Roddy McDowall's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Director: Mark L. Lester
Film series: Class of 1984
Music composed by: Alice Cooper, Lalo Schifrin
Screenplay: Tom Holland, John Saxton, Barry Schneider
1 Hour 38 Minutes
REVIEW BY JEREMIAH
I'm not sure what it is about "teacher vs bad student" films that makes them so compelling. Perhaps the fact that we've all experienced some level of strife while navigating the public education system. Whether it be bullies by way of student peers, or maybe even the faculty, the idea of transforming the school into a sort of battlefield doesn't seem that far fetched, narratively speaking. Given lead miscreant Peter Stegman's exclamation, this makes sense:
"Life... is pain. Pain... is everything. You... you will learn!"
There's also an unshakeable feeling that many of these films work out as a kind of release or power fantasy, for adults that wish they could do something drastic about the rebellious youth which threaten to replace them on the stage of relevancy. Something I can kind of understand, at least, when putting myself in their mindset. The validation of this point, again, hinted at with yet another Peter Stegman quote:
"I am the future!"
Hell, it's the theme song to the movie.
Anyway, Class of 1984 is fantastic. A cut-to-the-chase punk film that indulges in all the filthy nasty things which keep a parent up at night. It's excessive in it's depiction of miscreancy, and just as much so in it's depiction of justice. Though I suppose if a teacher was burdened with a group of asshole teenagers as bad as these, they'd want to pull a Roddy McDowall as well (you'll see) — but that's kind of the point (one which alludes to everything I said earlier). These kids have to be more than just bad, so that when torch, bladesaw, pipe, and car are called to equalize, you'll have no problem feeling good about it. Thing is however, Tim Van Patten's Peter Stegman isn't like the rest of his crew; he's actually a brilliant kid, and a helluva piano player. This added character depth humanizes what should be the most hated person in the film, and very nearly threatens to destroy the needed disconnect required to enjoy the promised retribution. But only just so.
Unfortunately the film never circles back to this aspect of the character, and instead opts to strip away any and all humanity in order to keep the audience as comfortable as possible in their lust for blood. It still works, but I can't help to wonder how things would have shaken out had Stegman been written as a more conflicted punk, rather than the embodiment of Hitler.