I grew up on some Troma films, notably the original "classics" in the eyes of Troma fans (The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High), as well as the sequels to both. I loved them all (even the maligned sequels) but did not see any other Troma films in the years following (not even Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. or Tromeo and Juliet). A year or two or three after Terror Firmer as originally released, my best friend and I began going through Troma films as yet unseen by us, which included Troma's War (I believe--I think we didn't see most of it), Tromeo and Terror Firmer. I now knew that a sensibility that formerly lacked any sense of the politically correct or socially acceptable, that previously saw no reason to shy away from T&A or gore now had even less taste and an even greater hunger to amuse through offense.
Jennifer (Alyce LaTourelle, who apparently originally loathed the film but has come around in retrospect) is a new PA on the set of Troma's latest movie about Toxie, caught between the earnest geeky desires of Jerry (Trent Haaga, in his first film role) and the stereotypical "Cool Guy Who's Too Much a Snake and a Jerk for Us to Like" Casey (Will Keenan, most known by then as Tromeo). Of course a love triangle is nothing to Lloyd Kaufman (joined this time in writing by Patrick Cassidy and Douglas Buck), so the natural addition, as seen in the opening scene (which involves an amputation that leads to a limb employed in a beatdown--the two events naturally connected--and a scene that most anyone with aspirations to taste would find offensive), is a psychotic killer woman of mysterious origins. As Jennifer bounces between Jerry and Casey, Larry Benjamin (Kaufman himself) directs the film blind (which is to say, the character of Benjamin is blind) with the help of a truly bizarre cast and crew, including scream queen Debbie Rochon as Christine, the busty star of the film-within-a-film, and her crazed boyfriend DJ (Mario Diaz, who bears a kind of resemblance to Crazy Harry the muppet) who flies into a jealous rage whenever he finds Christine sleeping with someone else (which happens a lot). Jerry does effects for the film, while The Toddster (Gary Hrbek) does sound (including his own "theme"), and loads more fill the sets occasionally in revolving positions, often directed around by Andy (Mo Fischer) when Larry is not ranting or threatening to blow his brains out over the crew's disobedience.
This film involves penises, vulvas, abuse, rape, abortion, feces, murder, drugs and...quality independent film? Regardless of that little nugget of peculiarity, if the first set of concepts offends you, you probably shouldn't bother watching Troma movies. They carry these things out with a gleeful madness every time, never worrying about who will be offended because they are simply aiming for lack of restraint (and almost definitely offense). Even if you have a mentality that the above things are not laughing matters (and at least a couple of them are not), Lloyd always uses that aforementioned glee to make it clear that this is not actually about those things and it's just a nudge at the people who refuse to allow for such possibilities in film. It's the kind of thing that you can walk in and love or not. This doesn't make it a clear line of "love it or hate it" (I think no such thing exists), but there's certainly a clear line to start with of those who can watch it and those who cannot. It's easy to look at Tromeo and Juliet and Terror Firmer to see that the mentality of Troma's film-making had changed yet again after the twist it took with the sequels to their original classic films. Originally they were wild exploitation flicks with a strange sense of humour, then made a move that worked much like the changes wrought in the Evil Dead series--though in a sort of reverse order. The late 80s and early 90s Troma sequels bore more resemblance to the comedy-centric stylings of Army of Darkness than the comedy-horror mix of Evil Dead 2. A lot of the darkness disappeared, but then in the mid and late 90s with films like Terror Firmer, a semblance of darkness was returned without losing the madcap sense of humour, creating an even more unique stew than the original films (though I still feel they are the best works of Troma and have yet to be equalled). The complete lack of restraint and the drive for this lack of restraint is now what drives the films, rather than the prior attempts to (strangely, for Troma) aim for continuation of stories and play with the characters, not in a deep way of course, but in a way intended to gain audience sympathy for Toxie and capitalize on their love.
Terror Firmer is sometimes considered an apex for Troma, and sometimes a low point. I accepted, after seeing these later films, that this was a new and different period for Troma and Terror Firmer does everything it should with respect to this ideology. Including Ron Jeremy, Lemmy Kilmister (of Motörhead, sillies), Joe Fleishaker, Trey Parker, Matt Stone is a brilliant move, and these inclusions matched with other nods are excellent for building the in-joke references that litter the movie and make it more fun for fans. One of the new experiences for me this time around was being familiar with the attitude toward the Spielberg films brought up (having even seen 2 of them now) and knowing who Sam Fuller is which made the exchange between Jennifer and Casey even more hilarious, for all new reasons. As per usual, Lloyd does have something to say behind the film, but he doesn't preach without a tongue planted firmly through his cheek--independent film is a lost art, and the art of making film outside the mentality of aiming for big budget shlock and schmaltz is being lost to the monetary gain and easy manipulation of the Spielberg-influenced schools of film-making. It's buried in piles of gore and breasts, but it's clear enough, and the Fuller/Spielberg conversation is good for directing your eye towards the actually intelligent brains behind this, which doubles as reassurance that this isn't an endorsement of what's going on, so much as the same kind of enjoyment you get from watching going into the creation.