A group of terrorists take over a high school and announce that, unless their demands are met, they will launch a nuclear missile at a nuclear power plant which I guess will cause double the nuclear destruction. Since they already have a nuclear missile, it feels like also threatening to blow up the power plant is definite overkill. With the school now full of terrorists and explosives, it’s up to one student to kill the terrorists one-by-one and save his classmates. It’s Die Hard in a High School (cool!), with the Bruce Willis role being taken on by … COREY HAIM!
That bit of casting tells you both why Demolition High doesn’t work and also why anyone would be watching this direct-to-video “action” film in the first place. The 25 year-old Haim plays Lenny Slater, a high school student who knows Kung Fu because he grew up in the Bronx. His father (played by Alan Thicke!) moves to a small town, both to become a police chief and to hopefully keep Lenny from getting into any more trouble. Lenny’s all trouble, though, and terrorist leader Luther (the great Jef Kober) is about to discover that he’s invaded the wrong high school.
If I had watched this film in the 90s or even the early aughts, I would have laughed at how bad Corey Haim is as an action hero but today, knowing all we know about his life and how Hollywood essentially enabled his worst tendencies and then abandoned him when he become too self-destructive to work, it’s not as easy to watch an obviously troubled actor who has gone from being a big star to appearing in a direct-to-video Die Hard rip-off. Trying to disguise the fact that he’s too old to be playing a high school student, Haim wears a flannel shirt and an earring and has a bowl cut. Whenever he talks to his classmates, you expect him to say, “How do you do, fellow kids?” As heavily edited as the fight scenes are, it’s still obvious that Haim had no idea how to throw a punch. On the plus side, even while obviously addled by drug abuse, Corey Haim was still a better actor than Stephen Seagal.
Demolition High is pretty dumb but it was directed by Jim Wynorski so at least there’s some inside jokes. Gerrit Graham and Dick Van Patten both have small roles and Alan Thicke gets to tell an FBI agent to “Think with your heart, not with your badge.” Wynorski also cast Melissa Brasselle as Tayna, a sexy terrorist who wears black leather. He deserves some credit for that. (When the film was released on video, Brasselle was featured on the cover, not Haim.) Some of the techniques that Lenny uses to take out the terrorists are creative, if never really plausible. In this case, Lenny is helped by the stupidity of the terrorists. It’s not every evil terrorist who is clumsy enough to stumble head first into a table saw.
Demolition High was apparently successful enough to be followed by a sequel, Demolition U. I’ll look at the movie tomorrow.