Cult Cinema: Tromeo and Juliet

Long before he directed Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn wrote a movie called Tromeo and Juliet.

"Someone please tell me
what happened to my face."
What do you get when you mix one of Shakespeare’s most classic works with giant mutant monster dicks, strippers, numerous bare breasts, exploding heads and copious amounts of vomit? You get one of Troma’s best films, Tromeo and Juliet! It was directed by Lloyd Kaufman with a script penned by none other than James Gunn, director of the mega successful film Guardians of the Galaxy. Many people don’t know he got his start as a screenwriter and learned much of the movie trade working on Troma films. This is why it’s important to support independent films, as many directors/screenwriters/editors get their big breaks from learning on these movie sets.

It’s obvious from the title that Tromeo and Juliet is based on the famous love story Romeo and Juliet and it sticks pretty close to the original play. Though the story is a much darker take on the material, it often has absurd comedic interludes filled with crass jokes and visual puns. While everyone speaks English for the most part, they do spout of lines from the play from time to time and it’s hilarious to see the contrast of the trashy and sleazy gore with the refined dialogue. There is nothing like seeing a stripper with giant fake tits speaking in iambic pentameter. All of the characters from the play are represented but with changed names and ethnicities. 

The movie takes place in modern times located in a gritty urban setting full of deviants, drug addicts and reprobates. In the usual Troma fashion, there is a whole lot of sexual deviation, cursing, scatological humor, and just general craziness and mayhem. One guy has a club shaped like Adolph Hitler’s head that he beats the hell out of people with—that’s the kind of stuff that makes a film special. Many ‘90s grunge/alternative bands contributed their songs to the soundtrack for free because they loved that special brand of tacky that Troma contributes to the film world.

"Somebody get me a rubber!
It's about to go down!"
The budget is quite low, but the practical effects and make-up are well-done and realistic looking. It has the best cinematography and editing out of all of the previous Troma films (which isn’t saying much) but it still has that shitty charm that fans know and love. This ain’t fine cinema and it’s best enjoyed with cheap pizza and a six-pack of beer. 

As per usual, the actors for the most part are terrible, but a few have a vicious glee and charisma that is endearing in a way. It’s punk rock horror/comedy at its finest.   Tromeo and Juliet is incredibly inappropriate and politically incorrect, so viewers with fine sensibilities might want to steer clear—the rest of us will have a good time making fun of everything and laughing our asses off. This definitely isn’t a “good” film but it’s a whole lot of fun and it’s interesting to see where James Gunn got his start.

-Michelle Kisner