This week, Anchor Bay Films is unleashing Lloyd Kaufman’s Tromasterpiece, Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1, to Blu-ray and DVD. To mark the occasion, Daily Dead recently chatted with Uncle Lloydie about his latest directorial effort, his approach to controversial material, and what kind of madness Troma fans can expect from Volume 2:
Thanks so much for taking time to speak with me today, Lloyd. Being a big Troma fan, I thought Return to Nuke ‘Em High (Volume 1) might be my favorite sequel to come out of Tromaville. With it being a few years since you were in the director’s chair, why did you decide to return with the Nuke ‘Em High franchise?
Lloyd Kaufman: Oh, thank you! You know, it takes me a long time to develop a script that I think the fans will like so it can be years on a project until we finally get a script that I think is really great. When we were making Tromeo & Juliet, it took five years until we had a script that I thought would make a great movie. That was when James Gunn came in and made it brilliant and made it a story I knew Troma fans would love.
In the case of this movie, it wasn’t our idea initially. Kevin Kasha is a big Troma fan and so he approached us about Starz and Anchor Bay releasing a Nuke ‘Em High remake or sequel. They wanted me to direct and told me that I could have total control over everything. Troma took the initial risk and then Starz came in and finished everything and we made our budget back from them. Working with them has been great.
You’ve never shied away from controversial topics over the last four decades and with Return you definitely go for broke again. Can you discuss your process when determining what topics you’re going to poke fun at and is there a line you always have to keep in the back of your head with this kind of satire?
Lloyd Kaufman: Well I usually get obsessed with themes and those are generally the themes that make it into our films. When I made Poultrygeist, that was in response to the fact that McDonald’s moved in next door to us at Troma and because of them, we started dealing with hordes of raccoon-sized rats. I had also seen Fast Food Nation which was about the evils of the fast food industry and it was eye-opening. The only bad thing about Fast Food Nation was that the movie wasn’t targeted at the audience it really should have been. It was made for festival yuppies, not at the younger audiences which could have really benefited from watching it.
With Return to Nuke ‘Em High, we wanted to explore that whole sexual identity idea, bullying and those kinds of themes that younger audiences actually care about and are still topical. There’s also that whole scene with the joke about the shooting in the cafeteria, and that was a hard joke to get just right because of the theater shooting and all the school shootings lately. It’s important to make people think, even if they’re laughing. Good movies should always make you think.
In Citizen Toxie, we memorialize that terrible dragging that happened down in Texas all those years back because I think people should remember that stuff. They shouldn’t forget. I remember focus groups downright hated that scene. It wasn’t a ‘marketable’ scene to sell the film either, but I left it in because I thought it was important. People should remember these things and it should make them feel a little awkward too. That’s the only way we’re ever going to learn.
And speaking of lessons, you once again put the poor residents of Tromaville through the ringer for Return to Nuke ‘Em High. Has there been a cinematic community that has suffered as much as the residents of Tromaville (laughs)?
Lloyd Kaufman: (laughs) I don’t think there has been, no. It just seems like the little people of Tromaville always have some kind of issues and this time it’s a big, greedy corporation that has moved into their town and through their elite labor, they’re sucking everyone’s personal and spirituality dry. There are always bullies. Look at Comcast and Netflix, they’re bullying the industry right now and horror movies tend to deal with the underdogs.
It’s probably because the horror genre itself and anyone who has every loved it has been considered an underdog.
Lloyd Kaufman: Definitely. And who doesn’t want to see the underdog win? You especially. The horror genre is more chauvinistic than anything else in this industry and to see the lack of women behind the camera or producing or you name it is really sad. Who knows more about horror than women? They’re the ones that go through things like child birth- what’s more gooey and horrifying than that? They’re the ones that are the most familiar with genuine horror and gore. We need more women making horror films- in any capacity- and we need more “Heather’s” out there discussing and writing about them.
Thank you, Lloyd and I agree. Some of my favorite horror films from last year were directed by women like the Soskas and (Xan) Cassavetes. Let’s head back to Tromaville though since this is our last question- can you give us a little tease as to what we can expect for Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 2 since we leave off with a bit of a cliffhanger? And are we going to get more of the “Gleetins” because I’m ready for them to have their own spin-off film.
Lloyd Kaufman: Well, I don’t want to go too much into spoilers just so we don’t ruin it for the fans but, if you notice, the last part of Volume One is much more serious and action-oriented so expect more of that in the second one. We’re going to have a lot more traditional scary moments in there too and Kevin the Duck is coming back too. The mood is definitely more serious though and Volume 2 has much more horror and action to it. And yes, more Glee Club Cretins (laughs).
What’s really funny, we’ve shown Return to Nuke ‘Em High in about 100 theaters now and so far, when the demented glee club members pop up, that’s the moment that always gets the biggest response. Each and every time. The audience just really seems to love them and that’s always satisfying as a director to get that kind of a reaction every single screening. It doesn’t happen very often (laughs).
"Welcome to Tromaville High School. Your typical high school populated with your basic football jocks, wannabe prom queens and glee club hopefuls. Did I say “typical?” After all, this is Tromaville High, where the glee club has mutated into the hideous Cretins after eating tainted tacos courtesy of the Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lovers/bloggers, must not only fight the adolescent beasts and freaks, they must also defeat the evil Conglomerate. Will they, along with their mutant pet duck, save Tromaville High and the rest of society? Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 1 has it all – satire, sci-fi, plenty of Troma’s world famous green goo, themes of anti-bullying and LGBT rights. If that isn’t enough, how about death by glee club, high falls, meltdowns and fiery explosions? Wait there’s more! There’s plenty of exposed teen viscera (and breasts!) and love triumphing over prejudice. Just like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and “Glee” – only 100% Troma style!"