For fans of the ferociously alternative output of legendary indie studio Troma, the wait for the second half of their unnecessarily epic Class Of Nuke ‘Em High reboot seemed to be never ending. While Volume 1 surfaced in 2013, Troma-holics had to wait until 2017 to see the completed enterprise and even then, the quality of of the movie would probably be admittedly hit and miss.
Still, after finally being finished and running the gauntlet of numerous film festivals, Return To Return To Nuke ‘Em High (Aka. Volume 2), was finally released – or should that be, escaped – to the public…. sort of.
So, was a wait of four years to find out the punchlines of various silly jokes and more random nudity worth it?
Well… that’s something of a loaded question.
To round up the chaotic happenstances of Volume 1 is going to be something of an extensive task, do here’s the cliff notes: corrupt organic snack food business Tromorganic Foodsuffs Inc., led by its evil boss Lee Harvey Herzkauf, has been supplying the kids of Tromaville High contaminated tacos that have turned the Glee Club into a violent, mutant gang called the Cretins. Meanwhile, lesbian couple Lauren and Chrissy struggle to keep their relationship a secret from the homophobic townsfolk while the after effects of an assault using a radioactive duck have them strange and R-rated powers.
We rejoin the world of Nuke ‘Em High as Lauren undergoes yet another violent physical change and the result is a sudden violent, green, acidic period that decimates all the other girls sharing the school showers with her in a gooey parody of DePalmer’s Carrie and in the aftermath she goes on to give birth to a half-human, half-duck mutant whom she and Chrissy intend to raise.
Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Herzkauf’s insidious plan is finally revealed when we find out that he’s been selling contaminated tacos to students in order to harvest them to smell their farts and become immortal (I said it was insidious, I didn’t say it made sense) and this apparent Fart-tain of youth means he has surprising ties to the original movie. Elsewhere, Lauren’s lost pet, Kevin The Wonder Duck wanders into Tromorganic Foodstuffs Inc., finds his way into a barrel of chemical waste and is promptly mutated into a hulking, humanoid fowl-monster that makes his way back to the school for some violent packback against the Cretins. Finally, speaking of the Cretins, after amassing an army of like-minded maniacs with beef scented nerd Zack among them, the deranged ex-Glee club launch an assault on the school while singing songs strictly in the public domain. Will anyone survive the chaos? Fuck that, how about will any of it make sense?
After a belated rewatch of Volume 1 revealed it to be a bunch of stupid fun, I was actually looking forward to finally finishing Lloyd Kaufman’s ludicrous opus, but I have to say that Volume 2 is the noticably inferior of the two. I’m not going to make a lunge at the obvious, low hanging fruit either: Troma movies have a particular style of acting, direction and effects that make any criticism as valid as complaining that the ocean is too wet.
However, even by their maniacal standards, Return To Return To Nuke ‘Em High (Aka. Volume 2) succumbs to an utter lack of self restraint that make large clumps of it as irritating as toddler who won’t stop screaming a new dirty word they’ve learnt at three in the morning. For example, take the new, unending cutaways to breakfast show Talking Tromaville which commit the cardinal sin of being shockingly unfunny in its attempts to cram as much subtle-as-a-sledgehammer spoofing as it can down your yawning throats. It curiously also ditches a lot of the characters seen in Volume 1, with the Cretins and Chrissy’s ex-boyfriend Eugene “the machine” barely utilised at all despite their earlier prominence but worst yet, unless you watch Volume 1 directly before watching the next installment, precious little of the bloody thing makes any sense at all.
But amid some distractingly bad CGI and some trips into uber-bad taste that fall awkwardly flat, the old Troma magic sometimes still shines through with the two leads continuing to be appealing and the frenzied bloodletting still bringing the chuckles.
The climactic bloodbath is good value for money with gore and jokes galore (“Tell my story!” screams a dying victim, “But leave out the part where I shit my pants!”) and the movie takes its meta humor to new heights when the film itself pauses to show Lloyd Kaufman, his editor and his actual wife having a domestic about whether to include a scene where someone ejactulates in a monster’s eye. Elsewhere, the movie audaciously rewrites Nuke ‘Em High continuity when it reveals that villain Herzkauf (played by Uncle Lloyd himself) is actually the first movie’s hero Warrren who’s gone insane. How does the movie get around this ludicrous plot twist? By replaying scenes from the first movie with Kaufman’s head crudely CGI-ed over the original actor’s, of course!
It’s moments like these that remind you of the weirdly warm family atmosphere that Troma has during it’s better moments and footage of fans spliced directly into the story, or the credits sequence that shows the cast (plus the Toxic Avenger and Sgt Kabukiman) dancing in a flash mob to the theme tune are genuinely sweet – plus, for extra suprisingly poignancy, the movie is dedicated to Lemmy from Motörhead (who plays the President) and frequent Troma actor Joe Fleishaker who both passed in the years between volumes.
Still, despite the occasional belly laugh, acres of full frontal nudity (both male and female) and rivers of gleeful, homemade gore, Return To Return To Nuke ‘Em High (Aka. Volume 2) is a disappointing chore that ultimately wasn’t really worth the wait.
Troma-atic for all the wrong reasons.