Massacre at Central High (1976)

23 years before Columbine, Massacre at Central High would predict not just violent school shootings but the rise of disaffected teenagers. It was directed by Rene Daalder, a Dutch writer and director who would go on to pioneer motion picture technology and virtual reality.

David is the new kid at Central High, but he already knows Mark (Andrew Stevens), a friend he has helped in the past. Mark relates that this place is a country club, but you need the right friends. Friends like Bruce, Craig (Steve Bond, Travis Abilene from Picasso Trigger) and Paul, who rule the school.

After watching these three bully — that’s putting it mildly — the student body, including beating up nerdy Spoony (Robert Carradine), deaf librarian Arthur, the poverty-stricken Rodney and the overweight Oscar as well as assaulting two girls named Mary (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith!) and Jane (Lani O’Grady from Eight Is Enough), David has had enough.

David and the bullies are on a fatal collision course, particularly after our protagonist starts making time with Mark’s girl Theresa (Kimberly Beck, Roller Boogie, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter). One night while he’s working on Rodney’s car, the three kick out a jack and cripple him.

That’s when David goes slasher villain and takes them out, one after the other. Bruce’s hang-glided flies into a power line, Craig is tricked into diving into an empty swimming pool and then Paul’s van gets pushed off a cliff.

Now, the formerly bullied are the bullies and attempt to form alliances with David, but they keep dying off too. Arthur’s hearing aid takes him out. Oscar’s locker explodes and so does Rodney’s car. And Spoony, Mary and Jane are set up to look like they did it all when a rockslide and some dynamite kills them off.

Mark and Theresa know that David is the one who did it all, so they attend the school dance that he plans to destroy, refusing to leave. David then takes the bomb outside, where it explodes, making him a martyr hero and keeping the blame forever on Spoony, Mary and Jane.

Writer-director Rene Daalder was recommended by Russ Meyer, for whom the young man had previously worked for as a cameraman. That may or may not be the reason why this movie was released as Sexy Jeans in Italy, complete with pornographic inserts that are obviously not the same actors. I’ve seen it and have to tell you — it’s disconcerting.

This is a brutal and uncompromising film that would go on to inspire Heathers while sadly presaging the world we live in. Of note, the director intended for gravity to kill nearly everyone and no adults to appear in the movie, like some demented version of Peanuts.

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