Thursday, 28 July 2016

Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986) [Mini Review]

Directors: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz and Richard W. Haines
Screenplay: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky and Stuart Strutin
Cast: Janelle Brady (as Chrissy); Gil Brenton (as Warren); Robert Prichard (as Spike); James Nugent Vernon (as Eddie); Pat Ryan Jr. (as Mr. Paley); Brad Dunker (as Gonzo)
A Night of A Thousand Horror (Movies) #8

Class of Nuke 'Em High is a case of a film that feels like the watered down version of gorier, more shocking films, feeling like the version of a cult movie meant for a teenage audience rather than a film which shocks even grownups like it should. Whilst it has nudity, gore and adult humour is palatable for the most part to the point of being juvenile, a transition to more lurid work in a way that's a detriment to the film itself. Set it Troma Team's trademark Tromaville, New Jersey, the local high school next to the nuclear power plant naturally has toxic waste getting into the water supply and punks dealing weed infused and grown on the nuclear plant's grounds, causing all manner of mutation and death - a plot that, while exceptionally silly, would've had the potential to be entertaining. It's not the excess gore or crassness that disappoints with these sorts of films and that's in fact the reason I would want to see a film like this, starting off very well with a graphic "melting" incident involving contaminated drinking water. The problem arises when, skittering between high school sex comedy and a punksploitation film, emphasising a group of mutated punks called the Cretins who terrorise the campus, it's a jack of all traits but not real talent or emphasis in any of its plot points to be interesting. Even if you're not interested in the films, the type of gonzo American genre cinema from the eighties that got on videotape side-by-side with this one and other Troma movies, from Basket Case (1982) to Street Trash (1987), were far more wilder and lurid than this one.

It also feels, unlike a film like the aforementioned Basket Case, to be improvising to a detriment, not able to fully emphasis any scene after the great pre-opening credit sequence with enough gusto to keep one on the edge of one's seat and have your sides splitting in shocked laughter at what it's getting away with. Ultimately the film's more interested in the most ridiculous punks you could ever see but even the Cretins aren't enough to save the film; they're memorable - a leader with skunk-white and black hair, a member in un-PC brown face with rings in his face and a bone club, a male member with very natural and prominent breasts under his (hopefully angora) pink sweater - but unfortunately even they are underused to their potential. Even when the nuclear power plant plot line leads to a mutant in the finale, it feels like an afterthought. Production wise it's uninteresting as well, neither insanely neon or gritty as it should've been, with the terrible habit of playing the worst hair metal constantly in most scenes. Compared to the other films of this period and it's not as adventurous as it should've been. In fact it feels like one of those dull fifties teensplotation films Class of Nuke 'Em High was probably meant to parody, with more gore and sex but just as sluggish and not giving you the thrill ride it promised in the poster.


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