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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Class of 1999'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...

'Class of 1999' - 1990, Directed by Mark L. Lester

This paranoid slice of madness is actually a sequel to a very different film, called 'Class of 1984.' You don't, however, need to see that one to pick up on what's going on.

In the original, an idealistic teacher goes to a tough inner city school to 'make a change,' but the students end up being more than he can handle. They do stuff like blow up his car and kill his family(!) and the whole thing is just ridiculous over-the-top 80's-ness.

Director Mark Lester then updated his idea a few years later with this one. I can't remember precisely what year this is supposed to take place in, but it really doesn't matter, it's just the future. I don't actually think it was 1999, though.

I'm guessing this was Lester's attempt to show a continuation of what he saw as the increasingly violent and stupid youth of America. And, considering '84' came out at the peak of punk rock and anti-drug paranoia, can you blame him? The counterculture of the 80's probably seemed very vile to him.

So, it's the future sometime, and kids are even worse. They take new and weird drugs, they are all in gangs, and some areas are so bad that the police won't even enter, calling them 'free fire zones.' The high school in which our story takes place is located in one of these zones, and is particularly rough. Students battle for control of various areas, beat each other up, and drive way too fast.

The principal of the school partners with some corporate slimers who have developed a type of robotic teacher. Yes, this is a movie about evil robot teachers. You know you want to see it.

The catch is, they were original developed as military robots, and therefore have all sorts of weapons programs. Nobody thinks this will be a problem, even when dumping them in one of the most violent schools in the world.

Of course, it is a problem, and after a few incidents, the teachers go crazy and enter their previous battle modes. They start killing kids left and right, which isn't exactly the solution the principal wanted. By this point, however, it's 'too late' and the corporate guys kill HIM.

Then, it's up to the various gang-bangers and punks of the high school to stop the robots. Can they put their differences aside to fight evil and build a new and improved gangland? You'll just have to watch to find out...

This is a much more light-hearted affair than the original film, which was pretty dark and disturbing. It's also got all sorts of ridiculous dialogue and one-liners, and of course, explosions.

Any fans of 80's sleaze would do well to check this one out. It's also interesting to see where the Troma studio got their idea for the 'Class of Nuke 'Em High' series (the original was designed as a parody of 'Class of 1984.') So, if you're a Toxie/Lloyd Kaufman diehard, you'll want to see this as well.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.