Director: David J. Gardner
Year of release: 2002
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Not sure if it's even on DVD. I watched it on YouTube.
Tagline: "Death is just a click away" and "You'll never guess who's watching".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: In the early seventies a young artist is murdered by a masked assailant on a stormy night while her parents are away at a party. The perpetrator is never caught with the house eventually closed up.
Some thirty years later in the present day the property is refurbished and opened up once again as the site of a new teen reality show. The concept is that seven students will be allowed to live in the house rent free on the condition they will be filmed at all times. In addition they will be charged with producing daily video diaries as well as answering questions from viewers.
After the disappearance of the shows technician which follows hot on the heels of the murder of a local girl the contestants begin to fear that the gruesome history of the house from thirty years past could be about to repeat itself.
Good points: *Campushouse opens with an unsettling and effective yet subtle prologue segment which is very competently put together. Helping to establish the villain and the sinister history of the house it’s a very well shot and creepy beginning enhanced by some eerie music and lighting. The house is a creepy edition in general and retains it’s powers in this area throughout the film beyond the prologue.
*The killer is clothed in a very Scream-esque black cape or habit type outfit with a mask which also seems to have been inspired by that of Ghostface. One of the characters mentions it looks like something from a carnival so maybe it takes some inspiration from that world as well. Though far from original the outfit and mask combination looks the part and works well enough in adding to what turns out to be an enjoyable killer.
*The cast of seven teenage contestants selected for the show come across very positively without being obnoxious or annoying at all which so often isn’t the case. Even though they are very typical with sticking close to such stereotypes as the goth, the nerd and the party animal they manage to come across as a largely charming and inoffensive group. Final girl Brooke does a fine job in particular, she was easy to invest in but as good as she was I think I preferred the character of Ian who played her love interest that little bit more. He was very likeable and came across as a super nice guy.
*The music was good for the most part throughout. Particularly on point were the pieces of suspense type music used when characters were in peril. The music In the aforementioned prologue segment was a prime example as being something that stood out for the right reasons. In lighter places within the film a couple of rather catchy songs added to the enjoyment with another being used together with the ending credits.
*One small but noteworthy thing which separated this from all the other slashers I’ve seen with a reality show premise is that here the kids could actually leave the house to go to school etc and only seemed to have to return to the campus house itself at night. Not to say that they weren’t there at times during the day as well but the idea of them being able to freely move around town for much of the time was quite new to me. Normally in reality slashers the contestants have to remain on site in the mansion or within the woodlands (or wherever it’s taking place) so this one stood out as not fitting the same mould.
Bad Points: *As a low budget project the lack of funds thankfully doesn’t get in the way too much except that is when it comes to the deaths and gore. Unfortunately in this area the budgetary restraints become much more evident. To his credit the director tries to overcome this by way of some unusual camera techniques for some of the kills but I didn’t feel it really came off very well. For one of them for example the perspective switches from what seems to be the killers eyes to those of the victim but it’s put together in such a way that I found it tough to work out exactly what was going on.
The scenes shot in the house basement perhaps fall victim to the budget as well to a lesser degree as they are very dark and I couldn’t see as much as I’d have liked during these moments.
*I was really enjoying the mystery parts of the story with Brooke linking the current situation to the disappearance of Catherine who lived in the house thirty years ago. The music box was a nice touch to add to this tying in with the prologue as it did. Sadly though the music box faded away as it progressed and seemed to be forgotten about. Going back to the thirty year Catherine mystery (killer was never caught) I was eager to learn more about this side of things but as with the music box it faded out a bit as the film went on which I thought was a shame.
It seemed to peter out at the point where Brooke organised the gang to split into three groups each with a job of looking into the Catherine story. Far from seeing all three groups carry out their respective tasks however to shed more light on the mystery we only actually see one group in action (the conversation with the town historian). Fair enough due to Antony’s disappearance the group who’s job it was to visit the former house caretaker had their plans curtailed. Not affected by this though were Chloe and Drew who were supposed to check the university archives but we didn’t hear any more about that with this whole angle seemingly phased out. I was disappointed because I was really interested in the old unsolved murder.
*Big spoiler: At the very end when the killer is revealed and Brooke wants him to explain how he’s going to get away with it all Michael says something about pining it all on Ian which I thought made little sense. I don’t think Ian came across suspiciously at all throughout the film so unless Michael had planted false evidence to implicate Ian which didn’t seem to be the case then I don’t see how the plan could have possibly worked. It felt slightly lazy and was definitely something which required further explanation.
Verdict: I enjoyed my time with this little known entry into the reality show section of the slasher genre and it’s a real shame that it’s not more well known. It’s on YouTube and maybe one or two streaming sites at least but seems next to impossible to track down on disc.
Though the low budget is plain to see in some areas mostly the film manages to overcome this to deliver a very creepy little mystery story with a more likeable than normal cast of characters. It’s no masterpiece but well worth the watch and a fine example of just what can be achieved on a meagre budget.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Catherine Blakely: Run through with fireplace poker.
2)Ellen: Stabbed near the shoulder (possibly in the shoulder or neck).
3)Mitch: Decapitated while checking cameras.
4)Antony: Strangled with either mouse or webcam cord.
5)Policeman: Bludgeoned around the head with what looked to be some sort of bat or baton, a stove length even.
6)Jessica: Impaled through the back/stomach with a knife.
7)Michael: Stabbed/impaled through the back by Brooke
Note: I’m not counting Keeper who despite being stabbed seemed to be okay. He didn’t die during the film anyway as far as I could gather.