Class of Nuke ‘Em High
They say that variety is the spice of life. In a continuing attempt to embrace that variety here with One Movie | Each Day, I’ve decided to dedicate each Wednesday review to the stranger side of cinema, the type of movies that I’d never normally watch, or, at least, admit to watching, but that I’m kind of secretly glad exist. So, in celebration or in condemnation of the eccentric, the odd, the freaky, the kinky, the ghastly, the freaky, the fearful, the flaky, and the freaky, I now present this, the Tromatic twenty-eighth edition of Wednesday Weirdness.
Once I decided to begin Wednesday Weirdness, it was only a matter of time before I dipped a toe in to the bizarre well of weirdness that is Troma. Really the only surprise here is that I’ve somehow managed to get through twenty-seven installments of weirdness without previously reviewing anything from the prolific, low-budget, cult, production house. (Well, that is if you don’t count My Dinner with Andre.)
This absence comes to an end today as I finally sat down to watch one of Troma’s signature “hits” from the mid-eighties, Class of Nuke ‘Em High. The film is a truly bizarre mash-up of anti-nuclear ludditism, high-school sex and hijinks, and a prototypical 80’s monster movie… all produced on with virtually no budget. I’ll let Wikipedia provide a plot synopsis, it’s more poorly written than the movie itself, and it contains SPOILERS but honestly, it doesn’t much matter:
The film is about a New Jersey high school (Tromaville High School), which is conveniently located next to a nuclear power plant. The gang of the school, called “The Cretins”, deals drugs among the students. They pick leaves from a radioactive marijuana plant located in the yard of the nuclear plant and sell it to Eddie for $10. He smokes it at a party with his friends Warren and Chrissy. That night, they both have hallucinations. Chrissy discovers that she is pregnant, and spits a little monster into a toilet bowl. The creature travels through the water pipes and lands in a barrel filled with radioactive waste, and mutates into a bigger creature. Meanwhile, Warren has super strength and kills two of the Cretins. The rebel gang takes over the school and start destroying it, and they take Chrissy hostage and take her to the basement. Warren goes into the school to save her, and he discovers the adult monster, who kills every one of The Cretins. Warren finally kills the beast with a laser he found in the physics laboratory, and he and Chrissy leave the school right after the monster explodes along with the school. The film ends with a frame of the monster “baby” squirming through the remains of the destroyed school.
As with most Troma releases, the acting is pure amateurism, the effects are super-cheap, and the writing straddles the line between silly and outright stupid; yet the film was clearly made with such enthusiasm that all the camp starts to feel charming. If you’ve ever seen an interview with co-director/Troma head-honcho Lloyd Kaufman it’s clear that he’s a man, devoid of any pretense, that simply loves making movies, distinctive, shocking memorable movies, with no tolerance for the “rules” that filmmakers are supposed to play by. That certainly shows here. The film is utterly without shame, and it’s clear that most everyone involved is: in it for the love of making movies, and clearly having a good time.
Of course, there were a couple acting performances that seemed to indicate at least a measure of actual talent. Specifically, I’m referring to Janelle Brady as Chrissy, and Robert Prichard as the maniacal gang leader, Spike. I also enjoyed Heather McMahon in her brief appearance as Taru, although this is probably less because of any acting talent, and more that she was pretty hot.
There’s really no good reason to watch this film; doing so would almost certainly be a waste of your time. However, it is actually kind of fun, and maybe that’s reason enough. The movie clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s definitely right in the neighborhood of being “so bad it’s good.” I didn’t quite like it enough to overcome what my head tells me is a long list of glaring flaws, but for a certain segment of the population, (you know who you are,) class of Nuke ‘Em High is going to be a great deal of fun. Of course, I’m assuming that these people have either already seen the movie, or will eventually do so regardless of what I say. For the everyone else, I’ve got to say that it’s Not Worth Seeing, but you could certainly do worse.