'The Campus': Film Review

For devoted gorehounds only.
1/26/2018

A woman suffers from a curse in which she repeatedly gets murdered and rises from the dead in J. Horton's indie horror film.

J. Horton's indie horror film has arrived in theaters with unfortunate timing. Although inspired by the classic Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day, The Campus also bears a strong resemblance to the recent horror hit Happy Death Day. Both films depict the plight of a young woman who suffers under the curse of being murdered and then repeatedly coming back to life and being murdered yet again. Thus, there's no avoiding the déjà vu feeling induced by The Campus even if it's far more giddily gonzo in its style and execution.  

After a prologue set in a South American desert in 1991, the story picks up in the present day with Morgan (Rachel Amanda Bryant) returning home to attend her father's funeral. What she doesn't yet know is that her father (Robert C. Pullman) had made a pact with the Devil many years earlier, promising him his first-born child, which he never intended to actually have. When Morgan did come along her father attempted to push her away, but, as she quickly finds out, the Devil is not so easily fooled.

Morgan's father warns her of her dire situation in a recording that begins, "If you're hearing this, I guess that means I'm dead."

The ensuing violent mayhem encompass a wide variety of horror-film genres including home-invasion thrillers, monster movies, zombie flicks, ghost stories and body horror (if you don't know the latter term, this film isn't for you). Using mostly non-digital special effects, the filmmaker gleefully ratchets up the gore to sometimes delirious results, such as when his heroine's eye hangs nearly a foot out of its socket or she winds up covered head to toe in blood. Despite her travails, Morgan displays admirable feistiness – after efficiently dispatching one masked assailant attempting to kill her, she coolly informs him, "Bitch, I'm from Glendale!"

Horton is a clearly enterprising indie filmmaker with many features to his credit as a director, screenwriter, producer and editor. He's worked in various genres including faith-based films but clearly has an affinity for horror, with such titles as Monsters in the Woods, Edges of Darkness and Rise of the Undead in his filmography. But while he accomplishes a lot here with an obviously miniscule budget, The Campus display energetic enthusiasm rather than real finesse. The mishmash of styles smacks of a "let's throw in everything but the kitchen sink" approach that becomes increasingly tiresome the longer it goes on and feels more like a horror anthology than a cohesive story.

Nonetheless, there's no denying that the film could well please hardcore genre aficionados for whom more is always better. Another plus is the starring turn by Bryant, who makes her character sympathetic in her travails and displays an admirable fearlessness while being subjected to the sort of gruesome mayhem and outrageous makeup effects that could clearly have overcome a performer with a weaker stomach.

Production companies: Gas Money Pictures, ANC Entertainment, Small Factory
Distributor: Gas Money Pictures
Cast: Rachel Amanda Bryant, Brit Sheridan, Scott Menville, Hakeemshady Mohamed, Aaron Groben, Robert C. Pullman
Director-screenwriter-editor: J. Horton
Producers: Joe Bartone, Sean A. Reid, Kacper Skowron
Executive producers: James L. Bills, John Mitchell, Robert C. Pullman
Director of photography: Kacper Skowron
Production designer: Holly Rockwell
Composer: Darryl Blood

90 minutes