Massacre at Central High

Overview

Dutch cult director Rene Daalder's fascinating debut was this unfairly neglected and richly idea-laden political allegory set in an American high school. Derrel Maury stars as David, a new student at Central High School who is shocked at the degree of control wielded by several preppie thugs who run the school with an iron fist. Though accepted into this circle given his connections to one of its members, Mark (Andrew Stevens), David loses favor with Mark's friends when he also begins spending time with the ...
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Overview

Dutch cult director Rene Daalder's fascinating debut was this unfairly neglected and richly idea-laden political allegory set in an American high school. Derrel Maury stars as David, a new student at Central High School who is shocked at the degree of control wielded by several preppie thugs who run the school with an iron fist. Though accepted into this circle given his connections to one of its members, Mark (Andrew Stevens), David loses favor with Mark's friends when he also begins spending time with the school's social outcasts. The worst is still to come, however, when David threatens the pecking order by foiling the thugs' attempted gang rape of a female student and has his leg crushed for his efforts. Eventually, the crippled David politicizes the underclass to fight their oppressors, and all three are killed by falling (from political power, the analogy clearly suggests). Daalder then takes the film in a different direction, with the newly liberated student body becoming an oppressive force themselves, and David enraged to the point of mass murder, deciding to wipe out the entire school. Stirred to action, it is up to the formerly apolitical Mark and Teresa to stop him. Daalder shrinks the entire political spectrum into the crucible of what seems on the surface to be a standard exploitation film. There are representatives of the extreme left, extreme right, disaffected center, intellectual bourgeoisie, and so forth, and all are nicely sketched without sacrificing the film's visceral appeal. Beyond the portraits, however, Daalder also skillfully shows the transitions which occur in many political movements, notably those which start as populist and develop into oppressively hierarchical castes. Perhaps disheartened by the failure of Massacre at Central High at the box office, Daalder did not direct again for nearly two decades, but returned with two more conceptually challenging (if equally unsuccessful) genre films, Hysteria and Habitat, in the mid-'90s.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Offbeat ad extremis, this unusual outing from writer-director Rene Daalder takes the formula and stock conventions of mid-1970s teen movies and revenge thrillers, and uses them to mask a highly subversive sociopolitical allegory. The story unfolds in a surrealistic California high school ('Central High') characterized by the eerie absence of adults; it resembles something out of the Twilight Zone. Exerting control and influence over the student body are several obnoxious bullies who act as the oppressors. In walks the new kid in town, David (Derrel Maury), an enigmatic young man initially accepted into the inner circle but soon unwilling to be involved given the extent to which the jocks harass the pariahs. Infuriated by what he sees, David begins "liberating" the underdogs by murdering the thugs who hold the strings of power, and befriends the outcasts. But his heroic efforts have unintended consequences. For its first two-thirds, Daalder's saga never missteps. It feels richly laden with ideas and insights about social structures and the cyclical trajectory of history (as well as different political archetypes), yet the surface-level exploitation elements (erotic skinny dipping and lovemaking scenes, hilariously brutal deaths) also work effectively - making this a rare film that succeeds at titillating the audience while retaining profundity. The final act feels more wild and unrestrained, as anarchy threatens to break loose on campus, and we aren't always sure how to account for what is happening. It makes little sense, for example, to have David hinting about knocking off his two closest friends. By the time the conclusion rolls around, though, we realize that Daalder had a very specific destination in mind all along, and he gets there effectively enough. The picture works as a sly movie satire as well; throughout, one can not only catch Daalder interpolating the cliches of 70s teen films, but viciously skewering them - as when David approaches a pretty girl at school, and woodenly observes, "Teresa... That's a nice name, and a nice smile." The film as a whole is highly enjoyable, and a pleasant surprise. Though it may seem unparalleled, it does appear to have influenced Keith Gordon's The Chocolate War (1988), which it resembles on many levels.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/18/2012
  • UPC: 661799467636
  • Source: Desert Island Films
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rainbeaux Smith Mary
Kimberly Beck Teresa
Steve Bond Craig
Robert Carradine Spoony
Damon Douglas Paul
Dennis Kort Arthur
Thomas Logan Harvey
Derrel Maury David
Lani O'Grady Jana
Steve Sikes Rodney
Cheryl Smith Mary
Robert Stephens
Andrew Stevens Mark
Ray Underwood Bruce
Jeff Winner Oscar
Technical Credits
Rene Daalder Director, Screenwriter
Roger George Special Effects
Harry Keramidas Editor
Harold Sobel Producer
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