Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, 2013
Directed by Lloyd Kaufman
Starring Asta Paredes, Catherine Corcoran, Zac Amico, Vito Trigo, Babette Bombshell
In the opening ten minutes of Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, a man’s penis gets torn off, a naked woman melts down to a skeleton and an old guy uses the toilet next to them while reading a porn magazine. You only get this kind of entertainment from the good people at Troma folks.
While Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 is the fourth movie in the Class of Nuke ‘Em High series, it’s only the second entry to be directed by Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman who was not present for Class of Nuke ‘Em High Part 2: Subhumanoid Meltdown or Class of Nuke ‘Em High 3: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid which, many Troma fans will tell you, did not live up to the standards set by the first movie. So in many ways, Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 is the first “official” sequel to Class of Nuke ‘Em High – but it’s a totally different movie.
A long standing feeling within horror is that The Evil Dead is a serious horror movie with a some comedic elements, while it’s sequel Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn took less of a “horror” approach to focus on the comedy side of things. You had Bruce Campbell doing a lot of prat falls, there was gratuitous use of blood and a fight scene with a chopped off hand resulting in a Farewell to Arms pun. You can also take this approach with Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 as it shares a lot of these traits. Class of Nuke ‘Em High was a very tongue in cheek horror movie, but it was still a horror movie. Return to Nuke ‘Em High is more like Airplane! than anything else.
Right from the outset it’s clear that Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 is a wacky balls to the wall comedy. It never pulls its punches and it tries at every turn to get a laugh from its audience. It’s full of self referential jokes, self aware jokes, pop culture jabs, quirky cameos, sight gags, prat falls, puns and more fart jokes than your average Terrance & Phillip segment in South Park.
When the film works, it really hits the mark. There are some hilarious scenes in the movie and it’s filled with superb comedic performances. I was particularly fond of Clay Von Carlowitz’s Eugene who has some fantastic facials and dialogue delivery. His outburst when Chrissy (Asta Paredes) won’t sleep with him in the back of his car is outstanding. Paredes herself is also very likeable and funny as the sexually confused Chrissy who begins to fall for new “rich girl” Lauren (their names being a play on Chrissy and Warren from the original movie). Kaufman himself brings a lot of wacky vaudeville-style humour to the proceedings with perfect spoof precision that feels very Abrahams/Zucker. Anyone who has seen his recent appearance on the Angry Video Game Nerd will know just how wacky this man can be.
However, when the film fails it fails badly. As with any movie that is trying to make pop culture references to appeal to the “today crowd”, it is never always going to hit bullseye. Some jokes fall very flat and the overuse of the fart joke and can get a bit tiresome. There are some points in the film where they leave a pause for the audience to laugh but there isn’t really a noticeable joke that comes before it. Thankfully these moments are few and far between, but some do leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The movie has been split into two parts at the suggestion of Quentin Tarantino, himself a long time Troma fan. According to Kaufman, Tarantino figured that by splitting the movie into two films (like he did with Kill Bill), it will attract more public attention. A fine suggestion in theory, but I’m not sure anyone outside of the Troma fanbase is really going to take a lot away from Return to Nuke ‘Em High. There is a chance that Troma movies have fallen under the radar of many film goers and this could bring in a ‘new generation’ of fans, but I get the feeling that the comedy in Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 might be a touch too “out there” for a general cinema viewer.
And this is actually the other problem I had with the film, unlike Kill Bill or Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, there isn’t really an ending to the movie to set it up for the second volume. It just gets to a certain point and then stops. There’s no big angle to lead to the credits, it just cuts to black with a “to be continued” title card. There are some unanswered questions and it will be fun to see the second half of the story, but I’d question if there is enough to warrant a second volume. Just like the aforementioned “two parters”, I wouldn’t be surprised if Return to Nuke ‘Em High would also work better as just one film.
But aside from some minor negativity, I really enjoyed Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1. It’s beyond silly, but it’s very, very funny. Troma fans will get a massive kick out of the movie and there are a lot of good references to The Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman for the hardcore fanbase. When the jokes work the film is a riot and the cast do a phenomenal job in all of their roles. I have some reservations about the film, but overall it’s a lot of fun.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Month in Review show for Flickering Myth’s Podcast Network. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.