Starring Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Roddy McDowall, Stefan Arngrim, and a barely pubescent Michael J. Fox
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
“We are the future. We are the future. We are the future,” snarls the leader of a truly fucked up band of kids into their new teacher’s ear. Class of 1984 is one of those cult classic films that simply defies any attempt at categorization. More thriller than straight horror film, like a lot of movies coming from overseas such as Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Class comes to rest right on the fringe of the genre we hold so dear. It’s got sex, psychos, vintage punk rock, and enough evil teenagers in tight-fitting clothing to make even the cowboys of Brokeback Mountain blush. Journey with me back to a much simpler time. A time when the violence we see in the news every day would have been thought impossible. Fire up the old flux capacitor, kids; we’re headin’ back to the early Eighties, and even a barely legal Michael J. Fox is along for the ride!
The time, 1984. The place, Lincoln High School. Music teacher Andrew Norris (no relation to Chuck, though almost as badass) is about to have his first day of class. Things are a bit amiss though. Facing this new breed of school kid is not what he expected, and from the second he sees the students passing through the metal detectors at the front door of the high school, he knows this is not going to be a normal semester. The teachers of Lincoln High all have one thing in common: They’re scared shitless of the students. Some cower at their approach, and some take comfort in the fact that should things get out of hand, they’re packing heat in their briefcases. Thankfully for all of us, there are teachers out there that do their jobs to try and make a difference. Norris is that caliber of teacher, but some of his more violent students aren’t having any of his meddling. Their mindset is simple: Either comply or get steam rolled. Wills and tempers clash, and it isn’t long before things boil over into a violent all-out war. Class of 1984 is a very dark ride.
Filmed in 1982 before real life horrific events like Columbine, Class of 1984 almost plays like a warning. Society is starting to spiral out of control, and our children are the ones at risk. Back then the thought of school violence was simply unthinkable. These were just kids, right? What harm could they do? Murder? Never happen. Fast forward a few years and lord knows how much bloodshed later, and it’s clear that maybe this movie shouldn’t have been dismissed as just a gratuitously violent little film. It was mired in a bit of controversy upon its release for showing teenagers committing some truly soulless acts, but again, popular perception was that this could never happen. You may think I’m digging a little too deep here, but Class of 1984 is riddled with political and social statements that still ring true today. Despite its underlying messages, the film never gets too heavy -handed and still remains a brisk and fun-filled (i.e., watching a student’s arm get sawed off in wood shop) trip.
Anchor Bay prides itself on delivering fairly obscure films to us in DVD packages that are almost too good to be true. With their release of this film we are treated to just about every kind of extra that we could possibly want, the star of which is the 35-minute long featurette entitled Blood and Blackboards. In it we see various interviews with the surviving cast and director Mark L. Lester, who now frighteningly resembles DeNiro’s character of Max Cady from Scorsese’s Cape Fear remake. It’s uncanny I tell ya! Holy shit! I was just waitin’ for him to light up a giant cuban, clasp his hands behind his head, and break out into a fit of maniacal laughter. Sheesh! Where was I? Oh yeah, the DVD extras. Along with the featurette there are a commentary with Cady, shit, I mean Lester that’s pretty lively; the theatrical trailer, which is vintage 80’s trailer gold; TV spots; and a still gallery riddled with posters, lobby cards, and newspaper ads. For you PC users the screenplay is also included as a bonus. My only regret is that the late and legendary Roddy McDowall is no longer with us to share in this package. Roddy’s performance in the film is bar none one of his best. It would really be interesting to hear what he would have had to say all these years later. God bless ya, my man; we know you’re watching from above.
Bottom line, Class of 1984 is a must buy. Whether you’re an old fan or a blind buyer, you’ll find lots to like. The Eighties were a really strange time for us all, and Class serves as both a mirror and an omen. It isn’t hard to smell the blood over the scent of over-used hairspray. The film is just as powerful, fun, frightening, and provocative as it was way back when. Go get this now.
Blood and Blackboards featurette
Audio commentary with director Mark Lester
Two TV spots
Poster and still gallery
Mark Lester bio
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