Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 Blu-ray Review

Trash cinema auteur Lloyd Kaufman returns with another Troma production in Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1. A callback to his 1986 cult classic, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, this one is sure to please Troma’s fan-base with gross-out satire and over-the-top mayhem. No one pays much attention to the plot in a Troma movie; off-the-wall characters and lo-fi make-up effects are the real stars. Lloyd Kaufman is a truly unique filmmaker, a particular brand of cinema owing much to the world of Roger Corman and cheap, direct-to-video films of the exploitation era. Then you would also need to include the raw sense of humor and a keen eye for pop-culture parody.

Troma’s films have always existed in their own little ghetto of the movie universe, eschewing pedigreed actors and political correctness for a mixture of crude comedy, sight gags, and spot-on parodies of common character archetypes. Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 is no different, featuring a bunch of raw actors in a tongue-in-cheek story about a mutated glee club and a student body that gets infected by radioactive taco meat. It’s like one of those 1980’s teen comedies on acid, if you also included a good dose of nudity and wild gore.

The threadbare plot is merely intended as a device to keep everything from spinning wildly out of control. The most important characters are two high school students, Lauren (Catherine Corcoran) and Chrissy (Asta Paredes). Lauren is a rich girl, new to the Tromaville high school. Chrissy is a lesbian blogger intent on exposing the contaminated, radioactive meat product being used in the school’s lunch program. The antagonists for the duo are the school’s former glee club, having mutated into marauding Cretins that run around assaulting people, including a very disturbing sequence involving Lauren and her pet duck. This is only the first half of the story and does feel incomplete as it ends on a minor cliffhanger.

So if a punk gang of singing mutants battling heroic teen lesbians sound right up your alley, Return To Nuke ‘Em High is for you. This movie is right in line with prior Troma films by Lloyd Kaufman, the man responsible for The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist, and Tromeo & Juliet. It is not for everyone and if you don’t get Kaufman’s fast-paced brand of comedic spoofs and gross-out humor, this movie will very likely turn you off.

It’s hard to know if a person will like something from Troma Entertainment unless they watch it for themselves. Much of the humor and rapid jokes are completely random and scatter-shot, not to mention some visually offensive material that is meant to provoke an immediate reaction. Avoid this film if you can’t handle a three-foot prosthetic attached to a teen girl that greatly resembles a penis and gets wielded like a club. I would love to see film students try to critique the deeper meaning of that scene.

Movie ★★★★☆

That looks unpleasant @ 29:57

The Troma production comes to Blu-ray via distributor Anchor Bay/Starz. This is a great but very digital looking movie, likely having been shot on the Arri Alexa and other Arriflex cameras. The 1080P presentation is bold, crisp, and shining with clarity. There is a complete lack of grain structure and detail is extremely high most of the time.

Exteriors are pristine with flawless resolution, if overly bright with Day-Glo colors. The color palette is shiny and striking, occasionally washing out the pale-skinned actors and those in white make-up. Contrast is sterling in everything but a handful of darker interior scenes. Some noise creeps into the darkest shots such as the sex scene in the janitor’s private room.

The 85-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-25. The video encode only average 22.94 Mbps but it cleanly handles the digital video with ease. There are no compression artifacts to mention. Since most of the effects are of the practical variety, the image lacks the common aliasing resulting from the ever prevalent digital composites of FX-heavy movies these days. There is a distinct lack of processing to the video transfer, this BD is very probably a straight transfer from the Digital Intermediate with no video processing at all.

The video quality is so clean that it sometimes feels wrong to see a Troma movie at this level of purity, considering the Troma movies of old.

Video ★★★★★

The audio is a real head-scratcher considering it is 2014. The only included option is a 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 192 kbps. That is simply unacceptable for a movie on Blu-ray with extensive usage of music and singing as a primary constituent. What makes it worse is that a PCM version likely exists as the film’s original audio. The stereo mix on the Dolby Digital presentation isn’t terrible, bursting with a chaotic energy befitting the wacky action and characters. The DD audio gets the job done but there was a real missed opportunity by not including a lossless version.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles will appear in a white font.

Audio ★☆☆☆☆

Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 comes in a rare, green-colored Amaray case with wild cover art. The special features showcase two different commentaries and running in-jokes throughout the featurettes, mostly concerning Kaufman’s supposed dictatorial handling of cast and crew while filming. The featurettes are more tongue-in-cheek than the polished studio fare that usually fill up the Blu-ray edition. Trailers for Detention of the Dead, Sorority Party Massacre, The Demented, and Battle of the Damned all precede the main menu in HD video.

Casting Conundrum (07:07 in HD) – Auditions for a Troma movie are nothing like a Hollywood film and here we get an inside peek at how random nobodies can make it. We get to see the very revealing auditions for both lead actresses, including a full rehearsal of the nude sex scenes.

Pre-Production Hell With Mein-Kauf (Man) (09:44 in upscaled HD) – A behind the scenes look into the production through a video diary, detailing some conflicts while filming the movie.

Special (Ed) Effects (07:22 in HD) – Footage of FX tests and other tidbits related to the gooey practical effects.

Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of TROMAtising the World (02:11 in upscaled HD) – Quick flashes of prior Kaufman classics edited together as a tribute to Troma’s history.

“Architects of Fear-Edison Device” Music Video (03:38 in upscaled HD)

Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 2 Trailer (00:59 in HD) – This second part looks to spoof a number of famous horror movie scenes.

Audio Commentary with Actors Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, Catherine Corcoran, Stuart Kiczek and Asta Paredes – A pretty active commentary filled with jokes about filming a Troma movie and a lot of production tidbits that only the actors would know.

Audio Commentary with Lloyd Kaufman, Producer Justin Martell, Executive Producer Matt Manjourides, Associate Producer Regina Katz and Writer Travis Campbell – Some interesting background and nitty gritty on how this movie came to be made, including a nearly two year process to write the script. There is joking but this one is a little more focused on relevant production information, including special effects talk and shooting with a Hollywood crew.

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.