Massacre at Central High  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Massacre at Central High is a 1976 American horror thriller film directed by Rene Daalder and starring Derrel Maury, Kimberly Beck, Robert Carradine, and Andrew Stevens. The plot follows a series of revenge killings at a fictional American high school, after which the oppressed students take on the role of their bully oppressors. Despite its title, it is not a slasher film but an unusual blend of political allegory, social commentary, and low-budget exploitation; with the exception of the final sequence, no "adult" characters (such as teachers and parents) are seen.

In the UK the film was released theatrically as Blackboard Massacre. It was shot on 35mm film, and has a running time of 87 minutes.

The film's director, Rene Daalder, described Massacre at Central High as "eerily predicting punk and Columbine".


David (Derrel Maury), a new student at Central High, meets Mark (Andrew Stevens), an old friend whom he once helped out of a jam at their previous school. Mark tells David that the school can be like a country club for him if he befriends Bruce (Ray Underwood), Craig (Steve Bond), and Paul (Damon Douglas), the bullies who rule the school student body; Mark has become their somewhat reluctant accomplice.

Over the next few days, David witnesses Bruce, Craig, and Paul torment the other students, including the scrawny Spoony; the overweight Oscar; Arthur, the school's hearing-impaired librarian; and Rodney, who drives a rundown car that is vandalized by the bullies. After David forcibly thwarts the trio's attempt to rape two female students, Mary and Jane, in an empty classroom, the bullies approach Mark and tell him he only has one more chance to talk David into minding his own business. When this fails, the three bullies decide to take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile, David has taken a liking to Mark's girlfriend, Theresa.

One evening, David is repairing Rodney's car in his garage when the bullies appear and kick the jack out from under the vehicle. One of the wheels crushes David's left leg, crippling him.

After being discharged from hospital, David takes revenge on the trio by arranging fatal "accidents": he electrocutes Bruce by sabotaging his hang-glider to fly into a power line, tricks Craig into high-diving into an empty swimming pool, and pushes Paul's van off a cliff with Paul in it.

The school changes after the bullies' deaths. At first the students support each other, but soon the formerly tormented students become bullies themselves, and try to form alliances with David to control the school. In due course more deaths occur: Arthur is killed when his hearing-aid malfunctions, Oscar's locker explodes when he opens it, and Rodney's car blows up when he starts the engine. While camping under a cliff, Spoony, Mary, and Jane find a box of dynamite but ignore it; when they return to their tent for a threesome, an explosion causes a rockslide, killing them also.

The police blame Spoony, Mary, and Jane for the carnage, but Mark is aware that David is responsible. He tells Theresa they must prevent David from killing more people at the school dance with a bomb he has planted in the school basement. Realizing the only way to stop David is by playing on the last sympathies he has towards them, Mark and Theresa enter the gym where the dance is being held and tell David that if he really wants to kill everyone then he will have to kill them too. David rushes to the basement and retrieves the bomb, and as he tries to defuse it, he takes it outside where it explodes, killing him. To save David's reputation, Mark and Theresa agree to tell the police that Spoony, Mary, and Jane had planted the bomb, and that David had given his life to save everyone.


Critical response

Massacre at Central High attracted little attention when first released, but when reissued in 1980, New York Times critic Vincent Canby praised it as "an original, fascinating work", and named it as one of his 20 favorite films of the year. Roger Ebert also discussed the film favorably on his television show Sneak Previews, describing it as "intelligent and uncompromising". Dave Sindelar from Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings praised the film's characters, political subtext, and depth, while criticizing some of the dialogue, and soundtrack. Sindelar concluded his review by writing, "Nevertheless, movies with this much thoughtfulness behind them are uncommon, and whatever its flaws, the movie is definitely worth viewing." TV Guide gave the film three out of five stars, writing, "Massacre at Central High is a fascinating little movie that delivers its expected exploitation thrills while presenting a political allegory, albeit a somewhat confused one." Time Out London also reviewed the film favorably, calling it "An intriguing, diagrammatic example of subversive cinema."

By contrast, John Ross Bowie, in comparing the film with the more comedic Heathers, dismissed Massacre at Central High as "exploitative" and "devoid of technique", and criticized its technical flaws and "wooden acting".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Massacre at Central High" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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