Jocks Vs Nerds Thriller

Dutch filmmaker Renee Daalder’s American debut Massacre at Central High is an oddball and often uncompromising high school thriller. Crippled by bullies, one student wages war on his fellow school chums with deadly results as he flips the school’s entire social pyramid on its head.

Considered by some an underground precursor to subversive high school gems like Heathers, the 1976 flick has a matter-of-fact approach to school violence which looks almost quaint after such horrors as Columbine. Cheesy theme music and bizarre adolescent drama, which primarily comes off as after school special territory, mark Massacre at Central High as a curious combo of cult innovation and shockingly gruesome killing.

Massacre at Central High as a curious combo of cult innovation and shockingly gruesome killing

The fresh-faced cast includes Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds), Kimberly Beck (Peyton Place) and Andrew Stevens (The Fury) in this twisted high school tale of brutal deaths and violent retribution. The acting isn’t stellar outside of lead Derrel Maury, playing a well-meaning student pushed beyond the edge.

David (Derrel Maury) is a new student at Central High, unsure of his place in the school’s stratified social climate. Guided by his old friend Mark (Andrew Stevens) trying to do him a favor, David is encouraged to join the school’s gang of bullies lest David himself becomes a target of their wrath.

The gang rule Central through intimidation as violent alpha males, harassing less popular students and making life miserable for anyone outside their clique. David quickly realizes the bullies are bad news and turns against them, becoming crippled in the process. The rest is an exercise in wanton destruction as David begins settling scores.

The cheap teen exploitation flick is crafted with maximum b-movie potential, cranking up the sex and violence for the drive-in audiences this movie was intended. There’s a little social critique as the final act sees the once repressed nerds at Central High become bullies themselves once the originals lose their grip over the school. It’s an interesting commentary on the dynamics inside high school, a warning on how outsiders often adopt the same tyrannical attitudes once they get some power.

Massacre at Central High earns its R-rating, probably shocking younger audiences in the 1970s accustomed to sanitized sitcom youths from shows like Happy Days. Depicting ordinary teenagers as stone-blooded killers in a regular school setting was mildly taboo in an era less familiar with school violence. Despite the film’s dated approach and somewhat amateurish cast, there’s a potent allegory lurking somewhere beneath its rough exterior.


Massacre at Central High looks far better than expected for a low-budget thriller from the 1970s on Blu-ray and we have Synapse Films’ diligent work to thank for this fine 1.78:1 presentation. The 1080p video displays unfiltered resolution from the best available elements. They didn’t have full access to the original camera negative but have done miracles appreciably bumping up fine detail and texture from earlier available DVDs.

The immensely film-like and steadily consistent transfer isn’t flawless but close enough outside of a few rougher process shots. There’s maybe a tad more saturation in the new color correction than how the film originally appeared back in the day but generally offers pleasing definition and abundant clarity. Exteriors really pop with brighter shades and nice depth.

Grain reproduction is tight while the picture quality is crisp. The cinematography is sharper than expected, pulling out a decent contrast and lovely shadow delineation.

I’m not sure Massacre at Central High has enough commercial appeal for a 4K release but there’s no doubt Synapse could release this transfer as-is on UHD with its inherent eye appeal. Director Renee Daalder personally supervised and approved the transfer himself.


Some intense efforts were made by Synapse Films to restore and stabilize the original monaural soundtrack. Heard here in 2.0 DTS-HD MA, dialogue is prioritized and consistently intelligible.

Minor hiss and other anomalies make themselves more apparent in the stunt and action scenes. It’s not an immaculate recording but overall is a serviceable mix with the cheesy “Crossroads” theme standing out in better quality.

Optional English SDH subtitles are included.


Originally Massacre At Central High made its Blu-ray debut as part of a 4000-unit limited edition SteelBook combo with an exclusive booklet featuring liner notes by Michael Gingold and restoration notes by Don May Jr. Now Synapse Films reissues the film in a single Blu-ray edition which arrives in an ordinary BD case, dropping the booklet and DVD version. The discs from each release are identical.

Fans should know there’s an unauthorized Italian version of the film titled “Sexy Jeans” circulating which inserts explicit and hardcore sex scenes into the narrative.

Audio interviews by Mike White (‘The Projection Booth’ Podcast) featuring cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury and Rex Steven Sikes – Offered as a commentary track, these discussions taken from White’s podcast don’t directly address what’s happening on the screen.

Audio interview with director Renee Daalder conducted by writer/horror historian Michael Gingold (25 minutes)

Hell in the Hallways: The Making of Massacre at Central High Documentary (42:27 in HD) – A new 2020 making of documentary looking back at the film with cast members Derrel Maury, Tom Logan, Rex Sikes, Robert Carradine, and Andrew Stevens among others.

Theatrical Trailer (02:23 in HD)

TV Spot (0:33 in HD)

Radio Spot (0:27)

Still Gallery (03:14 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Massacre at Central High
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A subversive and amusingly insightful tale of high school revenge made with exploitation zeal

User Review
3 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 51 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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