‘Devil On Campus: The Larry Ray Story’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap

Devil on Campus, the 2024 Lifetime crime thriller is based on the story of infamous Lawrence Ray, who manipulated several of his daughter’s friends for years into doing unthinkable things, from extortion to prostitution. There’s already a true crime documentary titled Stolen Youth about the cult leader. This time, though, it’s getting a Lifetime treatment. If you’ve watched Lifetime movies before, then you know that these movies can be described as sort of anti-arthouse. They are always overly dramatic, filled with loud acting, meandering narratives, and botched climaxes. At best, they’re guilty pleasure; at worst, they’re sheer torture, although I personally never find a Lifetime movie to be boring. Devil on Campus, despite the story and its utterly serious context, is a true-blue Lifetime movie for sure, except it has one thing that most of these movies don’t have. That would be an astonishing performance by its lead actor, Billy Zane (yeah, the bad guy from Titanic), who obviously plays Lawrence “Larry” Ray. Jane is so good here that if this were not Lifetime, he could have been in Oscar contention, and I’m not even kidding. Anyway, let us now take a closer look at Devil on Campus.


Spoilers Ahead

What Happens in the Movie?

In usual Lifetime style, Devil on Campus kicks off with a disturbing scene of Larry torturing a young girl who’s tied to a chair. And then, without any explanation or anything, it goes back to the beginning. Larry, an ex-convict, goes to visit his daughter Talia at her college dorm at Sarah Lawrence University. In no time, he charms the hell out of Talia’s friends, Dan, Santos, and Isabella, aka Izzy, and starts living in the dorm with them. Larry feeds them some stories about his ex-wife, aka Talia’s mom, playing foul and hatching a conspiracy with Bernie Kerik, a high-ranking government official, which put him in prison. Larry starts therapizing the kids by making them talk about their buried traumas and vulnerabilities, which brings them closer to him. However, there’s one person who’s still skeptical about Larry, and that happens to be Talia’s friend Claudia (the girl from the opening scene), who also lives in the dorm. Upon seeing Larry come out of Izzy’s room one morning, Claudia (along with her mom) even complains about it to the college authorities but ends up being ignored. But Larry manages to turn the table around by manipulating Claudia against her parents, using her insecurity over a dead sister as the tool. He also secretly tells Claudia that Izzy was sexually abused as a child, and he’s only helping her in a parental capacity. With Claudia by his side, there’s no stopping Larry from moving forward with his cult. Well, he moves out of the dorm and gets an apartment in NYC, and everyone just starts living with him as this strangely formed “family”.


What Does Larry Do to the Kids?

We move to Larry’s apartment in New York, and the movie makes it explicitly clear to us that everyone is under Larry’s spell now. There’s a new inclusion: Santos’ sister Felicia, who’s apparently a psychologist, but thanks to a traumatizing experience in LA, she has now decided to move in with Larry. And also, as if things couldn’t get any worse, Felicia is dating Larry as well. Larry is still sleeping in the same room as Izzy, but Felicia has no problem sharing the bed. She doesn’t want Izzy’s healing to stop, after all. 

Larry soon finds himself in a money crunch, which is not a surprise considering the man is always busy ruining these kids’ lives and has no time to work for a living. The major pressing issue is paying the rent, and after realizing he has to actually pay it and can’t sweet-talk the landlord, Frank (good for him), Larry finds a way out that requires the bare minimum effort. He somehow manages to put this idea in everyone’s head that all of them owe him, as he’s literally “taking care” of them and taking them to a better place. The plan works out as the kids start bringing in money from their parents. Claudia’s parents are still skeptical about their child leaving with Larry, but for her, he’s like this guardian angel, so they’ve no choice but to give her five thousand dollars.


Is Larry mentally unstable?

That shouldn’t even be a question, but that doesn’t mean he should not be put under a guillotine for what he has done. Even after running through Google, I was not able to find much about the story of Larry and his stepfather Gordon, but the movie did make it clear in the beginning that it took some cinematic liberties. However, the subplot of Larry fixing the New Orleans’ house to save the property from his monster of a mother seems a bit too extra, and other than showing what a hysterical douchebag this guy is, it doesn’t do much. After putting Santos and Dan in charge of his ailing stepfather, Larry takes the women to the house and puts all of them to work (although we never see him actively doing anything bad to Talia). For some unspecified reason, Felicia starts sleeping on the porch there. Claudia starts feeling uncomfortable, and when she accidentally breaks equipment, Larry gets absolutely livid and throws her on the ground. Frightened and confused, Claudia runs away, but Larry manages to bring her back and apologizes to her for his “human” behavior.

How does Claudia end up in prostitution?

Of all the victims of Larry, Claudia has to be the most unfortunate. Maybe because she’s the only one who did show some resilience against Larry, the man chooses to make her suffer the most. From making her sleep with Dan to ordering her to literally walk to this stranger, Joe, and gratifying him, Larry has done it all. What is even worse is that he has made sure that it’s Claudia who actually wants to do it all as an act of liberation. Naturally, it’s not surprising that Larry would convince Claudia to get into escort service, weaponizing her submission fantasy (which he got from her journal, something he shouldn’t have read, but it’s Larry). Claudia is also forced by Larry (and Izzy, who’s now his full-on right-hand) into giving a confession that she tried poisoning him and Talia because she owes him tons of money (another lie planted in her head by Larry). Even in a Lifetime movie, this is quite heartbreaking to watch, and you feel like skinning Larry alive. Well, Billy Jane is that good. 


Does Larry pay for his sins?

The only good thing that happened to Claudia was probably meeting David. He’s one of her clients, who’s very clear about what he wants in his sex life and considerate enough to enquire if Claudia (he knows her as Fiona though) is willingly doing the work or if she is being sex trafficked. She obviously says she’s doing it on her own, but she also can’t stop getting close to David on a personal level and also giving him discounts. As you would expect, Larry doesn’t receive this well, and he tortures the hell out of Claudia, threatening to cut her off from David. Yes, we’re finally back to the opening scene of Devil on Campus. Claudia does promise to follow the master’s orders, but thankfully, David manages to make her leave the hotel (from where the business is being operated) and go to a secret location with him. He is even willing to deal with whatever effect this will have on his own family. After that, Larry’s getting his due was only a matter of time. It still proved to be difficult, though, as Claudia was initially unwilling to cooperate with the FBI, as she was still under severe duress and thought Larry would kill her if she went against him. But eventually, she musters the courage to testify against Larry, which ultimately leads him to where he belongs—behind the bar.

However, Devil on Campus‘ choice of ending things with a scene of Larry coolly offering a plate of freshly cooked crepes to the police is sort of insensitive. But then again, Billy Zane is intentionally playing to the gallery here, and he’s the reason the film works out in the first place.

Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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