Rabid fans who delight in the wretched excess — or, if you prefer, excessive wretchedness — of Lloyd Kaufman’s infamous Troma schlock factory will doubtless embrace “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1” with all the fervent appreciation that a more conventional cinephile might reserve for a fully restored edition of “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Other viewers, especially those unaccustomed to Troma’s output, will likely be befuddled, repulsed, disgusted and/or painfully bored by this aggressively offensive and purposefully cheesy horror romp. Such over-the-top tastelessness is very much an acquired taste, although the Troma fanbase conceivably could push the pic into profit.
The term “freewheeling” does not begin to describe the slapdash, anything-goes quality of the screenplay co-written by Troma mogul Kaufman, who returned to the director’s chair for the first time in eight years to oversee this kinda-sorta sequel to his 1986 “Class of Nuke ‘Em High.” The original film — which spawned two earlier sequels — focused on violent shenanigans at Tromaville High School, the hunting ground for a mutant creature generated by toxic waste from a nearby nuclear power plant. In this follow-up, the power plant is long gone. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by Tromorganic Foodstuffs, Inc., a food-processing plant whose contaminated products are routinely served, with dire results, at Tromaville High.
Kaufman and co-scripters Travis Campbell and Derek Dressler have cobbled together a scenario that has something to do with glee-club members who are mutated into murderous punkers, and something else to do with the budding romance between a lonely rich girl (Catherine Corcoran) who is perhaps too fond of her pet duck, and a feisty blogger (Asta Paredes) determined to shed light on the dark secrets of Tromorganic.
But, really, the patchwork plot is merely an excuse for Kaufman to string together a loose-knit series of scenes involving gory mayhem, pinchpenny production values, low-rent special effects, topless coeds, softcore sex, juvenile social satire, gross-out sight gags, supporting-player scenery chewing (including Kaufman himself as a Tromorganic plant boss) and, fleetingly, a young woman who grows a penis huge enough to be used as a blunt-force weapon.
Most of the jokes would require remedial education to even qualify as sophomoric. And the sporadic attempts at shocking the audience with non-P.C. callousness — “Hey! Let’s go shoot up a movie theater!” “It’s just another school shooting! CNN doesn’t even cover them anymore!” — seem like desperate barrel-bottom scraping.
Die-hard Troma buffs may be amused by all of this, and by the wink-wink references to such studio icons as the Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabukiman. But even they may be upset when the action abruptly ends at an arbitrary point, and the words “To be continued … ” appear onscreen. Yes, it seems that for better or worse — or worst — there really will be a “Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 2.”