Return to Nuke 'Em High, Vol. 1
it takes no particular work or talent to make a bad movie, it is quite
difficult to make a good bad movie. And it is even that much
harder to make an intentionally bad good bad movie.
ask Roger Corman, undoubtedly the greatest name in B-movie making, creator
of American International Pictures and maker of the dozens of low-budget
cheesy films throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s. His body of work
includes such eccentric titles as The Raven, Little Shop of Horrors,
Swamp Women, Death Race 2000 and The Terror. But even his
most beloved films got marginal reviews at best, and the great majority of
his dozens of films were widely considered to be junk.
back in the 70s, some filmmakers tried to make a couple of winkingly bad
films called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (and its sequel Return
of the Killer Tomatoes, which did include an early bit part by George
Clooney). Unfortunately, it became obvious quickly that just because
the filmmakers knew that they were making was bad, that did not
automatically give it ironic distance. Sometimes bad is just bad, no
matter how tongue-in-cheekly it was offered up.
80s, a low-brow indie studio called Troma decided to specialize in smirkily
bad flicks, complete with lots of violence, nudity, nuclear waste, mutants
and teen angst. And while it is debatable whether or not they have
uncovered the sweet spot where cheesiness becomes sublime, Troma came as
close as any company has to getting a reputation for creating quality trash.
The Toxic Avenger and
Class of Nuke 'Em High gained minor cult followings. But as the
video world exploded and more and more cheesy indie films crowded the lower
reaches of the video racks, Troma sort of faded away. They have made
four films since the mid-'90s, the most recent the 2010 horror Father's
Day, a companion piece to an older Troma title, Mother's Day.
Basically straight-to-video cheapies like
Troma mastermind Lloyd Kaufman (yes, I realize that is a contradiction of
terms) has recently decided to go back to Troma's roots. A remake of
Toxic Avenger (rated PG-13!) is in the works, and this sequel revisits
the studio's Nuke 'Em High franchise.
In fact, apparently Kaufman was talked into turning it into a two-part film,
sort of like Kill Bill, by that movie's creator, Quentin Tarantino.
Lloyd should have stuck with one movie. In fact, maybe one is too
mean, you have to appreciate a movie that is so eccentric that its cast
includes Marvel Comics' founder Stan Lee, Motorhead leader Lemmy, 30 Rock
oddball Judah Friedlander and the wonderfully-named large-transvestite actor
Babette Bombshell. I just wish the script was close to as clever and
imaginative as its casting choices.
does touch on all of Troma's pet obsessions. Pus is important.
Mutants are too. Outsiders are always welcome. Senseless
violence rules the day. Boobs are vital.
these touchstones are hit upon in Return to Nuke 'Em High. But
this film also has something that no Troma product ever really had
previously. It takes itself kind of seriously, as a piece of... well,
art... Lloyd Kaufman has been reading his press clippings and suddenly
decided that his film work is not just supposed to be well-intentioned
trash, it is actually something of artistic merit.
perhaps in some ways that is even true. There are low arts as well as
high arts and each has their own completely valid place in the world.
Pop art is just as important as the old masters in its own way.
However pop art has to understand its station. Andy Warhol and the
creators of Superman understood that. Even Lloyd Kaufman did in
creating his empire. But it looks like he has forgotten and started to
take himself and his movie way too seriously.
film, and the audience, suffer the consequences. Return to Nuke 'Em
High feels like someone trying to figure out how to make a Troma film
that just doesn't quite understand what makes them good, or even popular.
It's a shame that Kaufman has forgotten what he originally brought to the
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All rights reserved. Posted: March 9, 2014.