Massacre at Central High (1976)

massacre at central high poster 1976 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 4/10

Fun high school revenge story with social commentary

Cheap FX, so-so acting

Movie Info

Movie Name: Massacre at Central High

Studio: Brian Distributing Corporation

Genre(s): Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s): September 17, 1976

MPAA Rating:  R

massacre at central high bullies synapse films hd

We are most definitely not 20-somethings hanging out and pretending to be teens…definitely not

David (Derrel Maury) is a new student in at Central High where his friend Mark (Andrew Stevens) attends.  Mark is part of the leading clique of students in Central High, and David could be leading the way too…if he fits in.  Unfortunately David champions the little guy and Mark’s friends are out to crush those below them.  When David gets in the way, a tragedy occurs, and David is out for revenge.

Written and directed by Rene Daalder, Massacre at Central High is a low-budget horror thriller.  The film was released to mixed reviews but became a cult classic over the years.

I used to watch Massacre at Central High all the time on a low-transmitting UHF station growing up.  It was always all cut up and edited for TV, but it was a horror movie and the movie had a weird edge that not all movies had at the time.  While Massacre at Central High is far from perfect, it is a fun, weird grindhouse-type horror thriller.

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This is like one of those intense UK “Electricity Kills” public warnings

The movie is kind of horror movie, but it also is social commentary.  It is the classic revenge tale with the guy who is trying to change things becoming the target of bullies.  He ends up lashing out at those that crippled him and kills them in shocking ways.  What changes the story is when you start to get to get the former bullied characters replacing the bullies and becoming bullies themselves.  It is abrupt in the script, but it is often accurate to society…but as kind of a weird R-Rated After School Special.

The cast is fine.  Derrel Maury plays the odd David who is kind of weird to begin with (I do like both David and Mark have a past that they don’t talk about in great detail).  The first round of bullies are played by Ray Underwood (Bruce), Damon Douglas (Paul), and Steve Bond (Craig), but then they are replaced by Dennis Kort (Arthur), Jeffrey Winner) (Oscar), Rex Steven Sikes (Rodney), Robert Carradine (Spoony), Cheryl Smith (Mary), and Lani O’Grady (Jane).  The film notably doesn’t have any adults until the end sequence, implying that the kids are almost this self-governing group of students (I wish no adults had been included).

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Call the janitor…we’ve got another body. We’re going to need more of that orange sawdust stuff to throw on it

Massacre at Central High has a weird look and tone.  The movie has a cheesy opening (“Crossroads”) with scenes from the movie as a montage under it and the film continues an odd visual tone.  There are explosions and crazy murders in the school with little recourse.  It ends up this strange low-budget feel that makes it even better than if it had been more coherent.

The movie is a weird cult film.  It is one of those cult movies that is less well known and feels like it ends its “cult” status in the age of internet.  The movie is widely cited as having been the influence for Heathers which amplifies the comedy and social aspects, but the horror aspect feels like a necessary here.  Having always seen Massacre at Central High as a grimy low-budget movie, it is really weird to see a nice HD transfer of the film.  The movie holds up because the basic idea is true…society is a multi-headed beast, but cut off one head and two grow back in the place.  No amount of “Massacres” can stop that.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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