Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma team returns to the long running horror comedy franchise that could only have come from the 80s! 2013’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 1 was all the reason to rewatch the entire series.
CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH (1986)
After checking out Class of Nuke ‘Em High for the first time in decades, I can definitely say this is by far my all-time favorite Troma film. It has some of Troma’s signature tasteless elements, but it’s actually a much more mainstream comedy/horror creature feature than I expected, taking the fun of 80s teen films and blending it with over-the-top, direct-to-VHS horror sensibilities.
When the Tromaville nuclear plant starts to leak, it gets into the water at Tromaville High School—and into some pot the kids smoke! They start to act different and change. Heck. An entire gang of high school nerds becomes these hunky punky freaks (one guy even has pointy tits 4 years before Madonna).
Yes, the 80s looks are totally out of hand. It’s incredible. I never wanted to stop watching this movie for that reason alone. But that’s just icing. There’s an indoor beach party with topless chicks and guys in speedos.
Faces bubble and ooze, bodies stretch and morph.
There’s a motorcycle chase through the halls of the school. A chick spits up a little black sperm critter with teeth. And an incredible, giant slime monster comes out of a bucket of chemical waste.
On top of that, Class of Nuke ‘Em High has probably the best power rock soundtrack of the 80s. Many of the songs seem to have been recorded specifically for the movie by Michael Lattanzi, but some of my other favorite tracks include the rocker “Run for Your Life” (used extensively in the film) by super group Stratus (members of Iron Maiden, Praying Mantis, Uriah Heep, Alcatrazz)….
And “Angel” by GMT (members of Motorhead)…
Seriously, Troma has never looked or sounded so good. It’s like they blew the company’s entire budget (for life) on this film.
CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH PART II: SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN (1991)
Troma was knee deep in turning out low-budget shit when Class of Nuke ‘Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown was released. The timing couldn’t have been better, since the syndrome of crap 90s sequels to awesome 80s franchises was in full swing.
Part II may as well have been called Class of Nuke ‘Em Tech School so the title would suck as much as the movie. It takes place at Tromaville tech school, where everyone has learned to live in a radioactive environment. Clothes are virtually optional because of limited locker room space (brilliant writing), and yet it’s pretty much only the women who show any flesh.
The bright side is that huge, hulking star Brick Bronsky (love that name) sports a pink tank top, white shorts, and a Tony Little ponytail. The down side is everything else.
There’s another punk gang. There’s a morbidly obese dude who runs around in just a leather vest and shorts.
There’s a baby toss. There are “subhumanoids” with mouths on their bellies. They melt down into little floating blobs that look like slimey Critters.
There’s also a mad scientist with a B-52’s beehive and she’s been splicing chromosomes to make (stop-motion) human/animal hybrids. This plot goes absolutely nowhere but does add to the ridiculous scenes that make this film drag. And finally, we get a Godzilla-sized mutant rat that steps on action figures. Yeah. I guess I would have found all the scripted stupidity fun if I hadn’t seen the amazing first film.
To top it all off, the Toxic Avenger has a cameo in a scene that pokes fun at him walking onto the wrong set while they’re making a sequel to Class of Nuke ‘Em High. I’d complain that the scene took me out of the movie…eh, fuck it. No I wouldn’t.
CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH 3
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SUBHUMANOID (1994)
The title says it all. The good news is, Class of Nuke ‘Em High 3: the Good, the Bad, and the Subhumanoid, picks up right where the second one left off and pretty quickly does away with the giant mutant rat for good.
That doesn’t make it a better movie, but after suffering through Part II and knowing there was no chance Kaufman would return to the brilliance of the original (yes, I called a Troma film brilliant), I was pretty prepared for this piece of garbage in which the characters constantly mention the events of Part II by noting that it’s only a movie: “Well, after what happened in Class of Nuke ‘Em High Part II….” Yeah. That sort of thing. Overkill.
A new power plant has been built and the tech school is inside it. Ron Jeremy has a brief cameo as a teacher. Brick Bronsky is back playing three roles—the character from the last movie…and his two twin sons. Again, he’s the highlight in all his beefcake.
Brick had a baby with his subhumanoid lady, who died in birth. Little does Brick know, but she had twins and the beehive scientist stole one…and raised him as evil. Dark, evil Brick is leather daddy hot.
The beehive scientist has made more human/animal mutants, and after a whole lot of nothing happening in the movie, they set out with evil Brick to cause havoc in Tromaville…so good Brick will get the blame. The movie feels like it’s never going to end and Kaufman is in true form, relying heavily on farting noises as “humor” for no good reason. And since fat is funny, the obese punk from Part II has been switched out for his corpulent “brother.”
And finally, the Toxic Avenger once again walks in front of the camera and is told that he’s on the wrong movie set. Nothing new here.
RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOLUME 1 (2013)
20 years later, Kaufman takes us back to Nuke ‘Em High. As if that isn’t a bold move, he made this the first of TWO new movies. Seriously, Volume 1 ends with a cliffhanger and a “to be continued….”. I would say “What the hell was he thinking” but then I realized that he was thinking that dweebs like me will go out and buy both of them even if the first part sux because I already have all the others in the series.
Return to Nuke “Em High, Volume 1 is the epitome of Troma’s “make an intentionally crappy movie” philosophy—you know, the kind of thought process that has SyFy coming out with one terrible movie after another.
Classic bad movies are good because the filmmakers put their heart into making them. Is making bad movies on purpose an art form? It seems pretty templated. Have everyone farting at random times? Check. A fat guy jiggling his rolls? Check. Gross outs like slime, goo, ooze, and penises melting off? Check. Both male and female self-pleasuring scenes? Check. Hot lesbian sex? Check.
Okay. The lesbian angle is probably the best part of the movie. Indeed, the two leading ladies in this flick become a couple. The high school bad girl and the new girl start off as enemies, but once they get together, it’s hot times. And their sex scene is pretty erotic if you overlook the typical Troma ick-factor moments.
Honestly, the cast of kids in Return to Nuke ‘Em High is great. Attractive, funny, and good actors. I’d love to see them go on to some good teen horror films. In Return to Nuke ‘Em High, they don’t do much of anything for a majority of the running time.
The nuclear plant is gone and an organic food company has been built there. It supplies the high school with glowing green tacos for lunch. The glee club kids turn into the punk gang this time around. The girls mutate as well after falling in love and having sex. And then the movie ends.
Lloyd Kaufman again sticks his boyfriend into the film (see photo above—I knew Lloyd was a bottom), there are endless new millennium references kids these days will understand, the male and female gym teachers watch their students shower (Debbie Rochon makes an awesome punk rock butch gym coach), there’s a chick with a dick who really confuses a teenage boy’s libido, and the bad girl lesbian grows a giant penis. Really, it all sounds better than it is.
Can’t wait for Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Volume II. And you know I’m going to slap my thoughts about that shit right here instead of giving it its own blog….