Class of 1984 (1982/Collector's Edition Blu-ray/Scream! Factory) Review

Generally speaking, Scream! Factory’s catalogue is full of genre offerings that could be best described as “fun”, rather than genuinely horrific. With a few notable exceptions, these are films which have earned a reputation over the years for being just plain cool, some even compelling. Of course, there is a place in all our lives for breezier entertainment such as the majority of these films, but one of the company’s latest releases is a bit different from the rest. Scream brings Mark L. Lester’s CLASS OF 1984 home in high definition for the first time, and it’s a bit of a peculiar choice given the divisive reactions over the years. There is indeed a cult fan-base for the film, but does it live up to it, and does the Blu-Ray release make a significant contribution to one’s appreciation of the film? Let’s jump right into the autopsy and find out.
It’s, you guessed it, 1984 and the American teenager is, collectively, at an all-time low; and the high schools which they inhabit are going down with them. Gang violence, rape, drug use and dealing, and general disregard for the true meaning of education pollute these schools. In this odd cinematic world – not so much unlike our current reality if you really think about it – the students rule the classroom and the teachers are afraid to speak up. That is until the arrival of Mr. Andrew Norris (Perry King).
As the new music teacher of a crime-infested high school, Mr. Norris is appalled by what he sees on his first day, and it just keeps going downhill from there. He challenges the most notorious gang leader on campus, and soon enough the two men go to war. It’s not until the film’s impressively violent finale that Norris truly breaks, however, and the journey up to this point is not a particularly pleasant one.
And it doesn’t have to be, but I found myself shaking my head whenever the gang committed another supposedly “shocking” act of violence. When one considers that the kinds of things this group did to punish the professor for his bravery eventually made it to newspaper headlines in real life, I suppose it’s easy to consider this as a prophetic work of cinematic fiction, but as a film these scenes fail to inspire anything other than cheap visceral thrills.
It gets to a point where the writers just seem to be pulling everything they can out of their limited bag of tricks to try and repulse the viewer, and while this may be exhilarating to some, it’s not something that appeals to me unless the film is saying something interesting about its characters. The issue seems to be that, strong performances be damned, this just isn’t a compelling enough group of heroes and villains. There’s no real human insight here, only nastiness. It makes me wonder how the cult audience that embraces it can just ignore the ugliness and refer to it as “fun”, because as far as I’m concerned, some of what goes down here goes far beyond a mere escapist exploitation picture. It’s nihilism as a fashion statement, which bothers me and comes off as rather lazy.

Another thing I took issue with was Lester’s direction. It’s polished, and serviceable enough, but this is the kind of story that needs a far cheaper aesthetic to make the whole thing feel organic. There is legitimate tension in certain scenes, and again I found many of the performances to be quite good, but it looks too clean for any of this to be effective. It feels like any other mediocre 80’s teen movie, just with a much darker heart. There was nothing that I personally found to be terribly distinctive about it. Perhaps this is an aesthetic that certain fans could justify as working in the film’s favor, but as of now, I’m not having it. The film was just too immature and slight for my taste.
Now, the new Blu from Scream! Factory looks and sounds very nice and is sure to be a fan-pleasing release. If you’re into this kind of thing, I can highly recommend picking it up. May not have been my bag, but you never know. Included in the extras are some new interviews with the director, the cast, and even some of the crew as well as a commentary, a featurette titled “Blood and Blackboards”, TV spots, the original theatrical trailer, and a still gallery. It should also be mentioned that the newly commissioned cover art is one of the better ones that I’ve seen from the company lately.
 This is an undeniably solid release for a film that I was unfortunately not much of a fan of. I dislike when nihilism is used like some sort of cheap cinematic gimmick, and that’s precisely the feeling I got from watching CLASS OF 1984. Perhaps someday I will revisit it and think more of it, but for now I can really only recommend it to those who are very much into punk cinema and/or anything as remarkably “80’s” as this. Approach with caution, but at least for Scream! it’s another job well done.

-Ryan Marshall

Director: Mark Lester
Lead Actor/Actress: Tom Holland
Genre: Thriller/Cult
Blu-ray Release Year: 2015
Theatrical Release Year: 1982
Time Length: 98 mins.
Rating: R
Region Code: A
Release Company: Scream! Factory
Website: www.shoutfactory.com