Although the title sounds like a slasher film, the killer of Massacre at Central High is never a mystery to anyone, audience included. Instead, the film plays out like an after-school special about bullying with excessive violence and nudity. You can almost imagine how it could be remade today as a heavy drama in the same vein as We Need to Talk About Kevin, but is instead an odd mix of camp and self-serious teen melodrama in this 1976 release. Even though the film approaches the narrative more realistically than a slasher, there is nothing remotely believable about Massacre at Central High.
David (Derrel Maury) is the new student at Central High and he soon discovers an unsettling hierarchy amongst the students. The unpopular students seem to willingly allow themselves to be bullied by a group of popular kids. Although David has an in with these bullies at the top of the food chain because he formerly went to school with Mark, who is a part of the crowd, he stands up against their violent and demeaning behavior when they cross a line. After they retaliate against David, he escalates the situation by responding with deadly revenge.
The most ridiculous aspect of the film is the complete absence of adult figures of significance. Not only does the bullying go unchecked, even when it leads to attempted sexual assault in a classroom, but David’s murderous retaliation is never adequately investigated by authorities. For some reason, the kids continue to cover for the murderer, just like nobody reported their bullying. Although this is hardly realistic, it adds to the unintentional humor of the film. Highlighting this campy aspect of the film are the outlandish murders themselves. In a Looney Tunes cartoon, these deaths would be comical. In Massacre at Central High, the audience is asked to take them seriously.
The Blu-ray release from Synapse Films contains a high-definition presentation of a remastered transfer supervised by director Renee Daalder. The special features include a new making-of documentary, Hell in the Hallways. There are also audio interviews by Mike White featuring cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury, and Rex Steven Sikes. A separate audio interviews by horror historian Michael Gingold with Daalder is included. The marketing material is also included, with trailers, TV spots, and radio spots. The last of the extras is a still gallery.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 7.5/10