Massacre at Central High Blu-ray Review (Synapse Films)

You're at the crossroads of your life

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You would be forgiven if you thought Massacre at Central High was a 1970s PSA from the opening title credits featuring “Crossroads” performed by Tommy Leonetti. The lilting number certainly skews away from the madness and insanity that viewers will experience in Rene Daalder’s oddball film about a high school with a group of bullies and the lone “hero” who murders them for the good of the abused; there’s just a hint of the attempted rape, hang-gliding accidents, and multitude of explosions to come.

That’s fine, though; Massacre at Central High actually works best hiding its antics until they come up in the film. New kid David (Derrel Maury) joins his old friend Mark (Andrew Stevens) at Central High and quickly realizes that his buddy’s changed; he’s hanging out with the school bullies Bruce (Ray Underwood), Craig (Steve Bond), Rodney (Steve Sikes), and Paul (Damon Douglas), who terrorize the rest of the school into submission. David has a mind to change this, attempting to get the rest of the student body to stand up for themselves and ultimately taking matters into his own hand as the bullies suffer ridiculous “accidents”; even his love interest Theresa (Kimberly Beck) recognizes that David’s probably involved. With the bullies out of the way, though, Central High’s pecking order is even more off-kilter as groups of students turn against each other.

Daalder’s script churns through a number of great scenarios, opening the film slowly with David and the audience experiencing the horrible behavior of Bruce’s gang to give everyone a taste of the atrocities occurring in the halls of the school. Interestingly, Massacre at Central High features no adults – no teachers, no parents, no cops. The kids are left to fend for themselves, and the student body has silently been taking the punishment for years without a way to cope with it. David’s appearance offsets that food chain – he’s ready and willing to put a stop to the mistreatment, but in so doing, he ultimately ends up creating new problems and a violent mean streak that ripples through all of the kids at school.

The film’s latter half veers into crazy territory; unlike the traditional slasher, Daalder doesn’t resort to general stabbings and stalkings  but utilizes a number of environmental scenarios like hanggliding accidents, runaway vans, and multiple bombings to off his characters. All of this happens while the film still employs its TV movie of the week-style sentimental soundtrack, a truly bizarre but surprisingly apt decision that sometimes works better than the usual grim synth scores of the time.

Massacre at Central High is a film that works because of its creativity and its lack of formulaic elements. There’s a lot to love here, from its tonal shifts to the varied killings to the ample use of full-frontal nudity (hello Ms. Beck!). But Daalder’s overall theme, too, is quite thought-provoking; the film doesn’t give the viewer a person to root for, since the choice is between a murderer or a bunch of would-be rapists and bullies – and even then, after bullies are dispatched, the power struggle quickly creates a new group of people that may be even worse. It’s an interesting socio-political take that is well worth a watch.


Synapse Films has released Massacre at Central High twice: once in a limited edition set with steelbook and essay booklet, and its newest offering as a standard edition without the steelbook and slipcover. Here we review the standard edition, which contains the same extra features on the disc as the initial limited edition release.

It’s no secret that Synapse Films had some trouble getting this restoration out to the public. According to Don May, Jr. in an interview with Rue Morgue:

We got the files, and had no control over the master. We didn’t scan it, we didn’t supervise it, and on the surface, it was like, “This is pretty good,” but then I started seeing things: Buttons, details, etc. disappearing and reappearing from frame to frame. And I actually fired two restoration companies that took a crack at fixing it. They made things worse instead of better in some cases. Then we finally found a third company, which also handled MANCHESTER MORGUE for us, and they did a great job. So MASSACRE has taken a while, but it’s coming.

Ultimately, Synapse Films lists the transfer as a “high-definition 1080p remaster scanned, transferred and supervised by director Renee Daalder,” which does not indicate the actual source of the remaster, since Daalder provided it directly to Synapse. Whatever the case, the restoration itself has done good work to present Massacre at Central High in its best possible format in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film employs a lot of close-up facial shots, and these look excellent with a high degree of detail. Minute details are readily apparent in most scenes, with a medium-bodied grain scale that occasionally gets moderately chunky in outdoor and ambient scenery. There are a couple of frames that could possibly have been sourced from a different element; there are two or three spots that feature a noticeably grainier texture and slight color alterations. The hang-gliding scene, too, is also noticeably different. Still, these moments are not extreme distractions, and otherwise Massacre at Central High features a surprisingly strong transfer for something that had so many hiccups.

Audio is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track which, unsurprisingly, sounds a bit flat. Dialogue is somewhat muted and the soundtrack itself doesn’t really pop despite its omnipresence throughout the movie. However, this isn’t really a fault of this release but the mono audio itself, and it’s a fine presentation of the movie without much in the way of frills. English subtitles are also included.

Synapse Films has compiled all extras from the previous limited edition release, but we are including them in this review as “new” for the purposes of this standard edition. For audio options, Synapse has collected a series of interviews with the cast that were originally featured on the Projection Booth Podcast. These play simultaneously with the film and aren’t available as a standalone feature. Another audio interview with Rene Daalder, moderated by Michael Gingold, is included and lasts about 25 minutes; this also plays throughout the feature film until its completion, with the film’s audio picking up from there. 

A new making-of featurette titled “Hell in the Hallways” runs about 42 minutes long, and it assembles a series of interviews with cast and crew who discuss the casting process and creation of the movie, its improvisations, the original theme song before it was changed to “Crossroads,” and a lot more; and yes, they do talk about Sexy Jeans, the alternate Italian hardcore porn cut. Finally, a theatrical trailer, TV spot, radio spot, and still gallery round out the extras.


Note: these were all included on the 2020 steelbook limited edition, but we are marking them NEW here for this standard edition release.

  • NEW High-definition 1080p remaster scanned, transferred and supervised by director Renee Daalder
  • Audio interviews by Mike White (‘The Projection Booth’ Podcast), featuring interviews with cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury and Rex Steven Sikes
  • NEW Audio interview with director Renee Daalder, conducted by writer/horror historian Michael Gingold
  • NEW HELL IN THE HALLWAYS: The Making of “Massacre at Central High” – “making of” documentary (1080p; 42:27)
  • Theatrical trailer (1080p; 2:23)
  • TV spot (1080p; 0:33)
  • Radio spot (0:27)
  • Still gallery (no chapter breaks;  3:14)
  • NEW translated removable English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing


Massacre at Central High is a wild movie and everyone needs to see it; Synapse Films has given Blu-ray collectors a great option for those that missed out on the limited edition steelbook release, especially if you are blind-buying.

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