Back to the Drive-In: Massacre at Central High (1976)

There is a time and place for everything, and much like the Drive-in itself, AITH Back to the Drive-in will be fading into the past. This, my friends, is a fond farewell to a column that was so damn marvelous to write that it will be hard to say goodbye. I love these movies. The weird, the wild and the obscure will always hold a place in my heart. Hell, the first time I saw a naked woman’s breasts was the drive-in! I have to thank the Arrow himself for letting me wander back into memory lane.

Re-visiting these terrific little movies reminded me of growing up and some of the coolest nights I’ve had at the cinema. Yeah, the screen sucked and the food was terrible, but it was a great place to chill with friends, flings and sometimes even family. And since most of my drive-in experience was in my formative years, I thought I’d take a look at one of my favorite high school revenge flicks. Thus, I am choosing a little low-budget thriller that is near and dear to my heart. It is a feature film that is cheesy and ridiculous, yet maybe a little disturbing and thought-provoking. Before HEATHERS… Before MEAN GIRLS… There was MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH.



When new kid David (Derrel Maury) shows up and reconnects with his old pal Mark (Andrew Stevens), he finds that his old friend has become part of a popular yet feared group of bullies. Mark desperately tries to convince David to join his douchebaggy new group of pals (played by Ray Underwood, Steve Bond and Damon Douglas). It’s a shame that Dave wants nothing to do with them. And when David steps in to help those being picked on one too many times, he becomes their new target. After they leave him with a limp thanks to an evil as f*ck attack, David begins to kill them off one by one. However, once the geeks finally inherit the high school and find that they can’t handle the power any better, David decides that he is not ready to retire from his murderous ways.

Written and directed by Rene Daalder, the story here has been done to death. While it wasn’t necessarily fresh here, it still remains a damn entertaining feature film. MASSACRE’S anti-hero is David. He is a likeable guy and in spite of the fact that he keeps killing people off in rather inventive ways doesn’t mean his is a villain necessarily. He only begins to jerk out a bit when it comes to his best buddy Mark who is part of the cool crowd. Both Stevens and Maury do good work here, even if the script is a little weak… well sometimes it is a lot weak. Yet unlike your typical horror film, there is no blood or gore in this massacre. The kills are creative, yet they tend to involve explosions and shy away from gore aside from a nasty dive into an empty pool with the lights out.

Another reason why this is far different from your average slasher film is that this is a drama more than anything. His revenge is handled in a more subdued and realistic way considering the circumstances. This is the one reason why MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH strikes a nerve, simply because you often hear about somebody going nuts and shooting up a school. That thought alone is simply terrifying. While the movie may not be startling as some real life examples, it gives the audience a look inside a smart and seemingly normal young man tired of people not standing up for themselves. It is really pretty scary that in this modern society, we hear about school violence much too often. Thankfully, as serious as this cult classic takes itself, the dreadful theme song and silly dialogue keep it drive-in worthy.


Thankfully, nudity was plentiful in the Seventies. All the ladies in this here feature bare their breasts including Kimberly Beck (FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER), Lani O’Grady (TV’s “Eight Is Enough”) and Cheryl Smith (aka Rainbeaux Smith who appeared in small roles in PARASITE and THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN). The romantic skinny-dipping scene with Beck and Derrel Maury plus her fireside sex scene with Andrew Stevens make her the one to watch. Luckily for the ladies and the dudes who like dudes you get a couple of rear end glimpses of Maury and Stevens as well. Everybody is happy with this one.


Aside from the too old for teens casting and the occasionally inane dialogue, the one that takes the cake is the boom operator who can’t seem to keep the mic off-screen about twenty-eight minutes or so into the movie. Clearly a case of, ‘why the f*ck didn’t we see that earlier?’ this little faux pas warrants a certain amount of chuckles. It also happens during a slightly serious emotional confrontation which makes it all the more funny. Is that a microphone I see or are you just really excited to see Kimberly Beck naked later?


Jumping into your arms is a stretch in this flick. However, thanks to a small handful of groovy kills you may get a little bit of cuddling. The one accident that is the most gruesome happens to feature soon to be soap opera hunk Steve Bond (“General Hospital”, “Santa Barbara”). While getting ready to take a dive in the school’s pool without the aid of lights – yeah, the guy is kind of an idiot – he comes down face first into a waterless pool. The worst part is the lights go on the second he takes a jump off the diving board which totally sucks for him since he realizes he is screwed the second he plunges down. Considering this flick has no real blood aside from this scene, they sure used a ton of red stuff around the poor swimmer’s corpse.


Never has the term “Groove to the music” been more appropriate than it is for this film. From the awful theme song called “Crossroads” to the Seventies television series worthy music by Tommy Leonetti, the music is much too “groovy” for my liking. Am I watching an episode of “Charlie’s Angels” or is this a feature film? You really can’t tell from this overtly cheesy and dated score.


Since this will be the final stop at the drive-in, why not make this one a triple feature. This week, how awesome would it be to start with this revenge cult classic and continue with film’s from two of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH’s leads. For the second feature, we’ve watched Andrew Stevens play the nice dude with this and 10 TO MIDNIGHT. Why not check him out while he checks out Morgan Fairchild in the sultry and sleazy 1982 stalker flick THE SEDUCTION. And once your hormones are given a thrill, get a taste of sweetly gruesome gore and violence with the extremely gorgeous Kimberly Beck in the previously mentioned FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER from 1984.Sure that would be sort of random, but f*ck it, this would be a kick ass threesome to lay down with in the backseat with your best gal. So next time you pass by a local flea market that once was a piece of cinematic history, remember that oh so many years ago, many a young couple enjoyed a passionate night under the stars with the flickering image of a glorious B-movie on a hot summer’s night! Farewell folks, and please keep those drive-in memories alive!


Extra Tidbit: What is your favorite high school revenge flick?



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