Catherine Scorsese (yes, she’s famed director Martin Scorsese’s daughter), making her feature film debut with Campus Code (formerly called Campus Life), is exceedingly ambitious, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Writers Michael Simon and Kenneth M. Waddell pull out all the stops to try and make this film as mysterious and thrilling as it existed in their minds. However, ambitions aside, Campus Code is clunky, the effects comically bad, the dialogue predictable and cheesy, and the plot is something out of a bad fan fiction.
College campus life is supposed to be the shit. Wake up whenever you want, schedule your classes on your time, and your social life is brimming with possibilities and endless activities to do. So then why are students disintegrating at parties? Well, that’s the supposed mystery to be discovered. That, and a group called Griefers–all-black-wearing, dark lipstick and fingernails toting guys meant to be scary but are not–who are recruiting students on campus to join them. They have secrets being held over them to coerce them into joining without much of a fight. And so the story revolves around Arun (Ritesh Rajan), his friends Ari (Jesse McCartney), Izzy (Alice Kremelberg) and two students who become very involved in what’s happening, Becca (Hannah Hodson) and Greta (Conor Leslie). Arun has a secret he’s keeping in his closet, but when Ari falls from a 13-story building unscathed, things take a turn for the weird.
Campus Code is the type of film that feels like you’ve may have missed something during the first watch. Because by the end, your head’s spinning and the thought does trickle through your mind. But after thinking back on everything that’s happened, there’s no doubt that the film is just a major tease and then has the audacity to leave you with a cliffhanger so absurd that it’s almost comical.
All the characters are one-dimensional and the only minority character has to of course mention his arranged marriage that comes out of absolutely nowhere and doesn’t need to be included in a film that already has far too much going on. The dialogue is sadly some of the most awful I’ve heard in a while and the most unfortunate part is that the actors try really, really hard to make it work, but to no avail. It might have helped if the plot had more substance rather than relying on shock value to pull it through. Even cameos by Martin Scorsese and Ray Liotta don’t add anything to the film.
Perhaps Catherine Scorsese could have made her feature film debut with a simpler film, and one that requires less special effects (it was like watching an episode of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). The screenplay doesn’t help in the least. From the onset the film is destined for failure because you already know how cheesy it’s going to be. The fact that it relies too heavily on overused plot devices and a mystery that spends too much time being mysterious without a proper payoff doesn’t make matters better. Let me just say that Campus Code is not a strong feature debut for Catherine Scorsese.