Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Campus will Leave You Speechless: A Film Review

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*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by director Jason Horton. This film critic and Jason Horton have worked together on this project, including though online marketing.

Tagline: "The Devil Will Take Your Soul...One Piece at a Time."

Director/writer: J. Horton.

Cast: Rachel Amanda Bryant, Brit Sheridan, Scott Menville and Robert C. Pullman.

The Campus is the latest film from director Jason Horton (Monsters in the Woods, 2012). This time, Horton makes a deal with the Devil, in this small budget horror title. Morgan played, by Rachel Amanda Bryant, is central to the film as she delivers most of the film's sparse dialogue. Meanwhile, Satan (Kevin Caliber) is stealing Morgan's soul, one step at a time. There are less than fifty lines here. So, viewers will have to pay attention, to uncover story details. As well, Horton diversifies the film's plot quite a bit, with at least six different smaller stories taking place, during the film's larger eighty minute narrative. And, The Campus is a film for fans of the indie horror genre, who know what they are getting into.

You know you are within indie horror territory, when the furniture is coated in plastic. Definitely made on an indie film budget, Horton and cinematographer Kacper Skowron utilize a familiar office set, over and over again. Mostly shot at night, Morgan is constantly running from one office, into a mechanical shop and back-and-forth. Though, the villains do change over the course of the film. Morgan is still running up the same flight of stairs, repetitively. The filmmakers do their best to use as much of the set as possible. In one scene, Morgan crawls through a duct, only to emerge in a familiar hallway. Characters are reduced really to only one main character and one minor character. There are so few characters that the dialogue is reduced to just a few dozen lines. Still, the settings and characters are pushed to their limit, in this small budget film affair.

In the film, Morgan is suffering the sins of her father, Robert (Robert Wainwright). Robert has made a deal with the Devil. But why? Did he inherit great wealth or fame? This viewer must have missed that part. Meanwhile, Morgan is doing her best to elude the Devil. He pursues her through some of his lesser minions: zombies, a spirit, a strange bloodied one-eyed baby and even a stuffed chihuahua. The chihuaha is a definite winner of an "Ugliest Dog of the Year" award. Morgan cannot catch a break, until she finally faces this red Devil, one-on-one. Even this winner does not get a trophy, but just another bullet.

The film's most significant detriment is its lack of dialogue. Most of the dialogue occurs in the films' first ten minutes as an archaelogist looks for an ancient Aztec treasure. Then, a funeral takes place, revolving around Robert. Morgan talks with her sister, for a bit. Then, it is mostly a mute series of scenes as Morgan faces monster after monster. Even the villains are mostly speechless, until the end. Though, the zombies give a grunt or two. Could a voice-over narrative not have been used? As it is, The Campus is overly quiet. Only the Devil offers a few lines of required dialogue, as he tells Morgan about her father's Rumplestiltskin-like arrangement. Morgan must face the consequences of this corrupt deal.

Still, The Campus offers a number of smaller films, which fit into the larger narrative. Because Morgan has five parts to her soul (according to Aztec legend), the Devil must send in his henchmen, in a series of battles. First, he brings in a masked cult. The characters look borrowed from Bryan Bertino's The Strangers (2008). Of course, they have little, or nothing to say. Next, the Devil breaks down Morgan's body, through an infection. Morgan loses an eyeball, in one gory sequence. It is a gruesome sight. Then, there is a reverse world. Everything that was right is now left. Later, a spirit and even some zombies show up, along with the glaring bloodied baby. All of these smaller stories are leading up to a final confrontation with the all powerful and all manipulative Devil. The story here is an original one and will be enjoyed by most horror fans.

The Campus has just had its premiere in Hollywood, this past January 26nd. In February, this indie title will show through Video-on-demand. And, this is a smaller horror title, designed for fans of cult or lower budget films. This is where Horton brings his best, scriptwise. As well, Horton does well with the limited resources at his disposal. Though, Morgan could have used a voice-over or more dialogue to offer more of her inner experience. As it is, The Campus offers a diverse plotline, culminating in a decent climax. Actress Rachel Amanda Bryan brings a compelling physical performance. The film looks great, captured on a digital camera (an Arri Alexa), which was very good at drawing out the limited light in the dark settings. Finally, The Campus is a film for fans of the horror genre, in search of something a little different and something a bit quieter; taking a note from Horton, there is not much else to say.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10.

*the complete camera details: shot on an Arri Alexa with a Vintage Anamorphic Lens.

Horton's previous work, Monsters in the Woods (2012):

The film's fan page, on Fakebook: The Campus on Fakebook

A trailer for the film: A The Campus Trailer #2 on 28DLA

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