MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH
Review By Dark Starr
Synapse Video has recently released an old 70s movie called "Massacre at Central High" on Blu-Ray, and it seemed a good idea to have a look at it for a review. The movie was originally released in 1976 and is billed as a horror thriller. I think that in some ways that label doesn't fit. The horror aspect is there, particularly with some pretty inventive kills, but overall this movie is so much more than that.
The premise is that a new student comes into Central High, and as we find when he meets up with a friend from his old school, it's made clear (although never explicitly filled out in detail) that there is some real history of him dealing with bullies at his old school.
When he gets to Central High he finds that the school is basically run by a group of bullies, and that his friend is part of that group. It's clear very early that this new student, David, is not going to cower to the bullies, bur rather stand up to them.
Eventually this gives way to a story-line that is basically a revenge horror plot. That's where we get some of the most inventive kills. The thing is, that section of the movie is finished with quite a bit of film time left to run. And, that's where the movie turns into something different and intriguing.
With the bullies out of the way, a power vacuum is created, and various people who had previously been the under-dogs, bullied into submission, start to rise up in an effort to create a new social structure with themselves at the top.
To me, this new section is really a fascinating social commentary. It is very much in line with "Animal Farm." Without giving too much of the plot away, let me just say that this new power struggle does not sit well at all with David.
So, from a horror aspect, this movie might fall a little short, but still works reasonably well. Like I said, some of the kills are pretty inventive, and at times very brutal. Then again, it's a product of its time, and the whole "in your face" horror that seems the norm now was not common back then, so it fits its period.
There is quite a bit of gratuitous nudity in the movie. In fact, I'd say that's more prevalent on this one than most of the films of the time. It's interesting to note that when this movie was released in Italy, they actually added in some sex scenes to increase that aspect of the movie. Even in this format, though, it seems like it's more in line with 80s films in terms of the nudity and sexual content.
Overall, I'd say that my general review would be, come for the horror aspects and the kills, but stay for the social commentary and substance. This really does have a lot more of both of those than you expect in a horror movie. There are some bonuses here including audio commentary and a making of feature, but overall it's the movie that really sells this. Despite some familiar beats, I will bet that you've never seen a film quite like this one.