A local liquor store owner discovers a hidden stash of alcohol in the wall of a room and makes it available for a dollar a bottle. The cheap booze ends up quite the attraction for the denizens of the local homeless commune at a local junkyard with a sex crazed boss and female employee who feels compelled to take care of Kevin, a younger resident living there with his brother, Eddie. All of those who call it home are ruled over by a war vet with PTSD, governing in a manner similar to the random gangs in the Mad Max films by murdering anyone for any reason imaginable. Of course, the discovered drink is doing a good job itself, as anyone who drinks it melts into nothing more than a puddle of gore.
While the mayhem created by the discovery of the alcohol is the main story line, writer Roy Frumkes didn’t stop there. There’s a demoted police officer trying to find evidence that the aforementioned war vet is behind a number of crimes including a random murder in the streets. On top of that there’s a mafia story line shoved in for pretty much no reason that eventually has the don sending one of his men to kill Eddie for his involvement of what happens to his drunken date. These are two of the gleaming side stories, though there are more shorter tales found throughout meant to highlight the seedy underbelly of society.
But remember that, at its core, this is meant to be a gritty, low-budget horror comedy. Sadly, most of the jokes often fall flat. One of them includes one of the homeless residents going into a grocery store, using the race card in n 80’s sitcom manner and a dropped receipt to try and steal some food for himself and a few others, only to take offense when caught by the manager and overacts his way out grabbing a paper bag and walking through one of the glass windows of the store front like The Incredible Hulk. Another involves the overweight owner of the junk yard trying to force himself on the one female employee and having a minor heart attack in the process. There’s also some necrophilia that is meant to have some ramifications later on that never pay off, an exchange between the don of the mafia and the police officer, as well as a game of keep away with a severed penis and an original lounge song that plays over the credits.
But what really stands out in this film are the death scenes related to the ingestion of the alcohol. Each time is a visually brilliant scream filled gore fest. Similar to the colorful ideas of Suspiria, the deterioration of each body stands out through the use of purples and greens to show the rapid degeneration of flesh and organs. While a good majority are all the same progression, there are two that genuinely stand out. The first being one of the homeless melting into a toilet, leaving his arm grabbing the chain that would flush it while zooming in to see the screaming remnants reminiscent of Basketcase pulsating in the bowl itself, and the second a larger man exploding similar to the obese man in the fancy restaurant in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
Aside those amazing visual effects, there’s little tension throughout the film, and only one genuinely horrifying scene to showcase the potential director James M. Muro could have brought into this film. At one point a drunken woman follows one of the homeless back to the junkyard for intercourse, exciting many of the other residents. After the carnal act, the gathered crowd demands more and dismantles the wall of their make-shift junkyard abode, dragging her out screaming and carrying her away in a nod to the era’s cannibal films or even George A. Romero style zombie flicks. The only segment remotely close is when the aforementioned war vet goes nuts at the end of the film and you end up sitting at the edge of your seat hoping nothing bad happens to the very few likeable characters.
In short, Street Trash attempts to carry itself like a Troma Productions film, but ultimately just fails when it comes to the humor, the storytelling, any raunchiness, atmosphere beyond one scene, and even continuity. When the film plays it straight horror, there’s no denying how well it works. Fantastic effects, superb lighting, and camera angles make for a truly intense section to push the lawlessness of the commune you’re stuck attempting to give a damn about. Sadly, the primary focus is trampled over by a standard detective story, random Richard Pryor racial humor, buddy comedy laced with a coming of age tale, war flashbacks, random martial arts action flick moment only missing actor Reb Brown, and a mafia story line just for the hell of it make up the rest of this horror comedy that has such a promising concept ruined by Roy Frumkes shoving all eighties movie tropes into a blender, letting it run a bit too long, then slapping it into a script as the next big cult classic. that leaves you wondering why people insult The Stuff by comparing the two in the same breath.