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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Massacre at Central High

May 20, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Massacre at Central High

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #555: Massacre at Central High

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has zero interest in hang gliding because it’s one of those activities where, by doing it, you’re really just asking for it, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and fifty-five, I take a look at the low budget sort of horror thriller Massacre at Central High, which hit movie screens in early November 1976.

Massacre at Central High

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Massacre at Central High, written and directed by Renee Daalder, is a movie that I had never heard of until Widow’s Point, Johnny Gruesome, and Slime City director Gregory Lamberson mentioned it to me while I was participating via social media in the The Last Drive-In Season 2 episode where Joe Bob Briggs showed Heathers. In fact, mere minutes after Lamberson told me about Massacre Joe Bob mentioned it during one of the “Joe Bob breaks.” People who know both movies suspect that Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters was directly inspired by Massacre, as they feature similar storylines, but Waters claims that he didn’t see it before writing Heathers (although he does think he read a review for the movie and that review may have been “rattling around somewhere in my subconscious.” That’s what Wikipedia claims, anyway).

Massacre at Central High stars Derrel Maury as David, the mysterious new kid at Central High, a high school ruled by a foursome of mega douchebag sort of jock assholes. The assholes are Bruce (Ray Underwood), Craig (Steve Bond), Paul (Damon Douglas), and Mark (Andrew Stevens). Now, Derrel absolutely despises Bruce, Craig, and Paul as soon as he meets them, but he has an affection for Mark because they’re old friends from a previous school they both attended. Mark would really like it if David became a member of their clique, but David wants nothing to do with them. He would like to stay friends with Mark, though, because he knows him. David isn’t too keen on the persona Mark has created for himself at the school, though. David also doesn’t understand why his fellow students at Central High, the clique’s victims, put up with their shit. Why is everyone so afraid of these douchebags?

As David tries to reconnect with Mark and Mark tries to reconnect with David as he also maintains his status as one of the top cool kids, David also tries to befriend many of the clique’s victims and figure out, for himself, what the hell is going on with them. David saves many of them from humiliation, but he can’t save all of them and, heck, most of them don’t seem all that receptive to his efforts. Again, just what the hell is going on with these people? After stopping them from raping two female students in a classroom, the clique tells Mark that David has to be stopped; David either joins the group or he stops getting in the way of their bullying bullshit activities.

So then some stuff happens, Bruce, Craig, and Paul attack David while he’s repairing a fellow student’s car in his home garage (they drop the car on David’s leg, crushing it), and David decides right then and there that he’s had enough of the bullying bullshit. After he leaves the hospital David sets out on a revenge quest against Bruce, Craig, and Paul, murdering them in creative ways (death by hang glider into a bunch of power lines, death by diving into a pool with no water in it, and death by getting knocked out in a van and the van being pushed off a cliff).

Now, in a “normal” movie the death of most of the bullies would be the end of the movie. Massacre at Central High, though, is only about halfway done when a majority of the bullies bite the big one. The second half of the movie is where things get sick and twisted and incredibly dark. With the bullies gone, you would think that the victims of the bullies would breathe a sigh of relief and get on with their lives and be goddamn happy. That’s what David thinks should happen. The tormentors are gone. There should be peace and harmony now.

Yes. There should be. However, now that there’s a power vacuum of sorts in the school, the kids that were the victims of bullies become bullies themselves. The kids that used to get their ass kicked every day now want to do the ass kicking. And loads of them want David on their side because they know he took care of the original problem and can give them the muscle they need to grab power. David has no interest in any of that shit. In fact, David becomes even more disgusted by what the victims want to do and decides that they, too, need to be taken care of. So David sets out to kill even more of his fellow students.

While all of that is happening, Mark tries to figure out what to do. David is dangerous, but how can he stop him? And how can Mark stop his girlfriend Theresa (Kimberly Beck) from falling further for David?

The first thing you’ll notice with Massacre at Central High is the complete absence of adults. There are no parents or teachers or school administrators or cops to be found at all throughout the movie. The high school kids seem to live in a world completely devoid of any outside authority beyond the school’s social pecking order. Even when David’s carnage starts and kids start dying there are no cops crawling around the school, trying to figure out what happened. I mean, one kid dies when his fucking locker explodes in the middle of a school day and it’s basically no big deal. The school doesn’t shut down, we don’t see a funeral or a school wide remembrance service of any kid, and the kids keep showing up at the school. The only time we see adults involved in the story at all is at the very end of the school, when David plans on blowing up the school during an alumni dance that’s filled with old people. So what the hell is going on at this school?

I mean, sure, it makes sense to focus solely on the students because it is their story and it helps focus the story on the idea that, in general, people are awful, but it’s still odd that there are no adults anywhere during all of this. I’m pretty sure, even in the 1970’s, if locker bombs were going off in school and students were dropping dead all over the place the authorities would be all over that shit. And where the hell are the TV people? The newspapers? Hell, where are the radio news reporters? A bunch of fucking high school students dying all over the place is new in any decade. Right?

And why aren’t the kids scared of going to school, especially when kids are dying/being murdered in the fucking school? And it happens during school hours! They all saw this shit happen right in front of them! Why would they keep going back to school? Am I supposed to believe that, since the high school is their world they would never leave it, even with kids dying via locker bomb?

Another thing you’ll notice about Massacre at Central High is how it comes off like a super fucked up TV movie. I will admit that when I first heard about the movie I thought it was one of those 1970’s TV movies, like The Night Stalker). It definitely looks like one. It doesn’t look like a movie that played in movie theatres, even in the 1970’s. The movie is chock full of nonchalant nudity, something you wouldn’t see in a TV movie, and the violence is fucking brutal. It isn’t gory, but, shit, when a character dies in this movie they fucking die. The “hang glider into the power lines” sequence will make you cringe. The part when the librarian with the hearing aid dies will make you go “What the fuck?” None of this shit would have passed a TV network’s standard and practices department.

And the weirdest part of the movie, at least for me, is the jarring opening theme that makes you think you’re going to watch some other kind of movie, like a sensitive teen drama or something. You don’t hear that song and then think of locker bombs. You just don’t.

The performances are generally good. Derrel Maury makes David perpetually mysterious and off putting, even when he’s the hero. You just know there’s something not right about him, and when he starts his murder spree you totally buy it. It doesn’t seem out of place at all when he starts it. His relationship with Mark is odd as fuck because David doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have a friend. You almost wish the ending was different because you kind of want to see David’s psychopathy examined. I mean, does he know he’s a fucking lunatic? And check out the trench coat he wears at the end of the movie. Daniel Waters may have not seen this movie when he wrote Heathers, but did Christian Slater see Massacre at Central High before taking the role of J.D.?

Andrew Stevens plays Mark as a guy that you don’t necessarily want to see die but you can’t really root for him, either. He’s awful just like his bully buddies but, at the same time, he has a sensitivity to him that the other bullies lack. Is he so messed up that being a douchebag bully is so important that he can’t see that that status is negative to his fellow students? Is he a bully because he knows that he won’t be a victim if he is one? That’s what he seems to be doing with this relationship with David. Mark wants David to join him because he doesn’t want to see David hurt.

Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Damon Douglas make the most of their douchebag parts and really make you hate Bruce, Craig, and Paul. There’s nothing redeeming about these people at all. And that’s probably how bullies she be depicted. Just a bunch of assholes. They’re expertly played.

Robert Carradine, the future Lewis Skolnick, pops in as a hippie named Spoony. His final sequence is both a dream come true and a nightmare. Jeffrey Winner is Oscar, the fat kid that becomes a marauding asshole when the clique is destroyed. I don’t know if Oscar would actually become that guy, but Winner does a good job running into people and just being a fucking asshole. And Rodney, as played by Steve Sikes, is the kid that surprised me. I didn’t think he would be as awful as he turns out to be. A kid that drives a jalopy like that should be way more understanding than he turns out to be. I mean, we see the kind of shit that he goes through. He should know that that kind of behavior is always unacceptable. Always.

Massacre at Central High is an interesting movie. I don’t quite know if it’s necessarily good, but it’s definitely something you should seek out and experience, especially if you’re a fan of low budget 1970’s cinema, Heathers, and movies with weird as hell opening theme songs. I’m a fan of all three.

See Massacre at Central High. See it, see it, see it. As I’m writing this, it’s still available on YouTube.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 10

Explosions: Multiple.

Nudity?: Yes. Some of it is quite exquisite.

Doobage: Exploding person during the opening credits, beach jogging, a gang of douchebags, a ride in a van, car shit, more beach jogging, serious fat kid bullying in the locker room, a van conference, burying a kid under a pile of books at the library, attempted rape, a swift shot to the balls, jeep riding, dudes arguing, skinny dipping in the ocean, deliberate leg crushing, attempted hang gliding, sudden electrocution, some dipshit diving into an empty pool, a total lack of teachers, surfing, death by van off of a cliff, a cafeteria food fight, a new car, explosive making, death by hearing aid, exploding locker, car bomb attack, a naked hippie fucking around with dynamite, a threesome in the woods, death by boulder crash, trench coat hooey, school dance hooey, door kicking, exploding student, and a weird ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Robert Carradine painting a swastika on someone’s locker, Robert Carradine playing a guy named “Spoony,” guys talking about girls, how to learn to park on the right side of the parking lot, winding roads, douchebags picking on a fat kid in gym class, bell bottom pants, diving practice, refusal to pay a library late fee, a convertible VW bug, hang gliding, sex on the beach, talk of “3” being a mystical number, whales off in the distance, use of the word “buggies” when discussing cars, Robert Carradine calling someone a “computerized stooge,” Robert Carradine having sex with two hippie women in a tent on a hill, old people, and a weird ending.

Best lines: “You don’t believe in free speech?,” “Spoony, get some soap,” “Theresa? That’s a very nice name and a very nice smile,” “Look, you gotta drop that loner shit!,” “You ever do any hang gliding?,” “That new guy? He’s kind of cute,” “You know, it’s possible to ignore Bruce. I do,” “I think your pal David is trouble,” “What is this, be kind to losers day?,” “Don’t you people ever fight back?,” “So that’s your idea of a good fuck, Bruce?,” “I have a release. I run,” “Ratting on people is not my style,” “Well, Craig, like they say, what goes around comes around,” “That’s not metaphysics, dummy,” “Shove your pity, man. It’s not going to save you,” “Goddamn math problem won’t come out!,” “I’m ashamed of this school,” “So you have become one of the privileged people?,” “Your janitorial threats don’t frighten me,” “All right you elitist, computerized stooge, it’s time for a showdown!,” “I still say all he needs is a good fuck,” “Who the fuck do you think you are? Just a madman,” and “Look, you’ve got three minutes. I’ve warned you. It’s all I can do.”

Rating: 7.0/10.0

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Massacre at Central High

Derrel Maury– David
Andrew Stevens– Mark
Robert Carradine– Spoony
Kimberly Beck– Theresa
Ray Underwood– Bruce
Steve Bond– Craig
Steve Sikes– Rodney
Damon Douglas– Paul
Jeffrey Winner– Oscar

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Renee Daalder
Screenplay by Renee Daalder

Distributed by Brian Distributing, Trolley Car Records and Filmworks, Electric Video, Gorgon Video, MPI Home Video, and Viking Video Classics

Rated R for violence, language, and nudity
Runtime– 87 minutes

Watch it here