The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

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In the late 90s/early 2000s my buddy and I were on a Troma kick, and this one was swept into that net.  Not long after, in the early days of DVD, Troma's website had a massive sale, and I got this new for only $5.  Not to give this review away in the first paragraph, but as you can imagine it's a prodigious part of my collection.  Also, our friend Fred at Full Moon Reviews did this one too, so you can go there to check out what he thinks (and see my comment on the post where I lament how long it had been since I'd seen this movie!).

Class of Nuke 'Em High is a Troma joint about a high school that is very close to a poorly run nuclear power plant.  That leads to some very bad side effects, including the transformation of the honor society into a vicious drug dealing gang that's terrorizing the school.  When they sell a joint made with atomic weed to the friend of the school's most popular couple, Chrissy and Warren, and Chrissy and Warren are coerced by said friend into smoking it, all hell breaks loose.  Warren and Chrissy have sex, and she ends up giving birth to an atomic hell beast, at the same time more nuclear waste is infesting the school, and the principal expels the gang, who now want revenge.  All of these things are on a collision course to wackiness!

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This is pretty fantastic.  I'd put it up there as far as Troma films go with The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, and Surf Nazis Must Die.  It has the great humor, the great social commentary, and the great gore you want from Troma.  It also had fantastic music, including a performance by the Smithereens.  Now, 27 years later, it has the added bonus of the nostalgia factor, which wasn't really as much in play when we first saw it in the 90s.  What's funny though, is how much of it is still relevant today too.  The horrible tragedy in West, Texas is a deadly reminder of what big corporations dealing in hazardous material can do when worrying more about the bottom line than the people who live in the communities nearby.  It's as if in 27 years the problems of corporate greed and pollution have gotten worse, which means, beyond the fact that the state of modern horror is abysmal and we need Lloyd Kaufman now more than ever to save us there, we also need his brand of political commentary to keep fighting the good fight.

The thing we expect from Troma above everything else is over the top gore, and I think this delivers.  It's not quite Toxie, but it's not afraid to gross you out.  Then, when we get to the ridiculous ending with the nuclear hell beast, the film has build up such a large reservoir of fist pumps, that we'll accept anything at that point, and the hell beast feels like the film's logical conclusion.  It's perfect for a bad movie night selection, because it has no lulls, there's a constant source of stimulus, but then it delivers that fantastic ending that gets everyone to the credits happy and either glad they got together for bad movie night, or excited to take a quick break and see what the next film has in store.  This is where the I think a lot of modern horror movies miss the mark.  It's like they're pandering to the faux-horror aficionado who watches these films on his/her own and tries to wax intellectual about their minutiae, while forgetting about everyone else who loves this kind of thing too.  Kaufman and Troma make the movie we want, the big group picture that we can all have fun with, and it's refreshing to watch.

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The Smithereens make an appearance in this movie, meaning this is the second film we've had here that's featured them, the other being the Albert Pyun film Dangerously Close.  Both films came out in 1986 too, which is interesting.  We think of progressive or alternative rock in the modern context as this thing that's always been there, especially post Seattle and the early 90s, and we think of it in that manifestation; but in 1986, 120 Minutes was still a fringe show, and bands like The Smithereens were moving the movement into something resembling the mainstream.  To some degree now, that late-80s era of progressive rock has been swallowed up by the later movements of the 90s, which is too bad, because The Smithereens remind us that there was a lot of good music in that pre-90s scene.

The late, great Pat Ryan plays the nuclear power plant manager, and he's as sleazy as ever.  What a great character actor he was, and it's a shame he only had 9 credits before he passed away at only 44 years old.  What's great about him in a film like this, is that he's a definite baddie, but he manages to play it both over the top and realistic at the same time.  Like, it's kind of absurd the way he talks about covering up waste spills, but you can also see as he does it how, say, a BP oil exec might do similar damage control after the massive Gulf Oil Spill.  He was perfect for Kaufman and Troma's brand of comedic social commentary.  Here's to you Pat Ryan, you were one of the great ones.

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Finally, you might notice a container of Popeye's Chicken on the table that the girls are eating at.  You may also know from having rocked with the DTVC for some time that I am a Boston Red Sox fan, and as a Red Sox fan, Popeye's Chicken will always have a special place in our team's history.  There is a Popeye's Chicken right up the street from Fenway Park, you pass it on the way there from the Kenmore T-stop, and this Popeye's Chicken played a key role in what was the biggest tank job in the history of baseball.  The Red Sox were in first place by ten games on September 1 of 2011, and in that last month of the season they only won 7 games, and were caught by both the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, missing the playoffs entirely by losing on the last game of the season.  In the aftermath, it came out that the starting pitchers were partaking in beer and fried chicken from, you guessed it, Popeye's, from which they became overweight and pitched poorly, contributing to the team's collapse.  I haven't been to the infamous Popeye's, but the word on the street is that former Sox pitcher Josh Beckett has his picture on the wall.

All right, enough baseball, let's wrap this up.  I have it on an old DVD, which is a great way to go.  You could also do used VHS if you were so inclined.  As of this posting though it's also on Watch Instantly, making that an easy choice.  A definite watch for Troma fans and anyone looking for a great bad movie night choice.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090849/

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