I can remember when Lloyd Kaufman's Terror Firmer first broke loose on video a decade ago. I wasn't much of a Troma fan with my only experiences with the proudly independent studio at that time being memories of reruns of Toxies and Nuke 'Em Highs on Up All Night. I was aware of the film, but became very surprised upon overhearing a co-worker bring it up one lunchbreak. This guy didn't seem to be a prude, yet he made the mistake of watching it, now get this, as a "family movie night" selection. He never explained why he made this spectacularly idiotic decision, and after railing on the movie as the worst pile 'o shit ever made, then exclaimed he had to shut it off after thirty minutes. Not because of the high shit quota--his young daughter started crying(!?!).
At this point, I had to leave the table, or face the awkward situation of uncontrollably laughing while everyone else there seemed totally oblivious to the guy either being a horrible father or a magnificent dumbass. Naturally, I rushed to see Terror Firmer for myself afterward and honestly wasn't too impressed by the film. It just felt different from my edited-for-TV Troma of old and more-than-anything seemed like an excuse to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. I didn't get the point of all the boobs, incredibly ribald antics, and fat man with microdick flopping about the streets of New York. Still, at least I wasn't the guy who traumatized loved ones for life.
The 1999 feature didn't inspire me to seek out other Troma product. So I went along with my steady diet of horror and cult cinema, saw some Troma-distributed flicks, with the best being Pericles Lewnes's warmly regional Redneck Zombies. Little did I know, my improper education in other areas of schlock primed my appreciation for what Kaufman's little grotty studio that could stood for. On a whim years later, I popped in Terror Firmer again one night and with a few beers tagging along--there was my Tromatic epiphany. Kaufman and partner Herz craft purposeful trash as counterprogramming to all the other forms of media dogged by the moral police and corporate interests. Terror Firmer is more crude than previous Troma output, however; it belongs in a succession of the studio's films becoming harder to stay ahead of the real, increasingly "severe" norms of American culture.
They're John Waters after John Waters and South Park before South Park with "30 years of reel independence." Kaufman, Herz, and Troma Team have long become something much larger than their hardships and accomplishments. Now, perhaps more importantly than ever, Troma doesn't just make vital social statements in microcosm with each trashy film; they stand as one of the scant few defending the sublime liberation resting in freedom of expression. If and when Troma closes up, the saddest part will be there probably won't be anyone to keep the torch burning, but at least their testament will continue to endure. Even if you don't care for Troma's firebrand form of entertainment; you must respect what they're unassumingly doing under the barrage of libertine flesh and dimestore gore overkill. If you don't, you have no business watching anything anyway...