By Lily-Hayes Kaufman
When my dad invited me to visit him in Buffalo for the weekend, I knew Niagara Falls was not on the itinerary.
“We’re filming a big meltdown scene,” Dad began. “Do you want to come be an extra in the movie?”
My dad, Lloyd Kaufman, is an irreverent filmmaker with a cult following for lowbrow-but-brilliant superheroes like “The Toxic Avenger.”.
I was disappointed that there wouldn’t be time to get drenched on the Maid of the Mist or take a selfie in front of the verdant green water plunging over the falls. But Troma was family business, and duty called.
I had spent my childhood summers acting in Dad’s films. My family and I moved into a motel near Dad’s latest movie set. I played bit roles in his films which usually involved hideous monsters,.
This summer, Dad was filming “Return to Nuke ‘Em High,” a remake of his very own 1980s cult classic, “Class of Nuke ‘Em High.” The Troma Team was spending the summer filming at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.
Troma’s tagline proclaims: “Movies of the future.” And indeed, the themes that ran through my dad’s films were ahead of their time, like transgender rights, the environment or bullying. The thing was, Dad used off-color jokes and repulsive scenarios to draw attention to his art.
On the flight, I thought back to the last time I had visited Buffalo. Dad had been filming “Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.
My scene had involved fast-food patrons transmogrifying into chicken zombies by way of projectile vomit. I had spent the weekend shielding myself from a powerful stream of fake vomit with nothing but a chicken bucket.
The NACC was a major upgrade from the Poultrygeist set. I admired a beautifully preserved theater with a giant stage and hundreds of shiny wood seats that sprang up and slapped the seat of your pants if you weren’t careful when you stood.
The auditorium was littered with gory props. Industrial-sized jugs of red and green food coloring, boxes of Bromo Seltzer and bottles of Karo syrup littered one corner. Nearby, the special effects team squatted over big vats, mixing fake blood and green slime.
Local Buffalo citizens made up a large portion of Dad’s crew of aspiring filmmakers. Each had a fiery determination, worked grueling hours and offered creativity on a shoestring budget.
“Ok everybody, you’re watching a high school acapella concert.” Dad explained, “The performers are going to mutate after eating tainted tacos.”
Dad climbed onto the dolly next to the camera and yelled for quiet. Next, the actors filled their mouths with Bromo Seltzer and took a sip of a green liquid. They shook their heads, causing the mixture to become explosive in their mouths.
On “ACTION!” A mere crack of the lips launched a powerful arc of green hued liquid several feet out of the actors’ mouths. When it came to flow rate, it wasn’t Horseshoe Falls, but it was close.
I realized at that moment we were sharing a heart-pumping display of green-hued waterflow. If I couldn’t make it to the real Niagara Falls, this was second best.
“Let’s do it again folks!” Dad called out. “Places everyone!”
I settled back in to my seat and braced for impact.
Lily-Hayes Kaufman really likes green flowing water.