It has been several years since I first became acquainted with the work of Fort Wayne, Indiana native Jason Horton, whose cinematic efforts now are largely completed under the simpler, more mysterious J. Horton. If you were to simply check out his photo, you wouldn't know quite what to make of Horton, who simply has to be one of the hardest working writer/directors in the indie world with 11 writing credits, 15 directing credits, and 33 editing credits in the past 12 years with the vast majority of his projects obtaining some type of indie distribution deal that has made him a familiar cinematic voice that you don't really know.
Horton works in a wide variety of genres, from faith-based efforts (Pastor Shirley, The Congregation) to indie horror (Edges of Darkness, Shelter: A Monster Movie) and several places in between. The truth is that whenever I open up my e-mail to another Horton screener I'm pretty much guaranteed to be surprised.
The Campus is Horton's latest effort, another low-budget indie horror project that opens in Hollywood on January 26th before an exclusive engagement begins on Amazon Instant on February 1st with iTunes and VuDu to follow. By April, The Campus is due to arrive on Blu-ray/DVD and it's these kinds of distribution channels that have become the hallmark of Horton's rise as a go-to filmmaker within the realm of indie cinema.
The Campus is an unusual little beast of a film starring Rachel Amanda Bryant as Morgan, the daughter of a man (Robert C. Pullman) who finds himself, well, dead after breaking a deal with the devil. Returning home for his funeral, Morgan is drawn into a rather dastardly family curse that causes her to enter a Groundhog Day like cycle of being murdered, resurrected, and murdered again.
While it sounds like it may fit nicely within an indie horror sub-genre, Horton has a knack for finding intriguing ways to approach familiar stories and places The Campus, quite intentionally and convincingly, in multiple sub-genres including zombies, ghosts, monsters, and even body horror.
There's something for everyone here.
It would be incredibly dishonest, despite the fact that I really enjoyed this film, to call it anything other than what it is - a low-budget indie horror where that low budget occasionally hurts, occasionally helps and occasionally just plain doesn't matter. Horton directs the film ambitiously, taking the film's special effects beyond what your usual modestly budgeted film can do yet doing so with such spirit and enthusiasm that one really doesn't mind. It also doesn't hurt to have an actress the caliber of Bryant, whose work here really elevates the film as she is able to pull off the incredible weirdness of the story in a way that feels remarkably normal.
With a tagline like "The devil will take your soul ... one piece at a time," it's readily apparent that we're in for a violent, gory experience but, to his credit, Horton also infuses the film with more than a touch of macabre humor. As someone who regularly encounters Horton via social media outlets, I've always sort of pictured him as sort of a Bukowski with an axe type, a compliment in the weird sort of way that I give compliments.
Defying the usual horror stereotypes and boundaries, Horton delivers a winner here and the fine folks at Gas Money Pictures should have no problem finding an audience for this entertaining and spirited film that drew me in over and over again throughout its nearly 90-minute running time.
For more information on The Campus, visit the film's website linked to in the credits and be sure to check it out for yourself in the theater or through streaming/home video channels.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic