes. For bellicose Bush supporters, being praised as stupid dicks in a dirty-mouthed animation may be as welcome as an endorsement from Vincent Gallo. But that’s only if they’re looking for irony. Soulfully sung, Team America‘s comic faux-country ballad “Freedom Isn’t Free” would have moved the RNC to tears. And although the Team America fight song may never be broadcast on the public airwaves, that’s not to say that it won’t get lots of play among the troops in Baghdad. “America, Fuck Yeah” is so on target that it’s less a joke than a ready-made anthem.

Team America is obviously too profane and bawdy—that is, too “Hollywood”—for Bush’s fundamentalist base or a neocon prig like Michael Medved (except perhaps late at night when he’s all alone). But, fuck yeah, it’s the perfect date flick for a drunken frat boy trying to impress right-wing skank Ann Coulter.


Pleased to Meat You

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely master of the American musical than Trey Parker. As one of the parties responsible for South Park, the cartoonist is associated more with the sound of farting than the sound of music. Even though 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was a weirdly smart musical, it was widely assumed that the veteran Hollywood composer who shared the songwriting credits with Parker was behind the movie’s astute score.

But with the first stage production of Parker’s 1993 film, Cannibal! The Musical, his place in the Gershwin-Porter pantheon is secure. Well, maybe not exactly. But Parker demonstrates that he’s a more-than-competent composer—an ironist who’s created the kind of loving parody that only a closeted Broadway aficionado could pull off.

Based (very loosely) on the true story of Alferd Packer, a miner convicted of killing and eating several of his colleagues during an 1883 trek through the Rockies, the story plays starvation, murder, bestiality, and racism for laughs—and darn good ones, at that.

Packer narrates the tale in a series of flashbacks, after he’s been brought to small-town justice and is granting jailhouse interviews to a smitten reporter named Polly Pry. While guiding a half-dozen greedy but sweet-natured gold prospectors from Utah to his native “Colorado territory,” the unwoodsmanly Packer leads the group to its destruction. Before reaching their gruesome end, the miners experience a series of hilariously sent-up clichés of adversity: three Teutonic trappers who taunt the animal-loving protagonists with gory descriptions of their kills; a grimacing Indian chief who speaks with a cartoonish Japanese accent; and, naturally, the feuding among the cockeyed optimist, the chronic liar, and the other deliberately stock personality types in the mining party.

But the plot is mostly an excuse for chipper sing-alongs like “Hang the Bastard” (“Hang him well/Send his sorry soul to hell”) and ballads like “When I Was on Top of You” and Polly Pry’s touching “This Side of Me” (“Perhaps I’m not the cold bitch/I pretended to be”). The live production, directed by Joan Eileen Murray, hews pretty faithfully to the movie, though she shaves off 25 minutes by stepping up the pace and cutting the lingering mountain shots. Murray adds several well-executed nods to West Side Story, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and The Matrix, as well as to South Park, which didn’t yet exist when Parker made Cannibal! The only disappointment comes during “The Trapper Song,” sung by Frenchy (Rob McDonald), who can’t enunciate the rapid-fire barrage of mock Gilbert & Sullivan couplets (“I wake up muddy/And I go to bed bloody/’Cause I’m a trappin’ man”).

There’s a happy ending, of sorts. Not to spoil the surprise, but let’s just say there’s more to come after the chorus line’s apparent finale: “When his body stops jerking, we’ll know/It’s the end of him and the end of the show!”

A less happy ending (or beginning, or middle) is found in Girlfriend, a two-character musical based on the 1991 Matthew Sweet album of the same name. Minus the music, this would be a fairly compelling one-act play. Two high school seniors in a small Nebraska town, the gay-and-out Will (playwright Todd Almond) and the curious but closeted football star Mike (Dominic Bogart), wrestle with their friendship, their mutual attraction, and the limited movie selection at the local drive-in. (The two, though, never address the fact they’re the oldest-looking “teenagers” since Dawson’s Creek.) Particularly deft is Almond’s handling of closeted language. Unfortunately, the reason for the music’s presence in the play is as opaque as Will’s lilting diction is transparent. Fifteen songs about generic adolescent longing do not make for convincing musical theater. The main pleasure of Matthew Sweet’s album is its big-rock production—soaring guitars, thundering drums, studio-perfect harmonies. Presented on the Duplex’s tiny stage, with a restrained piano trio, the music becomes limp and affectless, the songs confusing the story by forcing lyrics to be used as unlikely lines. And more confusion is the last thing either of these boys needs.


Toxic Avengers

Embraced by E!, shrugged off by Psychotronic, and variously hyped or panned by less schlock-centric institutions, the output of Troma Studios has remained gleefully questionable regardless of whether anyone was asking. Lacking the double-time invective perfected by Russ Meyer and Jack Hill or the outer-limits cinematic ineptitude of Ed Wood and Herschell Gordon Lewis, Troma films are better addressed in bulk—like any tenacious fungus, they’ll grow on you given half a chance.

A sustained bit of exposure, Anthology’s Tromathon offers ample evidence that cofounders Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman’s works have become increasingly adept, nimbly self-referential absurdist burlesques. If the duo’s early sex comedies are ill-suited for sober viewing, Kaufman’s Terror Firmer (1999) proves infectiously drunk on its own excess, a catchall plot literalizing the implicit theme of their whole writhing, farting canon: the contentious thrill of making Troma movies. Here, blind director Larry Benjamin (Kaufman) struggles to rein in the roiling freak show of a Troma crew and get Toxic Avenger 4 into the proverbial can. Equally concerned with guerrilla filmmaking, hermaphroditic rage, and snot-nosed digression as a means to every end, Terror Firmer blows a load hardest when skewering its own fervent idiocy.

The best of the rest do likewise, if rarely with such pitch-perfect mania. Troma’s War (1988) is as concerned with outgunning Rambo on a shoestring budget as it is with social satire (American plane-crash survivors massacre an island’s worth of terrorists). Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986) reimagines ’80s teen flicks as the playground of chemical waste victims, while The Toxic Avenger (1984) actually is one—though he makes less of an impression than head baddie Gary Schneider, who gratuitously runs down little kids when he feels “stressed.” Rounding out the lot is 1996’s Tromeo and Juliet; proof positive that Shakespeare encourages revision, the psychotic restaging of the Tybalt/Mercutio duel is a coup of hyperactive brashness even by Troma standards. Lest anyone think they were frontin’ with William S., the studio heads ensured a touch of refinement by hiring Mötorhead’s Lemmy to narrate.

As for the Troma-distributed selections, it’s appropriate that Dario Argento’s The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) tanks completely while two no-budget whatzits score big. T’ain’t South Park, but Trey Parker’s Cannibal: The Musical! (1996, costarring Matt Stone)—which re-imagines 19th-century long-pork aficionado Alferd Packer (Parker) as a guileless pud lost in a bizarre Crayola-hued West—charms in its equal willingness to piss away screen time or break into song. Joel M. Reed’s Bloodsucking Freaks (1975), on the other hand, is unrepentantly harsh: Queasily misogynist yet grimily hypnotic, it spins the tale of an effete Soho theater director whose Sadean scenarios employ real victims. Fittingly, his greatest ire is reserved for a snooty critic who refuses to concede that all the hyperbolic, blood-spattered fucking about might be worth a second look.


Tuned In

What shocks most about South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut isn’t its well-documented gross indecencies but their context: the film’s a straight-up, big-screen musical. Better yet, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and composer Marc Shaiman’s use of a genre abandoned by everyone aside from Disney types is not a smug, jaded pose but a means of storytelling both practical and inspired. The opening number, which strolls through South Park’s microcosm of “quiet Podunk white-trash mountain U.S.A.,” is equal parts Oklahoma! and Meet Me in St. Louis. The film’s main guiding model, however, is West Side Story: Saddam Hussein sings an apologia, “I Can Change” (“It’s not my fault that I’m evil/It’s society’s, society’s”), that echoes the snide disingenuousness of West Side‘s “Gee Officer Krupke.” “La Resistance,” a late-inning medley, reiterates everyone’s motivations just like West Side‘s “Tonight, Tonight.” Satan’s longing, Peabo Bryson–ified ballad “Up There” mocks all the statement-of-intent songs requisite to Disney films (especially The Little Mermaid), but it also sounds a whole lot like Maria and Tony’s ode to star-crossed love, “Somewhere.”

South Park isn’t the only summer film employing the stylistic devices of movie musicals; Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me boasts several song-and-dance interludes,
including a poolside Benny Hill–meets–Esther Williams credit sequence. Parker and Stone don’t share Mike Myers’s sense of sheer kicky joy, but unlike Myers, they always borrow with real objectives in mind. Big Gay Al’s number takes place at a USO program showcasing the execution of two Canadian comics as “war criminals”; as in the Powers sequel, the song occasions an aquatic extravaganza straight out of Bathing Beauty, but uses it to mock the insatiable American thirst for blood and circuses. The Sousa-like “Blame Canada” continues the righteous pomp and
circumstance: As hysterical moms ask of Kenny’s premature demise, “Should we blame the matches?/Should we blame
the fire?/Should we blame the doctors who allowed him to
expire?” Parker and Stone neatly summarize the pious hand-wringing by both right and left following Littleton.

The marriage of South Park and the musical is both fitting and poignant—fitting because the over-the-top absurdism of one condones that of the other, and poignant since any hope
or good faith the film possesses is invested in its antiquated
chosen genre, which, like South Park itself, is an institution most likely past its prime.


South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

The foulmouthed adventures of four crudely rendered grade schoolers from South Park, Colorado— Stan, Kenny, Kyle, and Eric Cartman (all voiced by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone)— proceed apace in Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The boys’ trouble begins this time when they sneak into an obscenity-laced “Canadian film.” They soon start sprouting bons mots like “ass licker” and “uncle fucka,” leading Kyle’s easily outraged Jewish mom to launch an anti-Canadian protest movement. Kenny is, of course, quickly killed (he goes to hell to find Satan being buggered by Saddam Hussein), and war breaks out between the U.S. and Canada, an international crisis that has to be defused by Stan, et al.

Park is a purposely offensive and scatologically excessive TV show to begin with, but the potty mouth on this R-rated cartoon is pretty mind-boggling. The extravagance also extends into matters of form, Bigger being a musical with about 12 interminable production numbers. (Parker’s first film was a thoroughly daft live-action musical about cannibals.) The ultimate truth, though, is that certain, probably arrested, personalities (like mine) just find this kind of shit pretty funny and any attempt to talk your way around that is, as Cartman would say, blowing bubbles out your ass.