Do you remember 1999? Frankly it was a mixed year. On the one hand there was Napster, The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project and Baby One More Time. On the other there was the Kosovan war, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and mass panic about Y2K and the millennium bug. As far as the last two go ultimately Prince was wrong and come New Year’s day 2000 it wasn’t party over but party on.
Whatever your recollections of 1999 you probably won’t recognise many of the predictions made back in 1990 by writer and director Mark L. Lester in Class of 1999. The man behind Schwarzenegger’s action classic Commando and Stephen King adaptation Firestarter foretold America to be so overrun by youth violence that whole cities had succumbed to the gangs creating “free fire zones” around schools where even the police fear to tread.
Drastic times call for insane measures and so Dr. Bob Forrest (Stacy Keach from Escape from L.A) the head of Mega Tech has created the “tactical education units” three ultra-realistic androids sent into Kennedy High School in Seattle to teach and discipline the unruly kids by any means necessary.
With a secret lab in the basement monitoring the robots every moves and new principle Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell) in on the test the kids are completely unaware what lies in store for them when they show up for class including ex-gang member Cody Culp (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Bradley Gregg) who is fresh out of prison and attempting to go straight.
Pretty soon the disruptive students break the rules and the mechanised mentors start breaking bones making Cody just a bit suspicious and after confiding in the principles daughter Christie (Traci Lind from Fright Night Part 2) the unlikely couple go about finding the real story behind their new powerful and petrifying professors.
As with many 80’s and 90’s visions of the future Class of 1999 blends Mad Max post-apocalyptic tropes with terrible eye offending fashion and ridiculously dated looking technology. Somehow however all this is crafted into a cracking action packed teen horror that is far more entertaining than you would ever think it could be.
The majority of the fun comes from the teaching threesome Mr. Bryles, Ms. Connors and Mr. Hardin played by Patrick Kilpatrick, Pam Grier and John P. Ryan. Classic clichéd characters from the start both as teachers and horror villains Bryles is a pipe smoking history lecturer, Connors a cool chemistry professor and Hardin an over aggressive P.E coach and all of them make teaching puns throughout the movie as they become more obsessed with keeping order over the children using increasingly more menacing means.
All three actors are obviously enjoying themselves as is the always excellent McDowell and Stacy Keach as the weird eyed white mullet wearing mad scientist with little regard for human life especially if it’s under 18.
Bradley Gregg is perhaps a little too angst ridden in the lead draining the drama out of the semi-serious scenes involving his drug addicted family and violence obsessed friends by yelling rather than acting but Traci Lind brings things back a bit with her buoyant girl next door act, even if she is just there to give Gregg someone to save come the climax.
The final showdown is fantastic and filled full of gratuitous gore, mechanised madness and some great effects as the tutor’s true forms are revealed complete with flamethrower, missile launcher and drill all of which they use to kill every kid they can.
To take a serious side step for a second as fun as it is watching Class of 1999 I couldn’t help but think how some of Lester’s visions actually did come true but far latter than he thought. In America right now security guards and metal detectors are standard at many school gates, Trump and his followers scheme to arm every educator and there has been a huge rise in school shootings ironically the most famous of which Columbine High School massacre happened in 1999.
My morbid musings aside Class of 1999 is a hugely enjoyable cult Sci-Horror and the recent Blu-ray release from Lionsgate UK as part of the Vestron Collector’s Series comes complete with some excellent extras including Mark L. Lester audio commentary, interviews with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner and special effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton and much more.
Class of 1999 is one class you will want to repeat over and over again believe me.