During the ‘Golden Era’ of 80s slashers there were the recognizable A-listers – Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play. And then there were the B-list slashers that gain deserved cult status like The Burning or My Bloody Valentine. Last but not least, the subgenre produced more than a handful of C-level, obscure turkeys only the most devoted fans would enjoy. One of these obscure entries, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, couldn’t even keep a spot on the UK’s Video Nasties list. Alternatively titled Pranks and Death Dorm, The House That Dripped Blood has built up a small following.
Over the Christmas holidays, several college students have volunteered to stay behind and clean up the old dormitory Morgan Meadows Hall before it’s renovated. Soon a strange drifter, John Hemmit, begins skulking around the building. Things start going missing from the dorm … and then people begin disappearing. Someone is stalking and killing the students who have stayed behind. Is it Hemmit? Or is there an unknown killer hiding deep inside the building?
The Dorm That Dripped Blood Adds Nothing New to the Slasher Subgenre
If the above synopsis sounds pretty barebones that’s because The Dorm That Dripped Blood is a pretty derivative slasher. Writers Stephen Carpenter and Stacey Giachino don’t stray far from the already established formula. There’s some random nudity, lots of red herrings, and characters who split up and wander around spooky places in the dark. As compared to some other slashers, however, The Dorm That Dripped Blood is even more minimalist. Don’t expect any sort of past tragic backstory in spite of its alternate title, Pranks. Many scenes in between the killings feel random, serving no purpose to even the loose story.
As compared to some other slashers, however, The Dorm That Dripped Blood is even more minimalist.
Audiences will also struggle to name any character by the end of the movie. Almost no effort is put into establishing distinct personalities among the characters. Of course, it doesn’t’ help when the performances range from flat to wooden. Aside from Daphne Zuniga (The Initiation) – who would move on to bigger things in the 80s – is the only recognizable performer in the cast. Woody Rollas, playing the drifter John Hemmit, never turned up in anything again. But the biggest disappointment is the slasher’s killer reveal. In addition to its randomness, the reveal comes up with a heaping dose of expository dialogue.
The Dorm That Dripped Blood Manages To Pack in One Good Shock
If the story is basic, The Dorm That Dripped Blood somewhat compensates for this shortcoming. Directors Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow have almost no budget with which to work. Not surprisingly then, this slasher looks cheap and grimy. Most of the action looks and feels awkwardly staged. As a result, there’s few scares or jumps to be found. Nevertheless, The Dorm That Dripped Blood delivers a handful of decent kills bolstered by some surprisingly decent gore effects. They’re all DIY effects, but they certainly reinforce just how much better practical effects are over CGI blood spatter.
In keeping with its underlying nastiness, the finale is quietly shocking and an absolute downer.
What’s surprising about this slasher is the cruelty built into those kills. There’s quite a nasty streak on display – just wait for a mid-scene death involving a car. Later in the movie, our unseen killer stuffs a victim in an industrial pressure cooker. Yet if there’s anything The Dorm That Dripped Blood is known for it has to be the ending. In keeping with its underlying nastiness, the finale is quietly shocking and an absolute downer. For a cheap 80s slasher, it comes as a surprise at how unexpectedly Carpenter and Obrow manage to pull of this shock.
The Dorm That Dripped Blood For Slasher Purists Only
For a barebones, grimy, DIY horror movie, The Dorm That Dripped Blood delivers just enough to satisfy diehard slasher fans. Everything from the acting to the direction to the staging of its kills are pretty uninspiring. And the story – red herrings and all – is derivative. But the cheap gore effects still work after 40 years. In spite of its low budget, the third act is better than expected – it certainly outdoes the rest of the movie. Carpenter and Obrow also deliver one of the bleakest slasher endings of the era. Most horror fans can skip this one, but slasher purists should check it out.