Massacre at Central High (1976)

“There’s definitely a message in all these accidents: the higher you feel, the deeper you fall.”

Synopsis:
A high school student (Derrel Maury) takes revenge on the bullies who crippled him.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this unusual hybrid film is “a real sleeper”. Unfortunately, its misleading slasher title will prevent most mainstream viewers from seeking it out (not to mention disappointing horror fans who are looking for typical mindless fare). The story tells of a trio of bullies (Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Steve Sikes) who effectively rule Central High with their scare tactics. But when newcomer David (Maury) manages to knock them off one by one (without adult intervention, it should be noted), the remaining students prove themselves incapable of handling their newfound freedom — thus prompting Maury (once sincere and heroic, now cynical and heartless) to continue his descent down the slippery slope of retribution-by-death.

Peary offers a fascinating, in-depth political analysis of the film in his Cult Movies 2 (which I recommend reading). In a nutshell, he proposes that every character represents “a different political force”, and that Maury’s job “is to politicize [the two sympathetic protagonists], who are always neutral, and make them into activists willing to fight.” Many have likened this film to George Orwell’s Animal Farm — another tale of power and corruption told from the perspective of “lower class” citizens — and the analogy is apt: high school students and farm animals both represent “oppressed” citizens who ultimately require more than simply “freedom” to improve their lot.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fascinating use of a popular genre (teen slasher flick) to support a subversive message

Must See?
Yes. Don’t let the low budget and mediocre acting turn you off; it’s the story that counts in this one. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 2 (1983).

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One Response to “Massacre at Central High (1976)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must – not at all. While I’ve no doubt ‘MACH’ lends itself easily to “in-depth political analysis” – and I wouldn’t want to necessarily discourage those who could appreciate it for that reason – there’s one small problem for the average (and perhaps many a full-fledged) film fanatic: the movie is an insufferable bore.

    If you can get beyond the never-a-good-sign, awful opening theme song, you still have many hurdles ahead (and bad acting isn’t even the worst of it): a ridiculous storyline that switches gears in its own logic; sluggish pacing; almost no visual sense (it looks like a home movie); often awkward or unnatural dialogue (that library guy!); a laughable ‘rape’; something of a message which is all but negated by overall sloppiness; all this plus a finish unbelievably contrived just so the thing can actually end. Ten minutes in, I wanted it to be over; every ten minutes thereafter, I was praying it would be over.

    Although I tend to believe just about anything when it comes to cult films, I find it inconceivable that ‘MACH’ – tedious filmmaking at its finest – has staying power.

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