Class of Nuke 'Em High
This could easily be a cover for Heavy Metal magazine
Troma Entertainment is an independent film production and distribution company most famous for the Toxic Avenger series of movies. Founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974, Troma is synonymous with hyper-violent, over-the-top, crude horror movies. While Toxic Avenger managed to break through into the mainstream with a Saturday morning cartoon, toys, and a Nintendo game, most horror fans know Troma for their endless list of gross or insane movies. The people who love Troma love it with a fiery passion. I am not one of those people. Troma gives many independent horror movies a chance to read a wider audience. To paraphrase the Al Pacino movie 'And Just for All', “In theory, what this company is doing is highly commendable, but in practice it sucks.” For every enjoyable Troma movie, there are about 50 that are borderline unwatchable. Two of the worst movies I've ever seen, Unspeakable and Dumpster Baby, come from Troma. Have you ever heard the term “scraping the bottom of the barrel”? Those two movies are below the bottom of the barrel. Thankfully I'm not focusing on movies that could be considered war crimes if they were shown in public. Today comes from the much smaller pile of Troma movies that are actually fun.
Class Of Nuke 'Em High (also known as Atomic High School) is a 1986 horror comedy movie written and directed by Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist). The movie stars Gil Brenton as Warren and Janelle Brady and Chrissy. Warren and Chrissy are students at Tromaville High School which is only 1 mile away from a nuclear power plant. The power plant is leaking toxic waste, which seeps into the ground, contaminating the area. The school is run by a gang of former Honor Society students turned gutter punks called The Cretins. The Cretins, led by Spike (Robert Pritchard, The Toxic Avenger, Cracking Up), are a violent group that beat people up and sell irradiated pot to the students of the school. At a frat party, Warren and Chrissy smoke the toxic pot and have sex for the first time. That night, both Warren and Chrissy have bizarre and disturbing hallucinations. The next day, Chrissy begins to have stomach pains and runs to the bathroom. Her stomach distends quickly as if she is pregnant and she spits a small, tadpole-like creature out of her mouth into a toilet. The creature is flushed down and ends up in the schools basement, which is full of toxic waste. Warren temporarily transforms into a super-strong monster and kills two of The Cretins for making him and Chrissy sick with their pot. Spike and the rest of The Cretins beat up Warren and are expelled from school. They take over the school and kidnap Chrissy to the basement. Warren goes to save her only to discover a large deformed monster brutally killing The Cretins. How will Warren and Chrissy survive?
Despite Troma's somewhat dubious track record, Class Of Nuke 'Em High is actually a very entertaining movie. The movie has a good mixture of action, violence, horror, and genuinely funny comedy that most modern movies can't even come close to. It's no secret that a lot of early Troma movies revolved around nuclear waste and toxic spills. After all, the fictional town of Tromaville is the “Toxic Capital of the World”. While the fear of nuclear disasters still exists, it's not as prevalent as it was during the 70's and 80's, so the movie does have a slightly dated feel. That's not completely a bad thing because the movie does spoof the typical 80's high school movies that flooded theaters at the time. The goofy party scene, the clothes, and the two main characters worrying about having sex for the first time are all satirized throughout the movie. While not every joke hits the mark, there is a good mix of physical comedy, commentary, puns, and jokes. Another standout is the special effects used throughout the movie. Class Of Nuke 'Em High was made for relatively cheap, but was still capable of using a wide variety of traditional special effects and makeup to create a visually fun movie. I wish they had shown the monster more because it looked great.
One issue with the movie is that it tends to jump around too much. A lot of things happen in a short amount of time. Granted, Class of Nuke 'Em High isn't Citizen Kane, but proper pacing and smoothing out some of the edges would have helped. Warren and Chrissy are the main characters, but the movie goes through extended periods without seeing either one of them. A lot of time was given to The Cretins, but I feel hard-pressed to complain because they were the most entertaining thing in the movie. Robert Pritchard is particularly great as Spike and really should have been in more movies. Lloyd Kaufman does a good job of balancing the humor, horror, and action throughout the entire movie, not an easy task with so much going on.
Prom Night at Tromaville High
Class Of Nuke 'Em High is one of better movies in the Troma library and for good reason. It's mixture of humor and violence, coupled with solid traditional horror makes for an entertaining and fun watch. The movie is genuinely funny and the action is solid. The special effects are great especially with the small budget used. Class Of Nuke 'Em High is a great example of how you don't need a big budget or even an amazing story to put on a solid movie. If you're interested in getting in Troma's movies, this is a great place to start. I can't defend so of their other “films,” but at least this one is good.