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  Massacre at Central High School's Out
Year: 1976
Director: Renee Daalder
Stars: Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Kimberly Beck, Robert Carradine, Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, Rex Stephen Sykes, Lani O'Grady, Damon Douglas, Dennis Cort, Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith, Jeffrey Winner, Tom Logan
Genre: Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: David (Derrel Maury) has arrived at his new high school, but he finds his best friend Mark (Andrew Stevens) involved with a gang who lord over the place by bullying the students. David doesn't want to let his friend down, but also has a strong sense of injustice and hates to see what the three intimidating students get up to, which extends to physical violence just for the sake of it. Mark advises him to be smart and stick with his advice, join up with the bullies and enjoy the easy life as one of the school's elite, but he cannot stand by and do nothing...

Massacre at Central High was a weirdo proto-slasher, where the killler starts out as the hero and then becomes a more threatening presence, although that didn't simply happen out of the blue as we're intended to understand how he was driven to it, if not sympathise with his methods of getting even. That was thanks to those methods involving outright murder, but as the three bullies - David only goes along with them as far as it suits them, backing off from their more extreme behaviour - are set up in the script to be essentially asking for their eventual punishment you don't twig until later on how director Renee Dalder was messing with the audience's heads.

There's a political satire of sorts here, in a "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" kind of way, and many have observed the debt the plot owed to George Orwell's classic allegory Animal Farm. Yet while that was blatant in its courting of comparisons to the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, Dalder was not so obvious in his allusions, taking a bleaker contemplation of human nature as its impetus and suggesting that we all have it in us to be the bully should the opportunity arise, so it could be less political matters that concerned him and more social structures. The setting of an American high school, depicted in so many ways from a little slice of heaven to hell on earth in the movies, is all too appropriate.

Overall this is murkily filmed and has a strange atmosphere - there are no teachers around, the police never seem to investigate the deaths (they only turn up right at the end), no one is ever seen in class, at least not learning although we do see them in the library. About the only scene we do get in a classroom is when the terrible trio attempt to rape a couple of the friends designated as outsiders by their harsh, unwritten code, an event only stopped when David's girlfriend bravely stands up to the oppressors, getting away with it thanks to her connections to her boyfriend. David is attracted to her, but refuses to do anything that would hurt his pal, morals which notably fly out of the window once a car lands on him.

A car he was working on in his capacity as a mechanic, which was toppled by the bullies when his dogoodery grows too much for them to tolerate. This incident twists the boy's mind, and just as he has been left physically crippled his sense of right and wrong has been damaged too. You can understand how this could have been an inspiration for Heathers, as it has a similar premise even if the eighties cult classic is far slicker (though they do end at almost identical conclusions). Yet this is a stranger work, and more subtly unsettling as it appears to take David's side, not just when he's standing up for the downtrodden, but also when he takes drastic action to ensure they get their comeuppance in bloody fashion, and that continues into the second half of the movie when the bullied turn the tables and start acting obnoxiously, then dangerously. Of course it turns out to be more hazardous to their health, but food for thought has been duly served by this curio. Music by Tommy Leonetti; listen for the inappropriately sugary theme song.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Renee Daalder  (1944 - )

Dutch director who made the bloody cult favourite Massacre at Central High. In 1969 debuted with The White Slave, the then most expensive film in Dutch history, and in the late nineties turned in B-movie oddities Habitat and Hysteria. Also conceived Sid Vicious' infamous rendition of My Way in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.

 
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