Stars: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan, James Nugent Vernon, Brad Dunker, Gary Schneider, Théo Cohan, Gary Rosenblatt | Written by Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Lloyd Kaufman, Stuart Strutin | Directed by Richard W. Haines, Lloyd Kaufman
I’m not sure whether it’s through good or bad luck but I’ve managed to see Class of Nuke ‘Em High on the big screen (35mm) and on Blu-ray in the last few months and both times enjoyed it. There is something about Troma films, especially the ones that are higher quality; they are often bad but strangely enjoyable. It could be that I’m biased I don’t know, I tend to love Troma they’ve done a lot for not only cult movies but for the independent side of film making too. When it comes to their own films though there is no defending them, you can’t say “oh but it’s Troma it’s meant to be bad” the fact is no matter what budget is available and no matter how schlocky they are being made there is always room for quality.
Tromaville never seem to get planning of their city right, so when they have a nuclear power plant right next to their high school things are bound to go wrong. The Cretins, the school’s infamous biker gang have been selling joints made from marijuana grown near the plant, which of course has been contaminated by toxic waste; when two of the most popular kids Warren and Chrissy smoke a contaminated joint it’s not long before weird things start happening. Chrissy gives birth to a mutant monster that stalks the school and Warren starts a one mutated man battle with the cretins, which all culminates in a battle in the school halls between students, biker gang freaks and a mutant; who will win the battle, and can the power plant cover up it up in time before they are found to be to blame?
Underneath the intentional/unintentional schlocky nature of the film there surprisingly is a strong storyline to Class of Nuke ‘Em High. As always toxic waste is having effects on the people of the city of Tromaville and the city authorities are trying to hide it. The problem I have is that even with a small budget Troma could push the message the film has more. Instead they are almost adamant in making a poor movie just for the sake of creating weird characters mutated monsters and a legacy of creating bad films. Now for most Troma fans this of course is not a problem, and I will admit that I do like the monster element, the levels of gore that they throw at the screen and the “so bad it’s good” nature of the film itself. I just know that Troma is capable of much more, though they don’t seem to want to be. It’s part of their charm, even if it can be annoying.
There is the counter argument of course that we don’t WANT them to be more serious, we don’t want them to bore us by pushing agendas too strongly, and quite honestly I’m all for that too. I know, confusing. Along with The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is one of their most popular films and is fairly watchable. The monster itself is quite effectively done and Warren’s almost superhero transformation when he takes on the Cretins although not as effective as with Toxie himself is an interesting idea, it creates the major conflict between he, Chrissy and the Cretins themselves which of course leads to the conclusion of the story making sense. Well I say make sense, it can be argued to be quite convoluted too.
I think to be honest that is the beauty of a Troma film, they were made to be bad, some people hate them because they are bad, while others just accept it. Having seen so many films and so many that are truly bad, no matter what budget is thrown at them I always have a high tolerance for how bad Troma can be, and quite honestly in the Troma scale of bad films? This is one of their best.
Troma films are for Troma fans, it’s hard to recommend them to people who have not experienced them before, and it’s arguable that the first film people new to Troma should start with The Toxic Avenger, which of course makes it hard to recommend this one. Arrow Video as always have done an excellent job with this Blu-ray release which includes a commentary by Lloyd Kaufman, which I found amusing because he takes the film so serious in his discussion about it, he really puts some though into it. The picture quality is probably as good as you can get this film, the colours are vibrant and the transfer is impressive, this is based on the source material of course which will never have been in pristine condition. As with all Arrow Video releases the cover art is very impressive and will no doubt catch people’s interest, I just hope that the film itself can catch a few new fans and lead them into the city of Tromaville. It will be interesting to see what Troma do with their remake of this film too which is in production now, I can understand the need for a remake and now it’s coming it’ll be interesting to get back to school once more.
Class of Nuke ‘Em High is available now on dual format Blu-ray, courtesy of Arrow Video.