REVIEW: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

classofnukeemhigh

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1986, Troma Team/TNT Co Limited

Directors:
Richard W. Haines
Lloyd Kaufman
Producers:
Lloyd Kaufman
Michael Herz
Writers:
Richard W. Haines
Lloyd Kaufman
Mark Rudnitsky
Stuart Strutin
Cinematography:
Michael Mayers
Editing:
Richard W. Haines

Cast:
Janelle Brady (Chrissy Murphy)
Gilbert Brenton (Warren Brant)
Robert Prichard (Spike)
R.L. Ryan (Mr. Haley)
James Nugent Vernon (Eddie Haskell)
Brad Dunker (Gonzo)
Gary Schneider (Pete)
Théo Cohen (Muffy)
Rick Howard (Spud)
Chris McNamee (Joe)
Anthony Ventola (George)
Mary Howard (Judy Hollings)
Heather McMahan (Taru)
Donald O’Toole (Principal Westly)

The cult success of The Toxic Avenger helped the Troma Team set a new standard in independent cinema. For this follow-up, we are taken to Tromaville High, where chaos is about to ensue.

Tromaville High School in New Jersey may seem like your typical American high school. However, there is just one little thing. The school is located only a quarter of a mile from the local nuclear power plant. When a pipe burst at the plant, the toxic chemicals have seeped into the water supply of the school, where a hapless nerd goes ballistic before committing suicide and melting. To make matters worse, the high school is run by a local gang called the Cretins, who were once the high school’s honor society but were affected by the radiation via marijuana that grows at the power plant.

When the Cretins decide to sell the enhanced marijuana, a high school couple, Warren and Chrissy, find themselves unwittingly smoking it at a college fraternity party. After the couple make love at the attic of the frat house, both Chrissy and Warren begin to go through some weird changes, from hallucinating to Warren mutating for a short time to a monster with super strength. However, the kicker comes when Chrissy finds herself pregnant with a mutant she spits up. While the monster is flushed in the basement and lands in a barrel of toxic waste, the Cretins are kicked out of school after a fight with Warren and plot to take over the school in anarchy. When they kidnap Chrissy, forcing Warren to go back to the school after a fake evacuation, something far worse awaits at Tromaville High School.

After a string of lower budgeted teen comedies, New York-based Troma finally scored big in the midnight circuit with The Toxic Avenger, about a nerd who after a prank falls in a barrel of toxic waste and becomes a monster with a heart of gold as he destroys evil doers. This gave the Troma Team the notion that maybe something insane yet good can come out of using toxic waste. Hence, before going ahead with a sequel to their trademark monster hero, they decided to make this film about what can happen if a high school is located near a nuclear power plant and the results are just as good as their heroic mutant.

The film takes no regrets is meshing high school comedies, anti-drug commercials, anarchy, and monster film. The innocent couple, Chrissy and Warren, are well played as so by Janelle Brady and Gilbert Brenton. Yes, they make a wrong decision and somewhat pay for their mistakes. However, they do find redemption in the third and final act of the film, but more on that shortly. The highlight of the film in terms of their actions are without a doubt, the Cretins, led by Spike, played by Robert Prichard, who played Spud, one of the bullies that caused the transformation of The Toxic Avenger. Brad Dunker is quite funny as Gonzo at times and Rick Howard’s Spud has perhaps two of the best lines in the entire film: “We are the youth of today” and when the principal’s secretary walks in on the gang beating up the principal, he asks, “Didn’t anyone ever tell you to knock before entering a room” before shooting with her a machine gun.

In an age where today, we are used to CGI effects, the effects in this film are that of the old school practical ones. They are great for this brand of indie filmmaking. The mutated Warren looks quite vicious with green waste coming out of his mouth and he nicely pulls off a shocking move in shoving his fist down the throat of a Cretin midway through the film. However, the piece de resistance comes in the third and final act when we see a monstrosity of a creature going crazy and well, you know where are going with this. Brian Quinn (who also plays the big monster) and Scott Coulter did a great job on the special effects of the film for this era.

Class of Nuke ‘Em High is definitely a cult classic from the Troma Team. A welcome meshing of high school comedy, anti-drug PSAs, anarchy, and monster films make this a fun and insane film to enjoy!

WFG RATING: A-

DVD/BLU-RAY

If you don’t want to wait, a few years ago, as an appreciation for fans for their 40th anniversary, Troma released a bunch of their movies to view on YouTube for free and this film is one of them. They even have an alternate edited for TV version that had extra scenes not seen in the theatrical release. Click on the links below to see the original version or the alternate cut.

Original version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYWOevwr-zw
Alternate Cut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzcEiEvnS80

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