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Return To Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Return To Nuke 'Em High: Volume 1 (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Catherine Corcoran, Asta Paredes, Babette Bombshell

Directed by Lloyd Kaufman

Distributed by Troma / Anchor Bay


Troma Entertainment, the B-movie camp house founded by Lloyd Kaufman (the one man who may be cheaper than notoriously frugal producer Roger Corman), has spent the better part of 40 (!) years pumping out gloriously gory, undeniably entertaining sleaze. It is truly amazing the studio has survived so long considering their one and only “major” hit has been The Toxic Avenger (1985), the film that spawned a cultural icon of sorts. Throughout the years they’ve managed to churn out a few more minor cult classics – with Tromeo & Juliet (1996) being one of their best – all done on a shoestring budget using a multitude of inventive resources. Say what you will about the quality of Kaufman’s films (and he’d likely agree), but ingenuity has never been in short supply at Troma. The decision to revisit one of their more successful franchises – Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986) and its forgettable sequels – had been in the works for a number of years. Sometime around 1996, the studio announced Class of Nuke ‘Em High IV: Battle of the Bikini Subhumanoids was forthcoming, but years of finance issues and Lloyd knows what else forced the project into turnaround more than a handful of times. Finally, in 2012 Kaufman decided to helm the picture himself, secured a modicum of funding through Kickstarter, and production was finally underway on this series sequel. Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 (2013) is replete with all the hallmarks of a Troma production, including (but certainly not limited to) gross-out gags, severed penises, melting faces, boobs, more boobs, sadistic violence, overt sexuality, and the ever-present car flip first seen in Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) that has been inserted into nearly every Troma film thereafter. If you’ve always had a perverse appreciation for what Kaufman & co. produce, this is your kind of movie. If you’ve never liked a single film of theirs but hope a new production might change your tune, it won’t. This is pure trash through and through. Pure, glorious trash.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 opens with a recap of the first film’s events via a voiceover from none other than Stan Lee (it looks like they shot his scene at a convention when he had some downtime). The nuclear power plant located near the high school has been demolished; in its place is a new venture, the Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate, which produces all of the “taco fillings” for the school cafeteria. Despite complaints that the food may be hazardous, owner Lee Harvey Herzkauf (Lloyd Kaufman) insists they use quality, natural ingredients. Who cares if the stuff looks radioactive? Back on campus, new girl Lauren (Catherine Corcoran) is trying her best to fit in but Chrissy (Asta Paredes) isn’t making it easy on her. She doesn’t hate her, though; she’s got the hots for her big time. The food served on campus might be toxic sludge in a taco shell, but that doesn’t stop anyone from eating it, nor does it stop Principal Westly (Babette Bombshell, doing a stellar Nixon impersonation) from espousing the benefits of eating such healthy, organic foodstuffs. During Taco Tuesday, everyone is munching down on Tromorganic’s taco filling until the school glee club members have a violent reaction, turning them into The Cretins, mutated misfits with a penchant for violence and theatrics. They wreak havoc on the town, laying waste to homes and people with extreme prejudice. The only people who can stop them are the newly-mutated duo of Lauren and Chrissy, who managed to infect each other via a lengthy, steamy lesbian encounter. They’re like a demented Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, turning into acid-lactating, massive phallus-swinging crime crusaders by night. Volume 1 of this epic two-parter ends just as Lauren provides a reenactment of the famous shower scene from “Carrie” (1976), leaving viewers with a denouement that isn’t exactly a cliffhanger.

Every Troma film is different, yet every Troma film is the same. The plot of any of their films is merely a skeletal structure upon which an absurd number of in-jokes, references, and attacks on political correctness are hung. Kaufman has no qualms with skewering any and every pop culture fixture from the last couple of years with ripe satire that often hits the mark. Say what you will about the quality of their films, but more often than not the humor is wry and witty. The rapid fire presentation constantly keeps the viewer’s attention shifting, allowing for little time to ruminate on one gag before the next is underway. This is trademark Kaufman, operating within his wheelhouse and turning out one of the most ribald films in Troma history. Did it need to be split into two films? Who cares? Kaufman is king of making the best worst movies in cinema right now; why not give viewers two doses of schlock?

A large part of what makes Troma’s film so damn watchable is the infectious energy of his cast. As the bonus features reveal, casting this film wasn’t the easiest. They also reveal that Troma auditions are chock full of the same nudity we see in their films, so, you know, if anyone from Troma is reading this and you need an extra set of eyes to help out… Asta Paredes does a great job as the sexually-repressed Chrissy, and it doesn’t hurt she’s extremely easy on the eyes. Even the characters that are written as patently annoying still possess some intangible charm. Kaufman pulls double duty as director and actor, playing the part of Lee Harvey Herzkauf by channeling Mel Brooks. He’s a modern day Gov. Le Petomane. But, really, the best bit of casting has to be God himself, Lemmy, as the President. If someone told me he was saying whatever the hell he wanted to – because he’s Lemmy – it wouldn’t be hard to believe. His nonsensical lines are subtitled for the Lemmy impaired, and also just because he has a damn thick accent.

There’s a lot of fun, catchy music here, too. The film’s main theme is almost as hard to get out of your head as Rape Door’s ridiculously catchy “Last Song”, quite possibly the most memorable suicide song since Johnny Mandel’s “Suicide is Painless”. Outside of the source music, composer Kurt Dirt’s synth-y cues sell this as a lost film from the ‘80s perfectly. Troma might be operating in the present – making “Films of the Future” – but their aesthetics are firmly rooted in the past, much to the delight of those who still revel in ‘80s cheese. Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 is delightfully tacky and horrifically humorous, traits that the forthcoming sequel should no doubt possess, too.

Has trash ever looked so good? Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 sports a sharp, colorful 1.78:1 1080p image that belies its low-budget roots. Anything shot in daylight looks fantastic, with crisp, defined edges and a robust color palette with natural skin tones and excellent saturation. Once the picture veers into night time, the image is less stable. Black levels are generally solid, though they can get a bit hazy, too. Shadow detail remains strong. Grain appears infrequently, occasionally looking like noise. This is probably the best a Troma picture has ever looked, so any imperfections should be summarily dismissed. Surprisingly, the only option is a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. It’s amazingly robust, however, featuring solid separation work and a good weight to the effects and music. There are a number of catchy tunes that pump through the front speakers with raw power. The actual score has a vintage digital quality to it, with plenty of keyboard work that shows influence from synth masters like Alan Howarth. The sound effects are most likely to repulse most listeners, with every bodily function represented in hyperbolic glory. Even something as simple as eating becomes incredibly nauseating when coupled with Troma’s revolting stockpile of sounds. Even the joyous act of watching two women make sweet love is mitigated by a never-ending chorus of slurping/sucking sounds. Subtitles are included in English SDH and Spanish.

Troma has been very good to their home video buyers, typically packing as much material as possible onto each of their releases. Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 is no exception. First up, an audio commentary with actors Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, Catherine Corcoran, Stuart Kiczek, and Asta Paredes. This is the fun track; the rowdy buddy-buddy track where all the actors recall the rigors of working on a low-budget film and how insanely fun it all was. It’s loose, engaging, and a great listen if you enjoyed the film and want to hear what it’s like being a cog in Troma’s great wheel. The second audio commentary features writer/producer/director Lloyd Kaufman, producer Justin A. Marshall, executive producer Matt Manjourides, associate producer Regina Katz, and writer Travis Campbell. As you can probably infer from the title of each participant, this is the more technical track, covering all the arduous behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a Troma movie. Kaufman and crew are a candid bunch, dispensing with pleasantries and digging into the grime. This is a great contrast to the first track.

“Casting Conundrum” is a featurette wherein Lloyd Kaufman explains the process by which all actors must audition for a Troma film, which was a little different this time around because they had numerous casting calls posted on social media sites. This video also makes it very clear that if you audition for Troma, and you are a female, you will more than likely be getting naked. “Pre-production Hell with Mein-Kauf(man)” is a great warts-and-all piece. You want to know how tough it is to make a film on very limited cash and equally-limited resources? Kaufman spells it all out here, though it’s usually his overall demeanor and attitude that sell the situation. No wonder this movie took so long to get made; a lot can go wrong even when you’re doing it right. “Special (Ed) Effects” takes a look at the film’s many practical effects gags, all of which are thoroughly tested before being on-camera because the production cannot afford to lose any time. And if you’re the poor soul who screws something up, Lloyd will most certainly let you know. “Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of Tromatising the World” may sound grand, but this is just the super titles for Troma’s movies as set to the music of Motorhead. A music video for Architects of Fear – Edison Device is included. Finally, a teaser trailer (with very little new footage) for Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2 (2014) rounds out the extras.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with actors Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, Catherine Corcoran, Stuart Kiczek, and Asta Paredes.
  • Audio commentary with writer/producer/director Lloyd Kaufman, producer Justin A. Marshall, executive producer Matt Manjourides, associate producer Regina Katz, and writer Travis Campbell.
  • Casting Conundrum
  • Pre-production Hell with Mein-Kauf(man)
  • Special (Ed) Effects
  • Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of Tromatising the World
  • Architects of Fear – Edison Device music video
  • Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 2 teaser trailer

    The Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    4 out of 5

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    Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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    Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

    Directed by Charles Martin Smith


    I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

    Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

    Now let’s get to it.

    First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

    Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

    I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

    Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

    It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

    And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

    Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

    This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

    And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

    Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

    In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

    That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

    Rockstar lighting for days.

    Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

    Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

    More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

    Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

    Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

    All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

    Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

    • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
    3.5

    Summary

    Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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    User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.08 (13 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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