Richard W. Haines
Gilbert Brenton - Warren Brandt
Janelle Brady - Chrissy Murphy
Robert Prichard - Spike
R.L. Ryan - Mr. Finley
James Nugent Vernon - Eddie
Brad Dunker - Gonzo
Theo Cohan - Muffy
Gary Schneider - Pete
Genre - B-Movie/Horror/Science Fiction/Comedy/Teens/Monsters
Running Time - 82 Minutes
Location is always important, especially when it concerns High School. Some folks have to go to a zone school, which is within or right near their neighborhood. Some people get to go away to school if they have great grades. Yours truly, for example, was able to get admitted into a good High School near a college campus where I was able to take Advanced Placement courses for college credit. That's right - I'm a genie! So you ask, why is a smart guy like me writing movie reviews on some blog?
Well, who asked you??
Wait...what was I writing about again. Oh right...location being important.
You see, High Schools in New York are by college campuses and drug dealers. In New Jersey, High Schools are by nuclear power plants and drug dealers. Are you really surprised by that? You have seen Jersey Shore, right? Luckily in 1986's Troma cult classic, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, there are no Guidos or Guidettes. But you do get preppies, Cretins, and a monster that was the product of pot-induced sex. Hmm...now I know what inspired MTV's 16 & Pregnant.
In Tromaville, New Jersey, the local nuclear power plant has a leak that's been reported. Like any good government official, the manager of the plant (R.L. Ryan) disputes the claims in order for the plant to keep running and for him to keep his job. Unfortunately, toxic waste is all over the place and has greatly infiltrated the local high school, Tromaville High School. One of the plant workers has created a special kind of marijuana called Atomic High, lacing the drug with chemical waste. Tromaville's debate team were the first to try out the stuff, but the special pot has turned them into The Cretins, the school's local bullies and drug dealers, led by Spike (Robert Prichard). They're the most feared of the school that even the teachers have trouble with them.
At a local party, Atomic High is passed around. Prude and preppy lovebirds, Warren Brandt (Gilbert Brenton) and Chrissy Murphy (Janelle Brady), are peer pressured into toking the stuff. The drug makes them horny and they end up having sex as some of their friends watch. Eventually, the Atomic High causes change in both Warren and Chrissy. Warren has a penis size growth and transforms into some sort of mutant that kills some of the Cretins. Chrissy becomes nine-months pregnant overnight and gives birth to some mutant that disappears down the toilet. The Cretins begin plotting revenge on Warren and Chrissy, while the mutant child wants revenge on everyone.
CLASS OF NUKE 'EM is a disjointed, yet entertaining B-movie that tries to be everything at once and manages to decently keep it all together. Lloyd Kaufman was inspired to make this film after a nuclear plant disaster at Shoreham, which was located just 60 miles away from Manhattan, New York. With the debacles that occurred beforehand at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it was eventually shut down. The message about the danger of nuclear waste is there in some form, but CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH is more concerned with low brow comedy, T & A, and awesome looking monsters that want to murder High School students.
Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the screenplay [which was written by Richard W. Haines, Lloyd Kaufman, Mark Rudnitsky, and Stuart Strutin] is a bit disjointed in terms of tone and even genre. The first act plays out like an 80s teen comedy, where the students are most concerned with drugs, parties, sex, and forming cliques that will battle each other. This is the set up portion of the film, but it sort of meanders a bit - making you wonder when the point will made when it concerns the story. The second act is more of the science-fiction portion, where the main characters begin to transform due to the Atomic High, with sets up the rivalry between The Cretins and Warren & Chrissy. This is where the film feels more like a Troma film, as we get to the nitty gritty of what the film is really about while we experience B-grade effects and filthy humor. The final act is the horror portion, where The Cretins attack the school [especially Warren & Christy], while their mutant baby emerges from the school basement and has its way with everyone. It's the highlight of the film, as there's actual tension and some very cool special effects that are very fun to watch. The three acts do manage to somehow connect, but CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH does feel like three films in one. At least all three are fun in their own ways.
There is also that bit of politics about the danger of nuclear power. We get short scenes of Mr. Finley telling reporters and the townspeople that the power plant is running fine and there are no problems, even though it's obviously not true with all the waste covering Tromaville. The screenwriters, like I said, were inspired by the dangers of nuclear power at the time and obviously used that as a basis to tell their story. You don't really expect Troma to try and send a serious message about such a political matter. But in their silly way, the whole narrative with the mutation caused by the toxic waste and the mutant baby that destroys the school pretty much does that without making it all that serious. The Mr. Finley scenes are quite comical, as it's possible that something like this could and would occur in real life without much of the public not knowing until it's too late.
I did have an issue with the Atomic High itself. The way it caused reactions in characters varied, so I was unsure how powerful the stuff really was. The debate team became The Cretins because of the stuff. This is possibly due to the fact that they smoked the pot more than anyone else. But if they were dealing drugs and having returning customers, wouldn't they have transformed the same way also? When Warren and Chrissy smoked, they had interesting transformations. Warren had his penis grow exponentially [even though that angle never goes anywhere] and turns into this superhuman mutant that can murder The Cretins quite easily. But then he turns back to normal. Chrissy becomes 9 months pregnant overnight and has a mutant child. But she turns back to normal as well. Hell, even some who don't even smoke transform. When Spike kisses a fellow classmate, she turns into a Cretin seconds later! I think more explanation could have gone into the nuclear pot, since it was a major plot point in CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH. I don't think it really hurts the film all that much, but it does nag at you.
The characters and dialogue, however, are the highlight of the screenplay. All the characters are diverse and colorful in kooky ways, making them all entertaining. Warren and Chrissy are the bland preppies [who have funny dialogue about a Fellini festival], but they're likeable in a normal [compared to everyone else] sort of way. It's unfortunate that as the lead characters, they aren't more interesting. But at least you don't hate them and want them to succeed. The Cretins are given more screen time and are so different, both appearance and personality wise to everyone else, that you sort of like them even when they act bad. Spike, in particular, is a cool character as the leader [with his white hair and 80s hair metal look], but the other Cretins are unique and funny as well. When they have no problem beating up elderly women for cash and "don't give a fuck about tri-farts", you can't help but laugh. They're the reasons you keep watching.
The special effects in CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH are more than decent for a low budget B-movie. The mutant make-up and the bubbling skin effects are pretty good, all done with practical effects. But the real star is the mutant monster that attacks the school during the final act. Even in 2012, the creature looks pretty awesome. There was obviously a lot of hard work done in creating this monster, so kudos on a job well done. The gore effects were also pretty cool too. We get fists down throats, arms getting eaten, punches through heads, faces scratched, strangulation, impalement, decapitations, and so on. The special effects team should be proud of what they did here.
The direction by Richard W. Haines and Samuel Weil [a.k.a. Lloyd Kaufman] does what it needs to do. It's not a stylish film. It's not a great looking film, in terms of cinematography. Like I mentioned, it sometimes feels like three movies in one. But at least each section feels like it should. The final act, in particular, is quite tense and exciting to watch. The film moves quite quickly, maintaining a great pace. We also get some POV shots for the mutant monster. And when the monster is attacked, we see the film's negative image as a "special effect". Troma has never been known for its Oscar-caliber direction, and CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH will not change that perception. But it visually entertains for much of the time, so how can you complain?
The acting, also, isn't Oscar-caliber. But all the actors seem to be having fun in their respective roles [Robert Prichard as Spike is especially great] and carry the shallow screenplay quite well. Not the greatest actors, but an interesting cast of characters that never grow unlikeable or annoying. They're perfect for a B-movie like CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH.
And the soundtrack, by artists like Biohazard, The Smithereens, GMT, and Stormbringer, is really rad. It sounds like an 80s movie and feels like one. And the music was used appropriately as well. I enjoyed it.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REPLACING MY PENIS ENLARGEMENT PUMP FOR SOME ATOMIC HIGH
- A bunch of toxic chemicals spilled all over the town of Tromaville, which doesn't seem to be too much of a problem for those working in the power plant. Yeah, it seemed to help The Toxic Avenger, The Joker, and Meg Ryan's face.
- Dewey drank toxic water and his skin melted. Some people take being a fan of Modern English a bit too seriously.
- Muffy rammed a nerd like a bull and then stomped on his balls. And I thought that kind of stuff was saved for during marriage...
- Atomic High gave Warren a bigger penis. Looks like Sue Storm may be looking for a younger Mr. Fantastic in the near future...
- Spike made out with a girl, transforming her into a horny Cretin. When I make out with a girl, she transforms into a clingy bitch. Serves me right for not smoking pot.
- Warren forced his arm into a Cretin's mouth and down his throat. I thought fisting involved the other end. Oh well, practice makes perfect...and bigger openings. *cringes*
- Some faculty member got shot to death for not knocking. When you don't allow the person behind the door to ask, "Who's there?", the only line that will be punched is between your eyes.
- The creature punched a Cretin through her head. When it comes to fisting, like father like son.
THE FINAL HOWL
While THE TOXIC AVENGER will always be Troma's number one film, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH is definitely a highlight in the massive Troma library. While it's not perfect in terms of story structure, direction, or even acting, this B-movie still manages to be very memorable and a lot of fun to watch. If you love silly comedies that involve sci-fi and horror elements, you could do a lot worse than this one. There's always room for brainless, B-movie entertainment by the people from Troma Entertainment - especially when it's as enjoyable as CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH.
3 Howls Outta 4