Camp is king in horror genre
There’s something fulfilling about enjoying an utterly campy or cheesy piece of entertainment. Perhaps it’s the total lack of sincerity that makes an ironically tasteless movie or play so great to savour.
Heavy handed as campy culture seems, there is a delicate art to pushing cheesiness just far enough. JP Thibodeau, director of the upcoming stage version of the 1984 horror film The Toxic Avenger, says the balance between clever irreverence and offensively bad taste is a thin one.
“The show itself takes a lot of liberties, and it takes them to the nth degree, but you need to keep it in the vein of camp fun and not camp real,” says Thibodeau. “When it becomes real, it becomes sensitive and that’s where it gets difficult.”
The plot of the Toxic Avenger offers plenty of opportunities to ruffle politically-correct feathers. The show begins with a geeky young man falling in radioactive goo, leaving him hideously deformed and armed with super-human strength. He uses his new power to take down the crooked mayor and win the love of a blind librarian.
“We had to be ready to recognize when the blind jokes were going too far,” says Thibodeau. “There’s a character called black dude and a character called white dude, so right off the bat we’re pushing limits on racism.”
Thibodeau says the actors don’t take themselves too seriously in their hyperbolized roles, but they need to know what they’re doing in order to pull off the self-aware naivety that makes the cheesy dish of comedy the audience desires.
The show isn’t about surprising the audience with a moral message at the end, or even keeping them on the edge of their seats with intricate plot twists.
“The best way to describe it is like a good Scooby Doo cartoon,” says Thibodeau. “It’s ridiculous. We all know at the end of the cartoon someone’s face is getting pulled off. And we all know who the villain is.”
Classic characters and a tried-and-true plot leaves the show with a bounty of energy to spend exploring awkward prop gore and exaggerated rock and roll.
“The campy side of this is what makes this show work,” says Thibodeau. “It’s the Toxic Avenger and the B-movie version is terrible.”
The Toxic Avenger runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5 at the Space in Inglewood.