Dorm That Dripped Blood
Director - Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow
Cast - Daphne Zuniga, Pamela Holland, Stephen Sachs
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 2
MSRP - $29.95
Distributor - Synapse
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 4/5
A group of college students led by Joanne Murray (Laurie Lapinski) is given the task of helping clear out and board up a dilapidated dormitory on their campus. As they go about their chores strange things start to happen. Most of them are harmless pranks being played on the girls in the groups by the men folk but there’s also a creepy loner lurking about the premises named John Hemmit (Woody Roll). Then as night falls members of the group and anyone they encounter begin to fall prey in gruesome fashion to a mysterious maniac for no clear reason. When the last person is left standing all will be revealed.
Originally titled Pranks, Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow’s madman (or lady)-on-the-loose opus was given the more lurid titled The Dorm That Dripped Blood (derived from a 1971 Amicus effort The House That Dripped Blood) for its re-release. Unlike most slashers released during the sub-genre’s golden age of 1978-1984 Dorm is an anomaly: it features mostly full grown adults who have better things on their mind that sex, drugs, booze, and generally being morons. My goodness, a slasher movie with actual characters. Wonders never cease. Filming entirely in Los Angeles, Carpenter and Obrow didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel with this movie but just to have some fun and tell an effective tale. On that level they did a smashing job. We’re treated to fake scares, dead bodies hanging all over the place, chases down dark corridors, red herrings, and a final twist that seems predictable but manages to build to an unexpectedly nihilistic conclusion. There’s a darkness in the soul of The Dorm That Dripped Blood but it still manages to be entertaining while avoiding turning into a mean-spirited gore fest like most of its slasher movie brethren thanks to the occasionally clever writing, eerie atmosphere, and solid performances from a cast of primarily unknown actors (most of whom never went on to any other movies after Dorm), with the exception of Daphne Zuniga (making her acting debut in a small role). Lapinski makes for a strong heroine, smart and sympathetic. The movie also features the first film score composed by Christopher Young, who has since gone on to score countless memorable movies. His work here may come off as standard-issue spookshow stuff but it’s good and it gets the job done as horror movie music.
This is the DVD and Blu-Ray premiere of The Dorm That Dripped Blood and it’s the also the first time the unrated director’s cut has been released in any home viewing format. The running time is 88 minutes as opposed to 84 minutes for the R-rated cut that audiences were treated to back in 1982. Besides some brief extended scenes that add a little texture to the story there are also some extensions to several of the death sequences, including the infamous “power drill to the head”. These additions can easily be spotted due to their substantial decrease in picture quality. Synapse’s release contains both Blu-Ray and regular DVD editions of the film nearly identical in picture and sound quality with the same bonus features.
This restored release of The Dorm That Dripped Blood is hardly reference quality but it’s an otherwise worthy effort from the good people at Synapse. The picture, sourced from the only existing 35mm copy of the answer print of the unrated cut, is presented an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen with a Dolby Digital English 2.0 mono soundtrack on the DVD and a DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 mono soundtrack on the Blu-Ray. Picture quality is excellent with minimal grain and it pops with deep blue in the night scenes, but as stated before the additional footage stands out like a sore thumb due to their lack of remastering. The audio tracks reverberate with shocking music cues, creepy ambiance, and aural terror.
For starters we get a pleasant, conversational commentary with Carpenter and Obrow that boils over with fun stories and production minutiae. Young’s score gets its own isolated audio track in two channel Dolby Digital on the DVD and DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-Ray. Young also gets his own interview feature, “My First Score” (8 minutes), where he talks about he became involved with the Dorm production, the genesis of his music score, and his current feelings regarding his work on the film. In “My First Slasher” (9 minutes) make-up FX creator Matthew Mungle discusses his own contribution to The Dorm That Dripped Blood and his initial reluctance at working on a slasher film. Finally we get a pair of trailers for the film under its original title Pranks and its re-release title (the former I first saw on Stephen Romano’s Shock Festival trailer collection DVD).
I’ve never been a huge fan of the slasher movie genre but most of them I do enjoy when as long as they never forget to have fun and keep the audience on their toes. The Dorm That Dripped Blood may come across as standard material to someone who isn’t a stranger to seeing people getting hacked up with rusted chainsaws and drowned in liquid nitrogen, but the less cynical viewer may actually enjoy this movie with its mixture of restrained gore, slow burn suspense, and haunted house atmosphere.