Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Class of Nuke ‘Em High
“What’s happened to you people? Six months ago you were the honor society, not a drug pushing gang of thugs.”
Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs although I’m tempted to give it more
Welcome to Tromaville- a classy town, with great real estate, interesting local residents, a fine eduction system, full employment at the various nuclear facilities, and a law enforcement agency run by a sociopathic monster with an uncontrollable urge to see justice done.
1986 was a funny time for Troma. They had, for the first time in their history, a bit of money in the bank due to the completely unexpected success of Toxie. So, Troma being Troma, what did they decide to do: Expand the budget and aim a bit higher? or jump gleefully back into the barrel in a quest to scrape the bottom of it and produce an absolutely raucous piece of schlock with all their hallmarks? To be absolutely honest, I’m glad they went for the latter- it’s much more fun, and any tool can make a mediocre movie. Class of Nuke ‘Em High has the distinction of being the first Non-Toxie movie set in Tromaville, and is an absolutely hilarious slice of low brow schlock.
Tromaville is a bit of a shithole. In fact, it’s a colossal shithole. The events of Class revolve directly around the usual Tromaville slapdash respect for health and safety laws with a nuclear leak next to the local high school leading to carnage and shenanigans. In this case, the leak (which looks suspiciously like Lime Jelly) has the unfortunate side effect of causing a geeky student to froth at the mouth before throwing himself out of the window and decomposing in front of the school. Nice.
Other side effects of the spill are- it does something weird to marijuana plants- if you smoke even one drag of an infected spliff you turn into a rampant fuckmonster, then either a superhero or unfortunately vomiting a disgusting spiky leach thing. Which grows causing chaos.
In the middle of all this is winsome all-American couple Warren and Chrissy. Warren is a bit of a tool and a fuckup, while Chrissy is coming to terms with the volatile hormones raging through her teenaged system. They desperately want to do the nasty, are being tormented by former Honour Students turned outlaw gang, The Cretins, and eventually go to a nice college before a life of middle management. This all gets a touch derailed by the toxic spill- Warren morphs into a nuclear zombie hero that clobbers the cretins and Chrissy births the creature. Carnage and hilarity inevitably ensue, before Warren blows the school up using a laser and a load of radioactive isotopes.
This is a cracking slice of Troma cheese. It’s, predictably for Troma, nowhere near as dumb as it’s making out. They clearly stole the template from the far superior Class of 1984 (which was also remade as the excellent Class of 1999) and there is a really pleasant sci-fi air amongst all the silliness. The idea of the honour students morphing into an outlaw gang called The Cretins is intrinsically funny, and as Troma never exactly gave a shit about subtlety, all the bikers are called things like Spike. It’s a nice homage in a rip-roaring film.
Also, predictably for Troma, the following things all suck ass: The acting, the special effects, the direction and the score. However, although they are all below par, this was one of Troma’s gonzo efforts, so they are all enjoyable enough for what I’m watching. The thing about Troma is, and this is what nobody ever gets, if something is bad, it’s because they intend it to be so. That’s the whole fucking point and as a result, much of the enjoyment from watching Troma comes from watching terrible special effects fail to convince while actors look over their shoulder to see if the cops are going to arrest them for filming a naked woman running down a street without a permit. If you don’t find this fun, then don’t watch one- they are never going to be what could sneeringly be termed quality.
As already mentioned, there is always a sly intelligence at work. At it’s best Troma can pull some satire out of the bad, or some clever parody. In Class, they aim for surrealist absurdity, and as a result the set is decorated with clever faux-ironic ornaments such as the Have a nice day poster above. I really like this about them- it’s almost as much fun spotting them referencing other films (usually toxie) as it is watching the comedy on screen.
Another defining feature of Troma is that there is a serious above and beyond the call of duty dedication to gore, tits, and offensive behaviour. Like all the best Troma, Class has them in spades. There’s many a gratuitous boob sighting, and there’s gore aplenty to keep the kids interested. To be honest, I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t.
I’ve already said that the special effects suck ass- and they do with the exception of the monster. He’s great- a big, rubber, spiky man in suit with an attitude problem. He’s by far the best effect in the film. Better than the jelly that doubles as nuclear waste, or the wiggly leech things anyhow.
Also, although I’ve been rude about the acting, it isn’t all bad- Janelle Brady is a classic Troma heroine and plays her part well. I see she didn’t have much of a career after this, which is a bit of a shame as she’s got a certain charm and a certain presence that was somewhat surprising for this film.
Overall, this is a cracking film- it’s rowdy, riotous and raucous fun. Troma have made a lot of shit over the years, but when on song, nobody does it better. So would I recommend it? Unquestionably yes, and the only reason I haven’t given it more is that the sequels are actually better and if I did that, then I’d be in the ridiculous situation of having to give a Troma sequel 3.5 Changs.
Even I know that’s ludicrous.
Until next time,