Getting Wasted: Look Who’s Toxic (1990)

Louis Mathew’s eco-horror fails in the icky, sticky gloop department, but Dave still considers it to be worth your time.

Toxic waste was quite the rage from the mid-80s through to the early ‘90s. From John ‘Bus’ Cardos’ vastly underrated Mutant (1984), to the cheapo snooze-fest Plutonium Baby (1987) and the lovable Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter (1990), it seemed like a dip in a little effluent discharge was a cause célèbre that leant itself quite favourably to some icky, sticky, genre trappings. Let’s not forget the Troma guy too – but more on him later. 

In Look Who’s Toxic, Armond Davis (Chris Robinson) is the affluent owner of the town chemical plant, which is currently being dragged across the local news channel owing to allegations of it dumping millions of gallons of toxic waste into the nearby water supply. For Davis, a man in failing health, it’s the least of his worries as he’s desperate for a heart transplant to extend his bloated capitalist existence. His solution is to order his clarinet-playing, earring-laden, uber-camp goon Drake (Torin Coyle Caffrey) to kidnap a random gentleman (Luis Lemus) in fine fettle, and to bribe a surgeon (Allen Dorris) from the hospital that bears his name to bestow him with a new ticker. All seems to be going to plan for Davis, until the body of the unwilling donor that was flung in the nearby river, begins to absorb these nefarious chemicals, and gradually wheezes back into life. 

Scripted by primo Texan genre-master Alan Stewart, who had penned the Waco-set Demon Warrior (1988) in between calling the shots on horror-western Ghost Riders (1987) and the riotous vigilante flick Ghetto Blaster (1989), Look Who’s Toxic brings a similar Chinese banquet level of satisfaction, whereby you’re content, but you want more. 

The bulk of the running time gets bogged down in convoluted conspiracy and laboured exposition, which, while not exasperating, warrants an impatient drum of the fingers from time to time in anticipation of the monster. Speaking of which, the big reveal is a tad anti-climactic as it looks like The Toxic Avenger has wandered onto the set from a Lloyd Kaufman movie that’s shooting nearby. The similarity is uncanny.

There’s an end credits dedication to someone close to the director which reads: “She would have thought this was stupid, but she would have laughed anyway”. That pretty much encapsulates the film. It never veers into satire, but then it rarely takes itself too seriously, most notably in the transplant sequence which has all the medical accuracy of The Thing with Two Heads (1972). Coincidentally, Chris Robinson has a degree of Ray Milland about him, and it’s he who’s the anchor that steers this faltering ship through environmentalism, corruption and the underhand tactics of big business. Director Louis Mathew should have just focused on making a monster movie though. 

USA ● 1990 ● Horror ● 90mins

Chris Robinson, Luis Lemus, Shelly Tolaroff, Torin Coyle Caffrey ● Dir. Louis MathewWri. Alan Stewart

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