Class of 1984 is available now on special edition Blu-ray
Now and again, I like to throw in a curveball to our film selections. These curveballs often transcend simple genre boundaries, their very place in cinematic history obscured by their narrative punch, creative flair or bravery. I do not doubt that as I write this opening, many of you may be questioning my inclusion of Class of 1984 in a Halloween Countdown. After all, surely, a countdown like this is geared toward a standard horror fair? Well, if you think that, our unique countdown is bound to raise some eyebrows. But, how would you even go about describing Mark L. Lester’s cult classic? Is it a thriller? A socially reflective drama? Or a dystopian horror?
For me, it’s all three, and that is why this groundbreaking slice of cult cinema finds itself listed in our countdown. Lester’s Class of 1984 not only highlights the social fears of its time and place but does so with such pin-sharp precision that it transcends the labels of any one genre. Here, the fear of youth crime, social rebellion and the growing inequality of 70s and 80s urban America find a unique and distinctive voice. Its intoxicating mix of themes paying homage to Over the Edge (1979), The Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Kubrick’s dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange (1971). The deadly cocktail it creates, laced with a punk-rock punch as it works its way down, leaving your brain scrambled.
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Just like many of its contemporaries, Class of 1984 would find itself falling foul of the censors. The final film, banned in many countries due to its sexual violence, drugs use, bullying, intimidation and blood-soaked final act. However, as with most films banned due to content, this only enhanced the public desire to watch Class of 1984. Its cult appeal further increased following the rise of Michael J Fox as a new 80s teen idol just a few years after its release.
Many have commented on whether Class of 1984 predicted the more violent society we currently inhabit. One where a rise in violent youth crime has haunted the decades since its release, alongside a sense of growing powerlessness in challenging violent behaviour both inside and outside of the classroom. But, thankfully, while many aspects of Class of 1984 may still feel close to home, the film’s overarching dystopian atmosphere has not come to pass.
However, that does not mean this 1982 film sits purely within fantasy or shock-drama. In fact, its core themes of youth violence and gang culture still play to some of our deepest fears. Its core narrative reflecting several modern-day realities, from the teachers now guarded by security officers and metal detectors to the concept of untouchable youth. The fear of false allegations and career-destroying rumour haunting many of those adults who attempt to intervene, in a world where the teenager holds the ultimate power. Therefore, while this punk classic may seem a remnant of a bygone era, make no mistake, it still has a sharp edge, one that would go on to inspire a range of movies from Repo Man (1984) to Dangerous Minds (1995).