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An Interview with Richard Griffin, Director of Murder University

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2013

Films directed by Richard Griffin on (re)Search my Trash


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Your movie Murder University - in a few words, what is it about?


Murder University is a loving homage to the slasher films of the early 80s. Even more so than the American films like Friday the 13th, it was inspired by the European knock-offs like Pieces.


How did the project fall together in the first place - and perhaps related to that, what was your collaboration with your screenwriter Lenny Schwartz like?


I wanted to work with a young actor named Jamie Dufault whom I had seen in a short film - well, Jamie had acted in some plays written by a fellow Rhode Island named Lenny Schwartz. I knew Lenny had a great track record for writing really original material... Humorous but sometimes very dark. I contacted Lenny out of the blue and asked him to write the screenplay. I really just had a title, the concept of a murderer stalking a campus, and I wanted Jamie to play the lead.

Well, within 24 hours, Lenny had written the first seven pages of the movie... and it was incredible. The movie just took off like a shot, and very quickly we were in casting mode. Shooting lasted for two and a half months, and it was a complete joy.


Murder University is a rather obvious hommage to 1980's genre cinema - so what do you find so interesting about that period, and what were your inspirations but also challenges to make a film set in the 1980's?


Well, I was a teenager in the 80's, so I know a lot about how people dressed and spoke during that decade. It just felt right to me. I also wanted the movie to look like a Duran Duran video directed by Dario Argento. Hyper stylized with really garish colors. My director of photography, Jill Poisson, pulled that off beautifully.

As for challenges... well, finding the right clothes was a big problem. Finding vintage clothes from the 60s and 70s is really easy... but pieces from the 80s are a bit trickier. But, I think we pulled it off nicely.


Come to think of it, quite a few of your movies are "period pieces", Atomic Brain Invasion is set in the 1950's, Disco Exorcist in the 1970's - isn't that a strain especially on a low budget filmmaker?


I love a challenge. I've been making movies for over 20 years now, and I love the challenge of getting the most production value out of a dime as I can. As for my love of period pieces... I think a lot of that is to do with fact that I'm not really a fan of the time we're currently living in. I grew up in the 70s and 80s where music and fashions were really amazing, and I like to reflect that in my films. 


Murder University is of course also a slasher movie - a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)?


My first real exposure to horror movies - outside of the classics I would watch on television (I grew up in the 70s, pre-cable television and pre-VCRs) - was John Carptenter's Halloween - that was a major influence to so many of us in the horror genre. By the time I was old enough to see horror movies in the theaters, the slasher cycle was in full bloom with Friday the 13th, Madman, Pieces (which I actually saw in a theater - it was insane).

So, I feel very close to them and still find them to be the "comfort food" of this genre.


Murder University does get quite gory at times - so what can you tell us about your gore effects, and was there ever any line you refused to cross?


Well, most of the FX in Murder University were done practically. I'm not a big fan of CGI gore - mostly because it just never looks real. I was blessed to have two great FX artists, Eric Rodrigues and Jordan Pacheco. They pulled off some amazing things -- including one of the best fake heads I've ever seen -- on a shoestring budget.

As for drawing a line? Well, I wanted the gore in the movie to be fun. It's completely comic book. Also, if you notice, a lot of the kills are directed towards men in the movie. I'm not a big fan of "torture porn". I think horror movies should be a fun, harmless roller coaster ride.


Do talk about your principal cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?


Michael Thurber, Jamie Dufault

Nat Sylva

As I mentioned before, I had wanted to work with Jamie after seeing some of his amazing work. He really is the glue that holds the whole picture together. He brings a certain innocence and awkwardness to the role of Josh that I thought was key.

The rest of the leads are amazing as well! Michael Thurber, who've I've had the pleasure of working with on Exhumed and Disco Exorcist brings a really wonderful, burned-out charm to his role as Detective Forrester, and Sammi Acampora -- outside of possessing a face the camera just loves -- brings a great deal of charm and sass to her role as Meg. 

And Nat Sylva is really chilling and seductive as the lead murderer. I think it's one of the most unsung performances of the film, and deserves a great deal of attention.

The entire cast, from the leads to the extras are perfect. I couldn't ask for a better group of actors!


What can you tell us about the actual shoot, and the on-set atmosphere?


The shoot was amazing! I had a great cast, a hard-working and talented crew, and enough money and time to make the movie the way I wanted to make it. Everyone had a blast. No bad tempers or blow-ups. We're a family here at Scorpio Film Releasing


A few words about Murder University's audience and critical reception so far?


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So far the reviews have been very kind, including a rave review on Ain't It Cool News. One critic REALLY hated the film! I mean really hated it! Which is wonderful! My films aren't vanilla ice cream... they're not for everyone.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


In January we're premiering our newest film Normal, which is a very dark drama written by Lenny Schwartz. It's unlike anything I've done so far. I just wrapped on a sci-fi action film called Future Justice that was written by Nat Sylva.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


You can check us out on Facebook at:


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Watch out for our upcoming production Accidental Incest, a twisted romantic comedy, also written by Lenny Schwartz, coming in 2014!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD