Thursday, February 22, 2024

Terror at Baxter U aims for campy, but just plain bad

June 6, 2002

“Terror at Baxter U,” the first full-length motion picture filmed at MSU, made its premiere in front of a raucous crowd at the Kellogg Center auditorium Tuesday night.

But after seeing the movie, I am correlating that raucousness with the fact many of the spectators were parents or friends of the actors.

First you need to know the plot - which was written by MSU English Professor Bill Vincent. A blood-sucking, man-eating monster is roaming the underbelly of Anthro Hall and only a group of anthropology students and professors can save the world, or something like that.

That being said, the hardest part about watching this campy horror movie was determining when people were intentionally acting poorly for the sake of the campiness, and when the actors were acting poorly just because, well, they were poor actors.

For example, Lt. Emil Klinger (Rob Blankenhorn) did a fine job of convincing the audience he was a trigger-happy, quirky, stereotypical irate police officer.

The inquisition scene with the students at the beginning is amusing simply because Blankenhorn’s awkward facial expressions and delivery capture the true essence of campy.

But overall, the acting was subpar and amazingly unbelievable - even for “campy horror,” as director Jeff Burton put it.

The majority of the actors obviously did not believe in themselves or the material, and consequently, the audience should not have as well.

The script had a solid bare bones structure, with the threat of the people-eating Chupacabra roaming Anthro Hall. But the glue that should have put the pieces together dried up and lost its adhesiveness.

Even though the movie was a goofy horror, the idea of Professor Moxie (Vincent) saying he had powers of sorcery came out of the blue.

I have no idea if it was meant as a joke, but if it was, the conviction was absent because I believed he had magical powers, which he never used, so I felt cheated.

It also threw all kinds of movie clichés in the blender, as if it were a poor man’s “Scary Movie.” A zipper catching a man’s genitalia, a law that says you get a 4.0 if your roommate dies and a drunk clown are just some of the unfunny and overdone gags.

Burton does get a gold star for shooting at MSU and involving local actors in his production. There is the always amusing plot twist, and although it was not the most structurally sound writing, Vincent and Burton made a creative premise take off.

It was too bad the details between the events were handled so poorly.

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