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Junkfood Cinema: The Dorm That Dripped Blood

By  · Published on April 22nd, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we ain’t got time to bleed. Ah the internet, home to some of the finest intellectual minds and cutting edge commentary on…the internet. Sadly, you sailed right over the cerebral foie gras and caviar of online film columns and wound up at the internet equivalent of Stuckey’s. And not even a fine, upstanding Stuckey’s just outside of Orlando with troves of cheap Disney merchandise to accompany your pecan log omelet. We here at Junkfood Cinema are more in the ballpark of a Stuckey’s in Pineview, Georgia smashed between a gas station still offering leaded fuel and a more-than-slightly questionable bookstore.

Every week I play the role of the waitress who looks unnervingly like an ill-fed Andre the Giant serving up the only item on the menu: terrible films. I will skewer and deep fry the film before lovingly drizzling a rich sauce of terrifyingly genuine love across its still-steaming carcass. Once your faces are adequately stuffed, and the only sound you hear is glass shattering as the buttons on your pants jettison across the room and decimate our collection of antique grease jars, I will serve dessert in the form of a snack food item made only slightly more palatable in juxtaposition to the film to which I have subjected you.

Today’s Blue Plate Special: The Dorm That Dripped Blood

What Makes It Bad?

Remember all those great 80s slasher films? Okay, remember all those good 80s slasher films? Fine, remember all those at-least-we-aren’t-watching-Rawhead Rex-for-the-ninetieth-time slasher films? The Dorm That Dripped Blood is fortunate enough to…still be in the middle of the pack. It is a giant, unsightly pock mark on the already scarred and ingrown-hair-ridden face of this sub-genre. As much as I love slashers, if they had one collective face it would resemble Edward James Olmos. Why do you think all these guys wear masks?

The Dorm That Dripped Blood is a veritable parade of cheap production hallmarks. It takes place almost solely in one location for which the producers had to pay all of thirteen dollars and a case of PBR in order to use. The remarkable thing about the titular dormitory is that, thanks to a combination of set dressings combed from the director’s cousin’s friend’s stalker’s favorite landfill and a lighting design beholden of leaving the refrigerator door open, the characters perpetually appear to be in a garage. The music is awash is hollow, we-just-watched-Friday-the-13th aping and most of the kills are entirely unsatisfying; no slight treason given its slasher status.

The Dorm That Dripped Blood has a cast. That is the nicest way I can possibly phrase it. Normally certain concessions are made in the arena of acting ability when said performer occupies a high level of outward attractiveness. In other words, the lowest amount of talent a director will allow to be featured in his film and the size and curvature of said talent’s tits are inversely proportional. But don’t make low rent slasher directors out to be classless pigs just yet, they aren’t merely interested in breasts; perfect asses, tight stomachs, full lips, and model-worthy faces are also of the gravest concern. The Dorm That Dripped Blood is far more progressive in this aspect as it employs some of the butt-fugliest trolls this side of…well, Troll actually. Not a single one of these people belong on film, in fact they don’t belong in any artistic forum that requires them to stand apart from a crowd. So if the long-standing inequity of talent and looks is infallible, at least that means the cast of The Dorm That Dripped Blood can act right? DERISIVE LAUGHTER. These beltway mutants are so god-awful at delivering lines that it looks as though the very act of speaking full sentences physically hurts them. It’s a bold directing choice to gorilla glue your actors’ faces into the least expressive position you can manage and then fill their mouths with miniature razor blades.

The story at the heart of The Dorm That Dripped Blood does drive the film…in much the same way a blind wombat pilots a single-engined Cessna. There isn’t what I would call an impressive narrative at work here, but then I’m probably expecting too much of a film called The Dorm That Dripped Blood if the word narrative actually enters my consciousness. The film opens with three completely unrelated scenes; an empty field, a truck full of drunk morons chanting incoherently, and then a character being killed who will have no bearing on the rest of the film. Clearly the cinematographer was an admirer of Sergei Eisenstein, the father of the cinematic montage, who believed in arranging images in such a way as to elicit the greatest impact from the audience even if the individual strength of each shot is suspect. Or, more likely, the director got drunk and couldn’t remember what movie he was making. The guy killed at the beginning? Never mentioned again, no relation to the actual plot. At least the rest of the movie makes sense right?

Fools! We haven’t even gotten to the hard-hitting story device of whether Mr. Tremble will buy all of the old dormitory’s desks or just a few of them. How did filmmaking exist before screenwriters were courageous enough to probe such burning philosophical quandaries? Or how about the fact that even as the killer overly demonstratively explains every worthless facet of his diabolical scheme it is never at all explained why the hell he went on this rampage in the first place? The closest we get is, “so we could be alone.” Was the script written as a dark, literal interpretation of a Tiffany song? Oh, and good thing it’s established that our heroine has a boyfriend who leaves town at the beginning of the film so he can…never show up again and bear no relevance to the story at all. He’s like the older brother on Happy Days who ascends the stairs one day and never comes down again. We miss you Chuck!

Why I Love It!

As a confirmed horrorphile whose indoctrination into the genre was in the hackneyed fires of slasher films, The Dorm That Dripped Blood is requisite viewing material. As dubious as even our favorite titles in this sub-genre may be, The Dorm That Dripped Blood elevates even the slightest of competencies in those films to downright auteurism. Seriously, when chasing this film with any given Friday the 13th sequel, Jason Voorhees seems classically trained and directed by a genetic hybrid of Orson Welles and John Ford: Forson Welles. To view this film and cackle at its unbelievable missteps is to acknowledge and embrace our, or at least my, roots as a twisted little bastard who would watch any slasher VHS he could get his sticky little hands on. All of the great tropes are alive and well here. We have the group of kids sequestered away from adult supervision, we have a killer who uses mostly sharp objects and/or blunt instruments, and a red herring character that sets the audience up for the big blindside of the twist ending. Trouble is that the film sends you a neat little letter with painfully evident visual calligraphy announcing who the real killer is from frame one. The worst part is that the obvious red herring character is made all the more self-evident by his inexplicably awful method of declaring his innocence.

“Open the door! You’ve got to trust me! I came here to find you! Don’t make any noise, just open the door!”

Was somehow supposed to be interpreted as…

“Madam, I’m afraid you’re misinformed. I am but an innocent patsy in a madman’s dastardly ruse. The creepy guy with whom you’ve been associating these last few minutes, and might I add the only other survivor of your original group, is the one who has been murdering your friends. If I could have but a moment of your time I can account for my whereabouts the last few hours and be fully exonerated of these false accusations.”

But I have to say, Mick Hucknall from Simply Red has never looked better.

Where The Dorm That Dripped Blood is routine, it is torturous to behold. But it truly shines in the few brief instances wherein it takes just the slightest step outside of slasher convention. The ending of the film, after all the gargantuan piles of bull excrement have been thoroughly shoveled, manages one very ballsy feat of unexpected malice. AVAST, THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD! The killer somehow dupes the police into believing yet another fall guy is to blame for the killing and, after the dunder-headed boys in blue dispatch said fall guy, steals away with the body of our overcome heroine. While the cops muddle around doing stupid cop things, he tosses her into an incinerator. The last shot of the film is two of the aforementioned doorknobs in blue remarking about how bad the furnace system smells in this old building. Killing off the innocent young ingenue in a horror film that has otherwise adopted every cliche in the slasher playbook? Commence the bloody slow clap.

In the grand tradition of exploitation, The Dorm That Dripped Blood has something to the tune of 873 differing titles under which it was released. Obviously the name by which I have been calling this “rose” is by far its most sensational and is echoed in the iconic poster featuring what appears to be God all preparing to stab Patty Duke before she can enter the headquarters of The Greater New England Historical Society; three terrifying images made infinitely more terrifying in combination. The film was also released under the nom-de-plume of Pranks. Pranks? What a fantastic title for a horror film! Although, it does raise one major concern: a staggering lack of pranks. There is but one completely forgettable prank in the whole film; a rubber spider on a fried egg. Yeah, that’s a suitable basis for a marketing campaign. Why not release Halloween under the title Station Wagons?

Thanks to Synapse Films, this week’s unofficial sponsor, The Dorm The Dripped Blood is slated for an upcoming Blu-ray release. This release marks not only the most anyone has ever cared about this regrettable entry into the slasher canon, but also the best it has ever looked; far better than it ever deserved to look. The reason I bring this up specifically is that Synapse has released the uncut version of the film that was long unavailable and far bloodier than the woefully neutered theatrical version. One of the film’s solitary saving graces is a particularly nasty kill involving a drill to the back of the head. When reveling in the sweet, messy goodness of it all, one recoils at the idea of the theatrical version wherein the drill is clearly to the side of the victim’s head and not fully ensconced in brain matter. Well, if one were me, one would recoil; possibly for a multitude of reasons.

Junkfood Pairing: Crinkle Cut French Fries

There is a scene in this film in which the killer proves the width and breadth of his rage by smashing a finely arranged dinner table just as our happy denizens of the cursed dorm are about to sit down to eat. As fundamentally absurd and laughably impotent as this scene is, I have never seen a meal of rotisserie chicken and crinkle cut french fries look so damned appealing. As rotisserie chicken borders too closely on health food, I opted instead to simply eat an entire bag of Ore-Ida french fries. If you strive to be bold, like this film’s ending, I would extend to you the challenge of consuming them in their still-frozen state.

The Dorm That Dripped Blood Blu-ray hits shelves April 26th, buy it here!

Pull that drill out of your head and read more Junkfood Cinema

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.