Troma Review – Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

Class of Nuke ‘Em High, 1986.

Directed by Richard W. Haines and Lloyd Kaufman.
Starring Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard and R.L. Ryan.


The students of Tromaville High School find themselves mutating into freaks after buying drugs contaminated by the toxic waste plant.

When Troma weren’t distributing movies, they were making them and while they will always best known for The Toxic Avenger, the second most popular one from their back catalogue is the schlock horror comedy, Class of Nuke ‘Em High.

In a lot of ways, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a like an unofficial sequel to The Toxic Avenger as it deals with similar issues and in a similar style. Tromaville High School is situated next to a toxic waste factory that spills out into the school and poisons the minds of its students. The worst of which are former ‘smart kids’ – now tribal delinquents known as The Cretins – who go around bullying the other kids and selling them a drug they found near the factory which they call an ‘Atomic High’. One such set of kids who get this drug are our heroes Warren and Chrissy and the drug does drastic things to the pair, including Waren becoming a Toxic Avenger-lite powerhouse and Chrissy getting pregnant with a tadpole-like creature which escapes into the school water system.

So yeah, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a really odd movie. But, like The Toxic Avenger, it’s odd in an utterly brilliant way. The acting is so horrendously bad and the dialogue is so stifled but the on-set effects and set pieces are so wacky and entertaining that the film can’t fail to bring a huge smile to your face. Everything about the movie is creative, fun to watch and highly entertaining.

If I was to give the film some form of criticism, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is basically the same movie as The Toxic Avenger. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as both films are excellent but it does feel at times as though we’re treading the same water as before. Although I do feel that I am doing Class of Nuke ‘Em High a disservice by comparing it to its older brother, as the film can stand quite easily on its own without its Toxic Avenger shadow. In many ways, the film is actually a lot better.

For starters, the pacing of the film is very good and the story is told very well. Action beats are hit perfectly and the comedic timing is on point. The really wacky visuals the film gives are at times mind bending and you will need a strong stomach to get through it. Warren’s ‘Atomic Erection’ will stay with you for some time, I can guarantee you that. Secondly the characters, while clichéd to the nth degree, are actually quite engaging and easy to get along with. Gil Brenton is a fine lead with Janelle Brady as his slightly dopey lady and the delinquent group of bad guys are very good antagonists.

In 2010, Lloyd Kaufman announced that there is a PG-13 remake of Class of Nuke ‘Em High is in the works. Personally, I don’t see this working especially in a PG-13 environment. The film isn’t sold on the characters or story (though excellent) – it’s sold on its ridiculous and over-the-top gore and effects. Without those, Class of Nuke ‘Em High would fall pretty flat and be nothing but an above average affair.

There will always be the argument that, like most Troma films, time has not been kind to Class of Nuke ‘Em High, but when you have some decent characters, entertaining action scenes and superb on-set special effects you can’t really go wrong with it. If you can look past how horrible the film looks, you will have a great time watching Class of Nuke ‘Em High. Of the three Troma films released today, this would be the one I’d recommend picking up.

Oh, and the theme song rules.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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