Class of 1984 (1982) — Only Principal Strickland could handle these punks

“I am the future!”

Justin’s rating: Lots of gore in ’84

Justin’s review: We’ve been told for years that the kids ain’t all right, and depending on how you see Class of 1984, this could be spot-on prophecy or an excuse for Punks Gone Wild: The Mascara Generation. You could take 1984 as a chilling allegory of school violence — certainly nothing to laugh about in today’s age, as the rage, mental problems and bullying grows out of hand. Or you could surrender to 1984 on a base level, enjoying the cult cheese and the audience-pleasing revenge scenario. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. And now I’m done with clichés for the day.

Andrew Norris (Perry King) is your stereotypical naïve teacher with a heart for his students who comes into an inner city war zone school and sets up shop. In a different movie, we’d see him struggle with the apathy, unruliness, and bad kids (who really just need to find their learning “happy spot” to become good) in the first half, employ some radical teaching methods, and then beam as his class of junkies, pregnant teenagers, and gang members end up as Mensa candidates.

This is not that movie. This movie would beat the living stuffing out of that movie.

Norris is woefully unprepared for how bad life is at Lincoln High. Despite security guards everywhere, the teens run rampant and most of the staff (including the principal) has ceased to care, let alone struggle to retake the school. The worst is a gang of five punks, led by Stegman (Timothy Van Patten), who all but make it their mission to run the poor hippie teacher out of the classroom. Spray painting his car and framing him for an alleged beating is only the start of Norris’ misery. His frustration mounts as the school refuses to stand behind him, the police are helpless to act, and the teens keep getting away with (sometimes literally) murder.

While we’ve certainly seen worse today, Class of 1984 still manages to shock with its teenage monsters, who are laughably in charge of drug running, prostitution rings, and music class mayhem. In truth, the vicious gang would have looked at home in a John Hughes comedy (sans makeup), but Van Patten manages to sell pure menace and insanity.

It’s been noted that Norris is kind of a dweeb (check out his natty beard!) without a functioning brain cell, and he loses sympathy points by just not getting out of there when it becomes apparent that he’s all alone. But still, by the end he’s been pushed around and beat up so much, we are dying for a little… heh heh… payback.

This film takes a completely polarizing view that many teenagers are irredeemably rotten to the core, and are genuinely terrible threats to civilization. Perhaps. But probably not. Other ’80s movies explored this roaring explosion of the teenage culture, from the misunderstood (The Breakfast Club) to the new action heroes (The Goonies) to goofy idiots (Bill & Ted) to hyperintelligent overlords of the universe (Ferris Bueller). All I know is that those ’80s teens are now middle-aged adults in their own right, and what goes around, comes around.

It’s no Stand and Deliver, nor is it “The Wonder Years.” Maybe this movie has value with disenfranchised teachers looking to vicariously vent through the magic of movies, or for the legions of Michael J. Fox fans that want to witness one of his earliest roles. For the rest of us… we need to go find us some punks and make sure they don’t rock the boat ever again.

Didja Notice?

  • Alice Cooper’s… odd… title song
  • A new way to ride the bus: by hanging off the back
  • A soft-around-the-edges Michael J. Fox!
  • “Teachers Sucks!” Leave it to graffiti artists to be grammatically incorrect
  • The gang leader looks like he’d be “Nerd #2” in any other ’80s movie
  • Bad husband-and-wife acting
  • The biology room massacre
  • All teachers know how to hotwire cars!
  • Terry’s unusual teaching method

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