Massacre at Central High Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Synapse Films

Written and directed by Renee Daalder
1976, 88 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 13th, 2022

Derrel Maury as David
Andrew Stevens as Mark
Kimberly Beck as Theresa
Robert Carradine as Spoony
Ray Underwood as Bruce
Steve Bond as Craig
Steve Sikes as Rodney
Rainbeaux Smith as Mary



David is a transfer student new to Central High where he meets up with his old friend Mark from a previous school. Mark used to be bullied but now runs with a trio of jocks who both mentally and physically torment the weaker students. Rather than join the clique, David stands up to the jerks and defends their victims, putting Mark in an awkward position. While Mark is away with his girlfriend Theresa, his friends drop a car on David’s leg, sending him to the hospital. He returns to school a week later and decides to settle the score – permanently. With the bullies soon out of the way, the school briefly becomes a utopia, but before long other students are looking to fill the power void. David learns it isn’t enough to simply remove a trio of bad apples; he must kill the root of the problem and sets his sights on an increasing number of students at Central High.

With Massacre at Central High, Dutch writer/director Renee Daalder (Habitat) creates a political allegory set inside a unique world populated almost exclusively with teenagers. There are no teachers, parents or police, except briefly in the last five minutes of the film. This near-total lack of authority figures lends the tale a sort of Lord of the Flies vibe. Daalder’s take on how American teens talk contributes to the somewhat surreal landscape of this environment – although in the supplements on this disc some of the actors tell of reworking the dialogue to make it sound more natural.

David makes an interesting anti-hero, one who stands up for the oppressed against fascist bullies but has no problem taking the leap to murder. At first, he asks nicely for the guys not to pick on the weak, then things escalate to fisticuffs when the guys turn rapey with two girls in an empty classroom. David easily adapts to staging elaborate accidents to knock off the creeps, but grows more inspired with his use of explosives as he expands his killing spree to include anyone he finds too ambitious.


Derrel Maury (Hobgoblins 2) delivers a memorable performance as the mentally unstable David. Audiences will root for him in the beginning when his cause is noble, but he remains likeable even when killing less judiciously in the second half. Andrew Stevens (The Seduction, 10 to Midnight) is the one to watch as the conflicted best friend Mark, who wants to protect David but is guilty of enabling his jerky friends – without ever actually doing the bullying himself. Kimberly Beck (Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter) co-stars as Theresa, the voice of reason begging David to stop killing people. She is the most likeable person in the film, as she tends to do the right thing, along with her two girlfriends Lani O’Grady as Jane and Rainbeaux Smith of the Runaways as Mary. The other notable name in the cast is the always-welcome Robert Carradine (Body Bags, Escape from L.A.) in an early role as Spoony. The supporting players make a nice ensemble and all do well with the material, making audiences wonder who will make David’s list.

Massacre at Central High proved to be influential for Michael Lehmann’s Heathers (1988) and reminds me of Jonathan Kaplan’s Over the Edge (1979). As a dark study of the American teenager and societal norms, there is a lot to recommend in this unsettling feature with its clever script and strong performances. At its heart this is a morality tale with a twisted view of right and wrong and extreme punishment. As a sign of the times, it is strange to see a picture with this title involving multiple murders at a high school without a single gun involved. One thing that sticks out is the lack of any actors of color, adding to the overall strangeness to the environment. This title hasn’t been that readily accessible on home video, so this new edition is welcome and I strongly encourage checking it out.


Video and Audio:

Several years ago, Synapse Films announced this title, but there were multiple technical setbacks, starting when the late director provided an inferior HD master that required extensive restoration. Their efforts are a revelation, as the picture, presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is absolutely stunning. There are some baked-in flaws that were not completely correctable, but overall this is simply the best this movie is ever going to look. Colors are bold and pop off the screen while black levels and contrast are spot-on. There is a lot of fine detail present and a healthy level of film grain.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono soundtrack also required extensive work by Synapse and their work is commendable. The track is free from hiss and any other form of distortion with dialogue levels remaining clear and always understandable. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

In 2011, film historian Michael Gingold recorded an audio interview with director Renee Daalder during a retrospective of his work. The majority of the conversation covers this film but also includes discussion of his other works. The late director talks about the idea of someone using gravity as an art form for murder and later goes on to address the various themes and subtext of the picture. He also talks about his original electronic score that was replaced by a ballad at the hands of some meddling producers.

Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast conducted a series of interviews via telephone with a number of cast members. including Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Rex Steven Syke and Derrel Maurey. Audio quality fluctuates, but the content is pretty fascinating. Stevens and Carradine don’t have a lot of memories of this film but go on to share stories from their early careers. Stevens admits to being confused as to why they are talking about this movie, as he is unaware of its cult following. Syke and Maurey have much sharper memories of this production and their stories are pretty entertaining.

Hell in the Hallways (2021, 42 minutes) is a wonderful making-of documentary featuring several members of the cast and crew sharing production stories. Highlights include casting, stunts, safety with explosives and memories of working with the director. There is a lot of interesting and informative content that you won’t want to miss, including tales of the X-rated Italian version titled Sexy Jeans available on bootleg VHS.

The theatrical trailer is paired with a TV spot and radio ad.

A photo gallery (3 minutes) plays as a slideshow set to the film’s title theme featuring publicity shots, behind-the-scenes images, international poster and video art.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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