Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Campus Corpse (The Hazing) (1977)

I'm not one to shy from a new experience when it comes to films, especially those that were produced with the 70's and 80's. There was a certain manner in which they were filmed and sadly, movies aren't made in those ways anymore. The carefully placed storyline, the atmosphere combined with an original soundtrack and good direction always made for a unique viewing experience. Scare films in the 70's - thanks to the still-uninvented use of computer graphics - were all the more effective. Producers and Directors had to use their brains to make something that had never been shown before to attract the audience they wanted to reach. They hoped that word of mouth would be a reason for the film's success and, hopefully, be remembered by anyone and everyone who saw it.

The Hazing or The Curious Case of the Campus Corpse was one of those films that caught my attention solely because of the poster art and tag lines. I found this by accident on a horror collector website and by the poster art you see on the left, I assumed that it was a horror film, or a fright film if you must. But, that wasn't the case at all. But, before dismissing it a a film which "lied" about what it was, I need to make a point by outlining this little Iowa-made piece of celluloid beauty. Before I go on, I will have to say as of now that this is not a horror film in any shape or form. There is no blood, there is no gore. But give it a chance, dig a little deeper and this is what you will find:

The movie begins with a young droopy-eyed boy named Craig Lewis (played by Jeff East, which most die hard film fans will recognize as the face of the young Clark Kent in the original Superman film). As beautiful as he ever was, is, or will be, the blond-haired, wide-eyed high school track star has his sights on a scholarship at one of the finest colleges in the country. His parents died when he was young and he is left in the care of his older brother, Carl (David Hayward). When his brother drops him off at his new college home, he is immediately befriended by a group of young men who are wanting him to pledge their fraternity known simply as "the Delts". Craig and his friend Barney (Charles Martin Smith of Never Cry Wolf fame) both must survive the initiation into the group, which is nothing more than to be taken up into the mountains in the freezing cold and run through the woods in nothing but a jockstrap. No, I'm not kidding. Though it was great to see lots of skin for a good amount of screen-time (and I mean lots of skin), I wondered where the film was taking direction. It didn't feel like this was going to be a fright film of any kind. It felt more like an ABC After-School Special, which was already letting me down. Once head frat leader Rod (Brad David) releases the two boys into the cold, the boys run in the direction of a cabin nine miles into the woods. Sounds easy enough? Just as it seems as it were too good to be true, Barney falls down one of the steep slopes and breaks his leg, leaving the two out in the freezing cold in nothing but their athletic supporters. Yes, I'm being serious.

With no choice but to leave his friend and go for help, Craig eventually finds Rod and the rest of the gang, including his wise-ass sidekick Phil (Jim Boelsen) and tells them about the accident on the mountain. The boys go rushing to where poor Barney was still waiting, cold and helpless, only to find him dead. I do have to be honest and say that during this scene, not even a half-hour into the film, I already knew the ending. I even went as far as to make a monetary wager with my cousin as to how this whole thing was going to pan out. Moving on, the fraternity vows to keep everything a secret, dub the whole as a "skiing accident" and hide Barney's body in the frat house freezer. Much to Craig's opposition, he is instructed to keep everything hush-hush and to pretend as if Barney were still alive and well, attending classes, and taking tests. But with Craig being a country boy being brought up with good moral values, this whole thing begins to eat away at him little by little, slowly. When he goes to one of Barney's classes and "sits in" for him, one of the girls from the opposing fraternity sniffs him out and questions the reasons why he is posing as someone else, which gets the rest of the frat boys all riled up. In exchange for her silence, she gets the poor chum to take her out on the town, which is something he wouldn't normally do. When he takes her to the local bowling alley and she wants to be taken to the local make out point, the two end up feuding and she walks out him and into the arms of his frat-brother Phil promising she would figure out just what is going on.

Soon, the police start sniffing around the frat house and start questioning the disappearance of Barny. Oh did I mention that Craig's older brother has a history with the Delts? Something about a protest, a bag of piss, and the removal of the fraternity from the school altogether. Anyway, with Criag's guilt eating away at him, he actually one day does go to the police ready to spill everything he knows. Rod and Phil barge in and pretend they're drunk and rebuke poor Craig for almost squealing on them. The boys have a plan, though: They will take Barney's frozen body up to the ski lodge, plant him out in the wilderness and make it look like a skiing accident - wait, I said that already, didn't I? Craig wants no part in any of this but Rod pushes for him to go along with it, stating that he is doing everything he can to protect Craig, the fraternity, and the school. How considerate, huh? The day comes to carry out their plan and the guys take the poor frozen bastard up to the ski lodge, dress him, and leave him out in the wilderness. When Rod and Craig hear the account of Barney's body being found out in the wilderness over the local radio station, Rod turns to him, smiles and coyly says "They bought It!" It seems all is well, but is it? Remember, I already said I had this movie figured out.

Craig's girlfriend comes to visit him, contrary to Rod's earlier disapproval. She immediately notices something is wrong and just as he is about to tell her everything, Rod comes into the picture and immediately announces that Barney's body had been found and that he was dead. Easy-squeezie, in the words of one Ms. Karen Walker. She leaves on the next bus and the next day, the homicide detective comes to snoop around the frat house and questions Craig about what he knows. To make matters worse, Barney's father comes around and wants to know why Barney would ever go on a skiing trip if the chap had only done it once in his life and hated it? This only mounts the pressure on Craig and it seems like it's only a matter of time before he pops.

Then, comes Barney's funeral - something Craig doesn't want to face. He knows too much and him being unable to talk about it has weighed on his mind. He wants everything to be over, to be done with. Sitting at the funeral surrounded by his fraternity brothers, he begins to hear voices in his head as the officiating minister reads the 23rd Psalm aloud. He can hear the voice of the homicide chief, the voice of his girlfriend, the voice of Barney's devastated father echoing back and forth in his mind. His face can no longer hide his shame. He is no longer wanting to hide the secret, but he must. As the boys go up one by one to pay their last respects, Craig approaches his friend only to see something terrifying: He begins to see Barney's eyes open! Is he seeing things? Has all the pressure finally driven him to the point of hallucinations? Barney opens his eyes and slowly begins to sit up! I'm not kidding! I started laughing to myself as I waited for those words that I was certain with my life he would say:

"Welcome to the Fraternity!"

The whole thing was a fucking practical joke! The whole incident was the actual Initiation itself! All I could say was Ha! Ha! I was right! and at the same time my brain was thinking WTF? This is how I said the film would turn out. I guess having watched April Fool's Day more than a dozen times taught me a thing or two. So there is poor Craig surrounded by everyone who was in on the joke the entire time. His frat brothers, the detective, Barney's father. So what's a poor guy who has been eating himself up alive for the last few days supposed to do? Transfer schools, that's what! Now, here is where I was a bit confused: As Craig says his goodbyes to everyone, he gets Rod to sign a document saying that if he didn't get it signed, he wouldn't be able to get his fee returned to him. Rod signs another paper, the guys say good bye, and Craig walks outside to meet his brother who is waiting for him. He pops his bags into his brother's truck and he takes off with his girlfriend into the setting sun. Meanwhile, his brother Carl takes the signed documents and mounts a rather large bulldozer. He turns the son-of-a-bitch on and rams it into the side of the frat house, scaring the horse shit out of Rod and Phil. The boys flee the house and everyone comes rushing over to see what the commotion was all about. Laughing hysterically, Carl rams into the house again and screams out for joy. My question is: What were those documents that Rod signed and why did said documents - I'm assuming - allow Carl to demolish the building? The part was left open-ended for me. The movie ends here and I rushed over to imdb to see if anyone had posted on this and I found nothing. Damn.

This film is great, not as a horror film, obviously, but for a great story, told rather well, with some good acting and a great ending - though I predicted it really early. Sure the plot twist may seem a bit hokey, but it explains many of the plot holes and inconsistencies that are present throughout the movie. I wouldn't go out and purposely hunt this film down as I found the version I found (as a DVD-R) was the alternate title to this films original one called, The Hazing. Not sure if the title change was because of distributor choice to market to a different demographical group - hence the original poster made the film seem like just your run-of-the-mill college film of the time, not like the "horror teasing" art that you see above.

If you find it at your local mom and pop, pick it up (Code Red actually released it under the "Campus Corpse" title). It's worth watching, just for the twenty minutes or so of semi-nude boy beef. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

My dad is in this movie.

LeonelB said...

Hi! Which part did your dad play?

Anonymous said...

Fantasm sez : my friend was a extra in this movie ..''it was filmed at NAU (NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY) in FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA

LeonelB said...

@ Anonymous #1 - who is your dad in this film? I'm now curious! @ Fantazm, who was your friend in the film?