Thursday, February 19, 2015

Demolition High (Jim Wynorski, 1996)

What the hell? I don't believe this, but it looks like I just dragged myself away from playing Borderlands 2 to write about a film where Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs) plays a four star  general and fountain pens are shot out of the nozzle of a fire extinguisher. Yep, that's right, Jim Wynorski, director of Chopping Mall and 976-EVIL 2, and Corey Haim, star of National Lampoon's Last Resort and Prayer of the Rollerboys, have teamed up to produce Demolition High, the ultimate melding of Die Hard and The Breakfast Club. And if that wasn't enough, they, for some inexplicable reason, decided to bring Alan Thicke (Thicke of the Night) along for the ride. The kind of movie that even the most devoted Corey Haim fans would refrain from renting at their local Blockbuster Video (I don't think this movie came out in theatres), this film reeks from start to finish. I know, you're probably asking yourself: If that's the case, why am I writing about it? It's simple, really. There's a scene where Corey Haim kills an Uzi-wielding terrorist with an Uzi he obtained from the Uzi-wielding terrorist he killed in an earlier scene; it's basically Corey Haim's version of "NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN... HO-HO-HO."

Anyway, after peppering the Uzi-wielding terrorist's body with an entire clips worth of Uzi bullets, Corey Haim realizes he's out of ammo. The panic-stricken twenty-five year-old teen puts down the empty Uzi and grabs a walkie talkie and runs from the classroom.

(I don't get it, I thought you had a soft for submachine guns?) Sure, I love SMG's, I mean, who doesn't? It's just that Corey Haim didn't pick up the Uzi belonging to the Uzi-wielding terrorist he just killed. He just ran right past it, and this, as you might expect, infuriated me.

The only logical reason I can think of that justifies this bonehead decision on Corey Haim's part is that the writers wanted his character to get in touch with his inner MacGyver/MacGruber. Meaning, they thought it would be more interesting if he improvised weapons out of items found lying around your average classroom. (Like the fire extinguisher that shoots fountain pens?) Exactly. And it doesn't make sense for Corey Haim to be fashioning weapons out of unorthodox materials if he's carrying an Uzi, now does it?

Nevertheless, the sight of Corey Haim running past the dead terrorist's fully-loaded (that's right, the Uzi-wielding terrorist didn't even get a shot off during his encounter with the Haiminator) submachine gun was one of the stupidest things I've seen in a long time.

The film opens with a group of criminals masquerading as right-wing extremists stealing a nuclear missile from a military base. And before you ask, they were able to simply walk out of there with a nuclear missile because of three things: Some of them wore trench coats, some of them had ponytails and all of them were carrying Uzis.

Not wanting to fuck things up, their fearless leader, Luther (Jeff Kober), is taking no chances, as he is wearing a trench coat, sporting a ponytail and carrying an Uzi; he's what we in the stating the obvious business like to call a triple threat.

Proving that the Uzi has many uses (besides filling hapless security guards with lead), Luther employs the firearm in ways you wouldn't expect. Sure, he hits Gerrit Graham in the head with an Uzi (he Uzi-whipped him good) and uses an Uzi to unlock a locked gate. But did you know you that Uzis can be used to shred lettuce? Okay, unlike the first two things I just mentioned, we don't actually see Luther shred lettuce with an Uzi. Nonetheless, is there anything an Uzi can't do?

It just dawned me, this film, while rife with Uzis, is actually not from the 1980s. Now, how could I tell this film was not from the 1980s? Well, for one thing, it says it was made in 1996. That being said, despite the heavy Uzi-usage, Demolition High oozes 1996. Meaning, it doesn't ooze anything.

I know, you're thinking to yourself: It's got to ooze something. Oh, really, it's got to, eh? Are you familiar with 1996? Never have I witnessed an era with no distinguishable style.

In most high school movies, especially the one's that were made between 1978-1993, the background is typically filled with punks, skateboarders, gangbangers, new wavers, preppies, nerds, metal chicks and goths. But not this film. All I saw was an amorphous blob of vanilla-flavoured nothingness. It was almost as if everyone at Mayfield High had been robbed of their panache. And all that was left was a sea of flannel shirts and ill-fitting denim.

People who dress this dull don't deserve to be murdered with an Uzi. Every now and then I would get this sudden urge to throw buckets of paint at them. I mean, damn, I was alive in 1996, but I don't remember it being this drab.

To be fair, 1996 is not solely to blame for this dreary debacle. Some of it has to be hurled at Jim Wynorski and his crew. Think about it, did the makers of Clueless (1995) and Jawbreaker (1999) let the era's lackluster style saddle their films with dull fashion? I don't think so.

If you're curious about the film's plot, just take a look at any random review of Die Hard and replace all the positive adjectives with negative ones. Or better yet, don't watch Demolition High all-together. Seriously, who casts Alan Thicke as a police detective from The Bronx?

And the film's so-called femme fatal was a bit of a bust (no pun intended). Parading around in these tight black trousers like she's the hottest woman on the planet, Melissa Brasselle, who plays Tanya, Luther's sidekick, brings nothing to the table in terms of camp. And this film could definitely use an injection of camp; Corey Haim's painfully unfunny one-liners are just not cutting it.

Despite all this, I did enjoy the minor subplot that involved Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts) and Ginny (Katherine Ann McGregor), employees of Mayfield Power, the town's nuclear power plant. When they learn a missile is aimed at their plant, the interplay between Mr. Johnson and Ginny was strangely compelling. In closing, I would only recommend this film to hardcore Corey Haim fans and masochists who get off on being exposed to uninteresting mid-1990s fashion.


  1. I'm with you pal. If years and years of playing D&D taught me anything other than the nature of courage, it taught me to always loot the corpses you create.