By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY – With a nuclear power-plant seeping toxic sludge into the veins of slapsticky nerds as they wage war against a gang of punky sadists, to describe Class of Nuke ‘Em High as anything but a subversive work of art would be a cardinal sin. Released in 1986, a historical time in which high school exploitation films swept the nation, Lloyd Kaufman’s brainchild is set apart by its meaningful message hidden by the outlandishly lavish chaos that erupts on screen. Placing hot coals to the feet of the American educational system was the goal since inception, and much of the reason why Kaufman called for a reboot of the franchise in 2013 with Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 (2013). Doused heavily enough in biting social commentary to warrant two films, Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2 (2017) is set to premiere in Calgary at The Globe on September 9.
“Young people are the people that change the world and they’re usually in high school, so I’m fascinated with that age group. Its the most interesting and certainly, in my opinion, the most important… and they’re the people that want to make the world a better place,” explains Kaufman of his favored age group to represent on film.
“When it comes to issues like toxic nuclear waste from back in 1983, I didn’t think it made sense to appeal to middle aged, bourgeois people. I wanted to appeal to young punks who might actually learn something from this very entertaining movie called The Toxic Avenger (1984)… and indeed, The Toxic Avenger has been a huge influence on everybody from the directors of Deadpool (2016) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA in both Canada and the US have used Toxic Avenger as a way to appeal to young people.”
Kaufman says social commentary is deeply and intentionally embedded throughout his filmography, and the Nuke ‘Em High series is no different.
“Class of Nuke ‘Em High is all about high schools and there’s lots of themes therein, especially in the United States where the junk food is being foisted on the high school students… We know about the bullying, we know about the fact that they learn nothing in the American educational system and that’s kind of what we’re dealing with here. It’s the satirical view of the horrors of the American educational system, and that is exactly the reason that we had this unpleasantness in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
Sadness envelops his voice.
“We’ve let the American educational system deteriorate… So that is kind of what interests me — get young American people to realize that they’ve been totally fucked over.”
Much of this message is overshadowed by Troma Film’s notoriety for bizarre scenes and cartoonish gore, making censorship a regularly faced issue.
“Serious blood, guts, dismemberment… Die Hard, that’s okay – but the Troma goofy cartoon violence is not okay… This is a thing called fascism, when they apply different rules to the elite and other rules for you. It’s fascism, and it’s on the rise in your country and mine.”
Social issues aside, Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2 is promised to continue and upscale the madness propagated in the first volume. Sure to pique the interest of Motörhead-bangers everywhere, Lemmy Kilmister returns as the President.
“We dedicated the movie to Lemmy and to Joe Fleishaker, who was our 500 pound action star.”
Fleishaker was a regular fixture in the Troma film universe, appearing in such films as Zombiegeddon (2003), Tromeo and Juliet (1996), and the second and third renditions of The Toxic Avenger. Both figures passed away within six months of each other.
In summation, if one were to look past the giant penis monsters and slimy green ooze dripping from every orifice in the Nuke ‘Em High films, a couple things become clear – We are the youth of today, and Lloyd Kaufman wants us to pay attention so we pave the way for our tomorrow.
Catch Return To Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2 September 9 at The Globe Cinema (Calgary).film, Return To Nuke 'Em High: Volume 2, The Globe Cinema