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Review: Massacre At Central High (1976)

Writer: Richard Mogg


One of the earliest (if not the first) teenage revenge flicks, Massacre At Central High brings us back to a time when real horrors weren’t the hideous monsters creeping around darkened corners, but were high-school bullies.

The teachers at Central High may run the classrooms, but the hallways are run by four main teenaged thugs: Bruce (the tough leader who prefers everything be neat and clean), Paul (the muscle with a chin the size of Cocahala), Craig (as non-descript as his name), and Mark (the softie). These guys typically throw their weight around with little opposition from the rest of the students, though occasionally deal with ‘civil protests’ from Spoony, a hippie mostly concerned with meta-physical thinking (whatever that means). Spoony’s ‘civil protests,’ as we see in the opening of the film, consist of painting red Nazi signs on Bruce’s locker. Enter David, the new kid on campus and an old friend of Mark’s who is initially brought into the bullies’ group, but then takes a stand against them by defending the other students they pick on. Of course it isn’t long before the bullies turn their anger towards David, which ultimately leads to David’s leg being broken by a car pushed off the jack it was propped up on and falling upon him. Soon after David’s recovery, each of the bullies systematically end up dead through a series of violent ‘accidents.’

What sets Massacre At Central High apart from others in the genre however is the portrayal of many of the students who were bullied early on in the film. Later as the main bad guys start dying off in freak accidents (such as diving head-first into an empty cement pool from the high-board, uncontrollably rolling off a cliff in a van that’s had its breaks cut, and having their wind-glider fall apart 60 feet in the air and falling straight into live electrical wires), several of the once-bullied become bullies themselves. Picking fights with everyone who’s ever wronged them, these new-bullies say it’s their ‘rightful turn’ to sit at the higher end of the food chain, which they all ask David to co-run and then turn on him when he refuses. David on the other hand, has become a total recluse. Setting up booby-traps in the school and making pipe-bombs(!) at home, David ends up killing everyone who steps in as the next rule-maker and as the film climaxes to the finale, he even plants a bomb in the school during the nighttime prom in hopes of blowing up the building for good!

Ultimately though, while containing several murders and a near double gang-rape scene, Massacre At Central High is not a slasher film. Most of the deaths consist of off-screen moments of impact or fireball explosions. There’s a minimalist amount of blood thrown around and while the near gang-rape scene is a little out of place due to its sexual violence, it’s never shown graphically. But the film is still quite horrific and shocking, especially with the amount of vengeance and gun/bomb use towards the students when viewed now, in a world post-Columbine. There is a fair amount of nudity in the film, all of it being of the typical T&A order as characters go skinny-dipping, have sex on the beach, and in the aforementioned rape scene. It should also be mentioned that this is an incredibly fun film to watch: reliving those younger days of shag-carpeted interior vans, V-neck polyester sweaters, and lines like “It’s time to dig it, heavy changes are coming on,” are a welcome blast from the past that always put a smile on my face. Not to mention looking out for those younger actors who would later go on to more famous roles like Robert Carradine (Revenge Of The Nerds) and the stunningly gorgeous Kimberly Beck (Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter) who does do nudity here. As an interesting side note, there’s been a longstanding rumor that an initial-uncut version of the film was made to include hardcore sex scenes, specifically during a beachside threesome with Spoony and two girls in a tent. While this sequence of Spoony in the threesome is present in the supposedly-uncut version reviewed here (running 88 minutes), there is nothing graphic about the sex or nudity onscreen. So either this rumor is false (as any hardcore footage would seem totally out of place), or some projectionists MAY have inserted hardcore footage into the film to better appease the paying audience in some of the more independent theater houses during its initial theatrical run.

Of course the film does have its failings; most notably the horrendous opening theme song ‘Crossroads.’ Now I’ve seen this film several times so I can safely say that the song WILL grow on you, though you’d be hard pressed not to cringe as soon as the “You’re at the crossroads of your life… Crossroads of your life and where you go from here… is up to you…” spills out from your speakers. Also, while there are a few older people shown in the prom finale, there’s not a single adult, parent, or policeman onscreen throughout the entire picture. Pretty darn strange since the school seemingly has kids dying or being blown up every day of the week (yet they still hold a prom?!), but these aspects can be overlooked. Massacre At Central High is a golden gem amongst the midst of classic horror/teen-revenge/slasher flicks that have yet to receive a worthy DVD release and definitely worth tracking down. Highly Recommended.



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