Murder University (2013)
By: Devon B. on December 21, 2013 | Comments
Wild Eye | All Regions, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 96 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Richard Griffin
Starring: James Dufalt, Michael Thurber, Sammie Acampora
Screenplay: Lenny Schwartz
Country: USA
I'm not a huge fan of disco movies or 70s possession horror, but I really enjoyed Richard Griffin's The Disco Exorcist, recently released domestically by Monster Pictures. The 70s isn't my decade for entertainment, but I am a huge fan of 80s slasher movies, and evidently so is Griffin because he's followed up The Disco Exorcist with a slasher satire called Murder University.

Murder University opens, as all good slashers should, in the early 80s. A group of college kids, who must be well on their way in their doctorates given how old they look, are exploring a building their university's founder allegedly committed murder in when they themselves are murdered. Shortly thereafter, I think, a newly enrolled Freshman is having trouble finding friends at the University, and his luck doesn't change when he meets the killers. A cop whose been trying to stop the murders enlists his help, and they team up to try and bring an end to the slaughter.

I suppose I will eventually tire of this retro grindhouse trend, but that may take a good long while since I much prefer these tongue-in-cheek throwbacks to the banal horror of the 90s or the splatter endurance fests that followed in the naughties. I'm not against gratuitous gore per se, but I do like to be entertained while the sanguine flows, and Griffin has yet to let me down. As I said in my review of The Disco Exorcist, Griffin has a great handle on how to send up older films while keeping the ridiculousness reigned in just enough that his movies would almost work for people that want a straight, albeit twisted, horror flick, and that certainly applies to Murder University as well.

The budget gets in the way a bit more for Murder University than it did for The Disco Exorcist, particularly in the casting. There seemed to be more genuinely bad acting than mocking of bad acting this time, and very few people look the right age for the part they're playing. It could be argued this is a joke referencing the older people masquerading as students found in other movies, and if so… good one? There are a few cast members that nail the tone beautifully, like Michael Thurber as the cop, and I guess picking on the style of bad acting in a movie like Murder University is like picking on Hungry Jack's for not being McDonald's – either way you go it's still bad.

Murder University gets a bit too meandery at about the one hour mark, so may have benefited from a bit of tightening, but other than that I have no real complaints about the movie. From the moment its absolutely fucking perfect theme song kicks in I was having a good time, and any movie that has nudity before the three minute mark is doing something right. Murder University was clearly influenced by Euro horror, particularly the works of Mario Bava, so it's kind of like an American take on early 80s Euro horror but with better jokes. The film obviously takes the piss out of slashers, but will also have the occasional jab at 80s culture, and offers up some genuine surprises in terms of the story. The gore FX are hindered by the budget, but they provide more goofy fun, and blood does flow often.

I liked The Disco Exorcist more than Murder University, but that may partially be due to my raised expectations and a greater affinity for the subgenre that's being tackled this time. Murder University is still one of the better retro-slashers I've seen, and has a cheeky charm that a lot of other filmmakers who try to recapture the golden age of exploitation often miss.
The Disc
Murder University doesn't look like an 80s film, with a distinctly modern video feel. The image is clean and clear, but clarity can be lost in the blacks. Outdoor daytime scenes sometimes look a little hazy, but most of the film is set indoors so that's not a problem very often. The 2.0 stereo mix is prone to distortion when people raise their voices, which is often. Other than that the track is adequate, and the distortion is probably source related and not a flaw with the transfer. The soundtrack fares better on the clarity front, which is good because unlike most low budget cinema, this soundtrack really does a great job of recalling the 80s while not being entirely lame like actual 80s music. The DVD has one deleted scene; two commentaries; and trailers for Exhumed, Disco Exorcist, Mold!, Dropping Evil, Tight and Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated. The first commentary track features Griffin and writer Lenny Schwartz. This is an interesting track with plenty of information on low budget filmmaking. The guys describe Murder University as an homage not a satire, but I think there are some definite moments where the movie goes past paying tribute to the films of the 80s to outright mocking them. Jokes are explained and pointed out, and some special features are mentioned that didn't make it on the disc. The second track also features Griffin, this time joined by producer Ted Marr and cast members Samantha Acampora, Sean Sullivan and Nat Sylva. This is a more anecdotal track, and this group gets a bit distracted at times, but there is still plenty of good information given out about the film. There's also an Easter egg, one that's virtually impossible to miss. From the main menu, press left or up on "Play Movie" or down on "Trailers" to highlight the killer's eyes. Press enter to see an outtake from the strip club scene.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Like Astron 6, Griffin has shown he's very adept at playful throwbacks that are slightly sillier than their inspiration, and I eagerly await his next offering. I wish this DVD came with an MP3 of the theme song, because it really is a pitch perfect summarisation of everything the film tries to do, but otherwise I'm well pleased.
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