Twenty years ago, there was a series of brutal cult-like killings at a university in a small New England town in 1983. The killer was never caught but everything seemed quiet until twenty years later. Freshman and loner Josh Greene manages to survive being attacked by the masked maniac and is recruited by Detective Forrester to help catch the killer and finally put a stop to these killings.
Slashers? Fuck 'em. Throwbacks? Yeah, fuck those too. I don't know if it's just my age getting to me or if in fact the horror genre has truly become unbearably awful. For me, it certainly has gotten to a point where it feels like I have nothing but genuine contempt for the genre. I won't even give contemporary slashers a second look when I'm browsing for movies since they're either throwbacks or throwbacks being stupid for the sake of being stupid. My will-to-live is not strong enough to endure either one. So, of course, I end up with a few horror and slasher screeners from Wild Eye Releasing where I hesitantly pick "Murder University" to watch.
"Oh boy, I can't wait," I depressively said to myself.
In a small New England town, there is a series of brutal murders at the local university. The killer is never caught but things quiet down…until twenty years later. Even though he's hated by all of his teachers and peers, things get much worse for freshman Josh Greene as he finds himself caught in the middle in the resurgence of these cult-like murders and even ends up being stabbed himself. As the only person to ever survive an attack, Detective Forrester and his daughter, Meg, recruit Josh to help them catch the killer -- or killers -- and to put a stop to this madness once and for all.
Much to the dismay of my cynical and grumpy personality, I enjoyed "Murder University", and what's more, it was actually a respectable modern slasher movie. Maybe I wouldn't have been so shocked about this had I seen the director's many previous efforts, which includes "The Disco Exorcist" -- likely Wild Eye's most successful release yet. I'm sure Richard Griffin's experience helped in not only making "Murder University" a competent movie, but one I think has the right to stand next other classic school themed slashers.
On the surface "Murder University" appears to have the intentions of being a homage or throwback to the aforementioned school-slasher movies. It certainly takes some cues from those movies but "Murder University" doesn't make it obvious. It exists to be something more than a director's masturbatory celebration of the fact that they grew up watching slashers. Richard Griffin and writer Lenny Schwartz took what made those movies work, what made them good and captured the general essence of those kind of horror movies and why they were enjoyable. It's in every corner of the movie; the lighting, the score, the special effects, the cinematography and even the editing. "Murder University" doesn't mimic like a vast majority of its peers do. It simply is.
Granted there are comedic beats and a great number of gags, most of which fell flat for me, but then again, most slashers felt tongue-in-cheek. Because the jokes fell flat for me I naturally wished a lot of the scenes would have been cut from the final movie. Perhaps going for more of a straight horror movie. Also considering that the movie is almost 100 minutes long, some trimming could have resulted in a tighter film. Could have being the operative phrase there, of course.
Even so, I'll take the flat humor (again, it was flat for me). I'll happily take the bad with the good if it means I can watch a slasher based horror movie that doesn't make me want to join in the supposed "slashing fun" and slit my own throat just to end the pain. "Murder University" is a shockingly well made movie from top to bottom. It has a creative plot and features a well told story with a few interesting turns to it. It even managed to surprise me with the death of a certain character. It recreates all those substantial elements that made movies about masked lunatics killing kids on campus enjoyable and entertaining in the first place. "Murder University" isn't breaking new grounds and isn't going to start a filmmaking revolution, but you should certainly have fun watching it and appreciate the quality it features.