We finally reach the third and final part of the “Class of…” series of movies, with the Class of 2001. Well, the release title is ‘Class of 1999 II: The Substitute’, but that’s awful and the producers were cowards, so I’m just ignoring that. They also forgot to get Mark Lester involved, other than presumably the cashing of a nice cheque, but it’s still got enough markers of the original two to make this into a semi-coherent trilogy.
Although it is a straight-to-video production and suffers from a visible drop in on-screen quality, it still holds its own as a watchable movie. The basic plot is that one of the deathbot-teachers from Class of 1999 (played by Sasha Mitchell, fresh off his run on the 3 Kickboxer sequels I had no idea existed until I checked his IMDB) has ended up at some kind of reform school somewhere in the boonies of Somewhere, USA. Guess what, he’s about to do a whole bunch of murders! But don’t worry, G.D. Ash of the Department of Educational Defence (Rick Hill) is on his way to save the day and give you all the backstory narration you could ever hope for.
That’s the main plot, but it isn’t the most interesting one. Jenna McKenzie (Caitlin Dulany) gets that title by being a school teacher who saw local 20-something high-school ruffian Sanders do a murder, and she wants to testify. Sanders (Gregory West) is terrorising her into not testifying because he doesn’t like jail, the school is strongarming her to not testify because presumably it’ll look bad on the OFSTED report, and her partner Emmett (Nick Cassavetes) is gaslighting her into not testifying because he’s a terrible piece of shit and she could do so much better.
There’s also the sub-sub plot of “what the hell kind of school are they working at” and “why are all the kids in orange boilersuits”, but this is the mid-90s school of turn-it-out cyberpunk, so that doesn’t really get answered. What it does do though is nick 1999’s trick of world-building through random details and rework 1984’s “teacher against the system” story, giving something that could have been as good as both of those had the budget allowed. The thematic shout-backs are interesting, even if they could be accidental, especially when Jenna’s and Teacher-1000’s worlds collide. It also has a twist ending that beats the other two hands down, in concept if not in technical execution.
It’s hard to say if this would have been made without the “Class of…” name tag, so it’s hard to judge it outside of that context. The fundamentals of the story are fine, with enough flourishes to make it memorable, and there are definitely worse films that came out at the same time but made back enough cash to be worth it. Whilst most of the meat comes from its predecessor, you could probably rework that without much trouble, the cyborg educator functions as a hunting slasher, so could be swapped for a Veteran with PTSD.
So, what have we learned from this triumvirate of movies? Definitely something about the opportunistic nature of filmmaking. The first got made off the back of vigilante films being big, the second off the back of cyberpunk films being big, and the third off of brand recognition going a long way. We also saw how simple ideas of exaggerating everyday conflicts can make for an entertainment, and how variations are realignments of those conflicts can keep an idea bouncing along. Finally, that it’s the smaller background details that work best when setting a future world, as the big fashion and technology statements get out of date very fast.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that none of these are especially bad. They certainly aren’t going to win any awards, but they are still perfectly respectable projects that each made a return on investment. This is a string of curios, held together in a chain with very thin strands but providing enough entertainment to be enjoyable.