It’s surprising and awkward that “Murder University” seems to feel like two really different movies. It almost feels like director Richard Griffin almost wanted to make a dark comedy about a loser in college, set to a pseudo-eighties vibe. And then somewhere along the line, director Griffin—or someone—had the bright idea to transform the entire narrative in to long in the tooth slasher about cults, devil masks, and a painfully stupid police officer. I mean, you can’t help but feeling like the horror was tacked on, when the actual horror element of the narrative takes twenty five minutes to be introduced.
Nothing about the movie is focused or completely developed, and most of the sub-plots are either half developed, or end on an abrupt note. I’d love to know why director Richard Griffin just completely abandons the film in the beginning and just runs on auto-pilot with an inconsistent film. There’s an opening that somewhat establishes the fact that we’re not only entering a horror film, but one with a ton of back story. Then there’s the really groovy theme song seemingly pulled out of the eighties. How does a movie with its own theme song a la the 1980’s suddenly feel so generic? Even the title could really jump off the screen, but is instead turned in to nothing but a stock summary of what the narrative entails. It’s a slasher set in a college. That’s about it.
It’s not enough to build a semblance of an eighties motif, along with a theme song, you really have to carry it until the end of the film, and Griffin can’t seem to figure out how to exploit the aesthetic for a nostalgic slasher film. Thus the movie seems to love the eighties, but damned if it ever feels like we’re actually in the decade. When the eighties devices are quickly abandoned, “Murder University” devotes itself to being a pretty stock college dramedy with a slasher backdrop. For reasons I can’t ever figure out, Josh is a new student at Greensboro College who happens to be beaten and picked on by just about everyone. Even during a wet T shirt competition, he’s beaten up by the boyfriend of a contestant despite everyone in the audience ogling said woman.
The whys of being such a perpetual punching bag only seem to be included to move the story along. Conveniently Josh ends up at a college that happens to be the grounds for a series of ritual axe murders, and no one seems to be interested in evacuating the grounds, or staging police officers in various parts of the campus. After a run in with the murderers, Josh survives and agrees to team up with a detective and his pretty daughter to infiltrate the campus and draw out the killers. The hows and whys of this plan are never fully verified, but not much of “Murder University” makes a lot of sense. For all intents and purposes, Jamie Dufault is entertaining as character Josh, director Griffin just can never muster any kind of tension or suspense.
The editing leaves much to be desired, the performances are abysmal, and the axe murders so shoddily staged, they’re distracting. At one point, an innocent bystander gets her head chopped off as the killer obviously just taps a really bad mannequin double prompting the fake head to plop to the floor. In the end, “Murder University” is a forgettable sub-genre hybrid with nowhere to go with the actual sub-genres.