Horror movie rule #117: when mask wearing killers are terrorizing the campus, it’s not a good idea to throw a drunken costume party.
Greensboro University is once again being terrorized by a murderer who police have dubbed The Greensboro Devil because of the mask the killer wears. This new string of murders has caught the attention of Detective Forrester, whose daughter was almost killed when he was on the case years before. When Freshman Josh Greene (Jaime Dufault) is attacked, he tells Forrester that it was not one, but three men in Devil masks who tried to kill him. Forrester, surprised by this bit of information, asks that Josh help in his investigation. But Josh is unaware he has a hidden connection to these masked killers, one that leads back to his recently deceased father.
Murder University has all the aspects of an ’80s horror flick, but none of the charm. I should’ve known from the ridiculous title that this movie would be a whole bowl full of disappointment, and in that regard it did not let me down. The film is disconnected and has such an erratic flow that the story makes little sense. On top of that, the acting is subpar — and that’s being kind. The performances are wooden and forced, not one character is believable for even a moment.
The film begins in 1983 with a couple of murderous lesbians who’ve lured two doofus guys to an old abandoned house near campus in order to kill them. The women succeed in their task, but are taken care of by the Devil or Devils of Greensboro. Flash forward to Josh at the graveside of his father, looking very contemplative before embarking on his life at Greensboro University. From the looks of things, it appears that we are in the present; thanks to some random comment though, we do indeed find out that it is still 1983. But Murder University never convinces me that it takes place in the decade of Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper; not once does it have a genuine look or feel. It was as if director Richard Griffin told wardrobe to search high and low for clothes that appear to be from the ’80s. And I guess they thought that everyone from that era wore sweaters with horizontal stripes and t-shirts with “Choose Life” emblazoned across the front.
After Josh agrees to help Forrester, the detective also utilizes the help of his daughter Meg (Samantha Acampora), the same daughter who almost lost her life to the killers when she was a child. But they have no real plan; in fact, the genius strategy involves attending a costume party thrown by some fraternity, in the hopes that the killers show up. Why they think these masked murderers will attend this party is a mystery to me, unless they explained that during a short period of self-preservation when I dozed off. It’s at this point that Murder University turns into a poor imitation of Animal House with a mix of Friday the 13th — but it isn’t funny or scary. There’s the usual sex and drinking and people appearing to have fun…that is until things go horribly wrong when the masked killers show up and start chopping off heads.
Every horror film has its share of blood and gore — here decapitations are a specialty. But these killings are unintentionally humorous because the beheadings look like the slaughter of innocent mannequins with a blood-like substance dripping from their detached plastic necks. The best tack to take when you don’t have a big budget is to forego the visual butchery and imply what’s happening instead; it’s always much more frightening when we have to use our own imaginations.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, visually it is fine, with crisp colors and clear images. The Dolby stereo audio unfortunately makes it far too easy to hear the ridiculous dialogue. Extras include two commentary tracks and one deleted scene that was rightly removed — but really, the whole movie should’ve been deleted.
I am a horror movie fan from way back, and October is the optimum month to revisit some of my favorite scary films and find new ones. Murder University is just bad movie making regardless of the genre, and misses the mark on almost every point. You’d be better off making your own horror film in the backyard with your smart phone.
Murder University does NOT get a passing grade. Guilty!