If you’re a horror fan or B-movie lover and came of age in the 80s, you’re likely at least familiar with Troma Entertainment. The brainchild of Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma movies mix ‘shock’ and ‘schlock’ on paper thin budgets. This is the studio that gave us The Toxic Avenger and Surf Nazis Must Die. And it’s where Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn got his start. After The Toxic Avenger series, Troma’s next best known property is Class of Nuke ‘Em High. Though it’s pretty representatively of Troma movies, Class of Nuke ‘Em High hasn’t endeared itself to filmgoers quite like The Toxic Avenger. But is it a bad movie or is it ‘so bad, it’s good’?
For years Tromaville High School has welcomed students just a stone’s throw away from the nuclear power plant in Tromaville. Despite the plant owner’s insistence that the facility is safe, nuclear waste runoff has slowly infected the students, turning the honor society into a ruthless gang, ‘The Cretins”. When The Cretins start selling radioactive marijuana grown on plant property, the ‘atomic weed’ instantly mutates some students. Now there’s something more dangerous in the school halls than the psychopathic gang members.
Class of Nuke ‘Em High Revels in an Intentionally Crude, Juvenile Schlock
If there’s a noticeable difference between Troma’s two most well-known movies it’s that The Toxic Avenger has a bit of a sweet disposition. That movie’s nuclear waste-infused superhero, Toxie, is almost endearing. Comparatively, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a crude, silly, and often nasty movie. Whether one considers it mean-spirited will depend on whether you take it seriously or not. But the movie certainly doesn’t take itself seriously. Everything about it is cheap and stupid. Some of the props (or a lot of them) look like they’re made from cardboard. its story is pure nonsense that’s really just an excuse to put up a lot of sex and violence on the screen.
Troma liberally mixes bits of science fiction, horror, and teen sex romp into an intentionally ridiculous movie that includes a toxic monster.
And like any 70s and 80s exploitation, Class of Nuke ‘Em High has plenty of both. Look for lots of random nudity, sexualized teens (who look like they’re in their late twenties), and characters vomiting up green toxic waste. Troma liberally mixes bits of science fiction, horror, and teen sex romp into an intentionally ridiculous movie that includes a toxic monster. For a micro-budgeted movie, however, the monster effects actually aren’t as bad as you’d expect. Nonetheless, the movie’s cartoonish representation of teen rebellion makes Class of 1984 look like a documentary. Still that punk rock soundtrack, which includes The Smithereens, is no joke.
Class of Nuke ‘Em High is an Equal Opportunity Offender
Don’t expect to recognize any of the cast members of Class of Nuke ‘Em High. Unless you’re a diehard Troma Entertainment fan, Kaufman typically worked with low-budget character actors or complete amateurs. There’s Pat Ryan who popped up in exploitation movies like Fighting Back and Troma favourite The Toxic Avenger. And that’s about it. Not surprisingly then, the acting ranges from wooden to wildly over-the-top. Of course, like the rest of Class of Nuke ‘Em High, this is entirely by design. Most importantly, the amateurish performances are part of the B-movie’s charm.
And it’s hard to imagine anyone remaking any Troma movie without excising just about everything but the premise.
Every once in a while, rumors pop up about a Toxic Avenger movie. Several years ago Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, St. Agatha, Death of Me, Spiral: From the Book of Saw) actually did a straight remake of another Troma release, Mother’s Day. And it’s hard to imagine anyone remaking any Troma movie without excising just about everything but the premise. Like every Troma release, Class of Nuke ‘Em High fills itself with offensive characters in addition to the imagery discussed above. Some of the movie’s story takes aim at authority figures casting most adults as complete idiots. But Class of Nuke ‘Em High is an equal opportunity offenders. Misogyny, racial caricatures, and transgenderism represent just a handful of the excessively crude representations you’ll find on the screen.
Class of Nuke’ Em High Is Exactly What You’d Expect
If there really is such a thing as ‘review proof’ than Class of Nuke ‘Em High comes about as close as any movie. Either you get Troma or you absolutely hate it. No one’s going to fall in the middle. And this is a quintessential Troma movie. This is Grade-Z schlock designed to offend everyone equally. The audience market for this one is going to be narrow. And most horror fans born after 1990 will probably want to avoid it. But fans of ultra-low budget, intentionally dumb ‘bad movies’ won’t find a better example of that niche market than Class of Nuke ‘Em High.