Director – Rene Daalder (The White Slave, Hysteria)
Starring – Derrel Maury (Shazam!, Hobgoblins 2), Andrew Stevens (Munchie Strikes Back, Scared Stiff), and Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds, Ghosts of Mars)
Release Date – 1976
Rating – 4/5
Blu Release – 3.5/5
I feel like Synapse Films doesn’t release as many films as other companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Serverin Films, Arrow Video, and Scream Factory to saw a few but when they do release a film you can bet it’s going to leave an impression. One of their most recent releases, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, is one of my favorite films and easily the best release of that film to date. When they announced the release of the 1976 film Massacre at Central High I was definitely intrigued.
I heard other horror fans talk about this one before but I never had the opportunity to check this one out. I reached out to MVD and they were kind enough to send this one over. It was another impressive release for a film that has stuck with me for several days after my initial viewing. Since then I’ve watched this film three times and still have the urge to watch it again. I want to thank MVD and Synapse for sending this one over because it was an amazing watch. One of the best re-releases I’ve seen in a long time.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows the students of Central High when new student David (Maury) arrives and begins questioning the school’s hierarchy where a group of bullies control the entire school. No one seems to stand up to them until David arrives. When David’s old friend tries to bring him into the group his refusal prompts retaliation from them resulting in a horrible accident that leaves David unable to use his leg properly. Soon the group of bullies starts dying one by one until they are gone but the death doesn’t stop there. **Spoiler Alert**
Massacre at Central High is not a traditional horror film but it is a dark thriller with slasher-like elements from the mid-70s just years before the slasher boom. Everyone that made it through high school knows what it was like to bully and be bullied to some extent. I was a piece of shit my teenage years and found myself on the business end of bullying and took the pain and torment of being bullied out on others. I never wanted to kill people or go to the extremes this movie does but the damage from being bullied does drive some to such measures. It’s a fantastic film that goes by the saying “real life is more horrifying than fiction.”
The acting in this one is pretty decent. I loved the characters we are given and how well they fit in with the story. The writer/writers does one hell of a job giving the cast characters like this to work with. The cast works very well together and their on screen chemistry makes the scenes that more enjoyable. There is a few moments when the characters should be panicked or terrified but their face would be blank and emotionless but aside from those few scenes I found myself enjoying the casting.
The story for this one isn’t as out there as most horror films. It’s grounded and very realistic. Hell, it’s even more relatable now than it was then with the amount of school shootings, bomb attempts, and other hostile attacks on our public school by those that were bullied, tormented, tortured, and pushed beyond the brink. I’m not making excuses for these monsters. I’m just simply stating that most of these acts come from those that were often picked on and ridiculed by groups of people. Seeing a horror film centered around that is enough to give me chills. It’s got a great pacing, the scares work, and is still relevant all these years later.
Finally, the film has several deaths but these death scenes were the weakest aspect of the film. The deaths don’t feature amazing effects and gore. In fact, they are cheap and extremely cheesy bringing about some unexpected laughs. The film is such a great film and having memorable death scenes would have sent it over the top. Overall, Massacre at Central High is a fucking phenomenal film and Synapse did a great job with this release. I fucking loved it and I can’t wait until my next viewing. Do yourself a favor and snag a copy. It’s worth every penny.
High-definition 1080p remaster scanned, transferred and supervised by director Renee Daalder
Audio interviews by Mike White (‘The Projection Booth’ Podcast), featuring interviews with cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury and Rex Steven Sikes
Audio interview with director Renee Daalder, conducted by writer/horror historian Michael Gingold
HELL IN THE HALLWAYS: The Making of “Massacre at Central High” – New “making of” documentary
Theatrical trailer, TV spot, radio spot and still gallery
Newly translated removable English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing