What’s going on at Nuke Em High? Jesus Christ, that’s what I’d like to know…
It’s been awhile. I left to chase the comic book dragon for a couple of years and at least for now I have an immense burning desire to return to celebrating horror. (Technically reviewing them) Since I’ve been away there have been a lot of comings and goings in the horror movie industry but, considering that this is a return for me I want to talk a little about Return to Nuke Em High Vol 1. Like me, it’s an instalment to a franchise that hasn’t seen life in about twenty years. Well I haven’t been away that long but it sure feels like it. Let’s go!
Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol 1 is as the name suggests. It’s not only a return to the Troma franchise Class of Nuke Em High from 1986 it’s also the first part of a two part movie. Apparently Quentin Tarantino told Director and co-founder of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman to split up the film in to two parts like Kill Bill. The Film Stars Asta Paredes and Catherin Corcoran.
The film opens with narration (provided by Stan Lee) that breezes us past the last three movies general plot which is; a high school in Tromaville that’s built next to a nuclear power plant. We’re then told that Nuclear activism is passé so instead the plant is demolished and replaced by Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. They are evil and power hungry. So much so that they end up feeding toxic Taco’s to the student body. The foodstuffs still contain the very same toxins from the nuclear plant and well…they mutate the kids in to Cretins. Cretins are essentially evil 80’s punk-rockers.
Troma films have their own brand of humour, violence and sensibility that make them wholly unique as a company’s brand but not on an individual level. What I mean by that is that this film will feel very familiar to Troma fans. Viewers unfamiliar with the company will be taken aback by the amount of nudity and violence in it. It goes for it in a big way. Duck-Rape, melting bodies, giant mutated dicks the works.
Casual people may dismiss it as crass and cheap entertainment but there are moments where this movie’s humour is brilliant. By calling attention to absurd plot points or the narrative structure it generates genuine laughs that won’t make you feel too immature for going along with. I liked all of the casting in this movie. From the leads to the minor characters, everyone seemed very game with the material. Also, the amount of cameos in this thing is ridiculous, most of them friends of Lloyds and independent films who took one afternoon out to do minor scenes. Christ, some of them could have been filmed at any time.
The weaker moments in the film are honestly hard to really pin-point. The frantic script is something of a patchwork. For all of the diologue that’s fast, slick and genuinely funny there are just as many moments that are dumb and cliché. Three official hands passed over it; Travis Campbell, Derek Dressler and Aaron Hamel. If that wasn’t enough there was added material by Lloyd Kaufmen and Casey Clapp.
Kaufman’s hand in direction and “added material” are very apparent. He’s a man who does a lot of interviews so if you follow him as many fans do you can tell he let’s his opinions and humour speak through many of his characters. I Honestly believe I can pick out any line he wrote himself. Mainly jokes involving Obama care, Justin Beiber and Miley Cirus. These Jokes come off as lazy and will do nothing but serve to lock the film within the timeframe it was made. They also poke fun at kids obsession with cell phones and instagram. In a word. Snore. It seems very much like the franchise that started in 1986 was still trying to exist there with a few pop cultural jokes to make it current but oddly comes off as anachronistic Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but they were eye rolling as oppose to laugh inducing. There are ways to do that kind of humour beyond the joke itself being saying that Justin Bieber exists.
The special effects are fantastic which I’ve come to expect from this company. People die in gooey gruesome and outrageous fashion. Myself being a fan of Japanese Grindhouse, the giant mutated dicks and breast milk didn’t phase me but the uninitiated might be shocked. The apathy of the characters towards the copious amounts of sex and violence in the movie is oddly charming.
The biggest problem this film has is the ending. While, I realize it’s meant to be cut up in to two pieces I think it could have been cut up better. I’ve taken some time to consider the plot and have come to realize that the reason I disliked the ending is because it doesn’t have one. If we take, for example, Kill Bill which was also one movie cut in two, both parts still adhere to a basic three act structure. This film however, doesn’t really have a climax. Nor does it really have a cliff-hanger. It just sort of ends. Considering this film has a very sparse eighty minute run time I think they could have goosed up the material and maybe brought this film to a satisfying conclusion or even just set it up so you’re excited for the next one. People on the fence with this movie will not be compelled to seek out the next one at all.is a shame because there is some great stuff here.
Return to Nuke’em High is a really fun movie and comes within striking distance of being as good as the original but I honestly believe breaking it up in to two movies was a huge mistake. We’ll have to see how Vol 2 plays out but until it does I don’t recommend bothering with Vol 1 until you can view both films together.