Parents were fearful of a few things in the late 80’s. One thing was the Cold-War and another was MTV and video games turning their kids into murderous drug fiends. Class of 1999 cashes in on the latter. Made in 1990, but with the feel of an awesome '85 straight to VHS shlocksploitation statement about the world going to Hell.
This B-flick has been reviewed by many another sleazy blog site. And for good reason, I watched this film with a grin on my face the whole time. If I had to categorize, teen-violence exploitation fits comfortably. I have to assume the filmmakers where taking a piss with this thing but even if they were trying to make a serious film, it works just as well. Clearly though, its best to approach the viewing with the understanding that we’re just north of Tromaville territory.
If you saw Class of 1984 and liked it, you need to complete the loop with this follow-up. It's a good blend of The Principal mashed together with elements of The Terminator and Class of Nuk’em High. In what was then the future of 1999, teenage gang violence rouse to catastrophic levels. Major cities have been quarantined off from society much like the world of Escape From New York, where the criminals are allowed to go ballistic, free of police intervention.
Inside what is known as the “Free-Fire Zone”, there is an actual high school still trying to function with Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) as it’s principle. Big points in that casting alone. Amongst the student body, every kid snorts vile after vile of “edge”, dresses in punk-rock leather and chains and carries a machine gun. The film tries to honor gang-banger ethos, with two main gangs who fight over territory, etc.
In order to regain control of the educational system, McDowell brings in Department of Educational Defense head, played by Stacey Keach. More bonus points for the casting director. Keach who is always playing the same kind of hard-ass, does so again, this time with a bleach blond rat-tail. Simply awesome. The teachers he employs are actually military androids being tested by the government to prep them for warfare. Did the filmmakers inadvertently stumble onto a piece of predictive programming? Well if it’s war they wanted to train for, a war simulation they got. This is an unrated, ultra-violent film. From kids killing kids, to cyborg teachers killing kids. The point is, there's a lot of death and destruction going on.
The sub-plot to all this violence is good old-fashioned bad boy meets good girl on campus. Our main character, Cody (Bradley Gregg), just released from prison is trying to go straight and falls for the only non-psychotic character in the film, the principles daughter, Christy. Don't you just love the name 'Christy'? But like the Godfather, just when he tries to pull out, they pull him right back in. Gangs are like that. But after all there’s not much for a person to do in 1999 other then snort drugs and beat the fuck out of people.
This is just outrageously over the top low-budget fun. There’s some great kills and special FX towards the finale when we finally get to see the droids in robot form. There’s no time wasted, just front to back action and laughs. And like I said, whether director Mark Lester wanted us to laugh or not is beside the point, he should be fucking happy his film is so enjoyable all these years later. It's worth mentioning Lester has cranked out 35 films as a director, much of which is more fun genre work. Remember Firestarter? Commando? Showdown in Little Tokyo? All Lester gems.
If you like violence, you will enjoy this film. If you hate authority, you will love this film. If you love costume design based on early 80’s street punks and junkies, you will love this film. I loved this film. But then again, I am a Class of '99 graduate myself, so I'm a little biased.