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Blu-ray Review: The Dorm That Dripped Blood

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Although John Carpenter really didn’t “invent” the subgenre of horror films known as “slashers,” he certainly couldn’t have imagined the path the bloody take on murder mysteries would have pursued after his surprise smash hit, Halloween, proved to be a sensation worldwide. Based off of those oh-so-delectable Italian giallo movies, the slasher film movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s usually consisted of nothing more than coeds running around getting butchered in all sorts of grisly and unusual ways.

Halloween certainly built the frame and installed the door. The original Friday The 13th succeeded in opening Carpenter’s portal of blood. Once that initial entry in the Camp Crystal Lake franchise hit theaters, though — bringing with it the sort of critical and parental uproar that can make just about any movie successful (there’s no such thing as bad publicity, remember?) — the slasher industry really took off. As a result, many independent and would-be filmmakers started generating their own slasher films that had their entirely different grisly and (where applicable) unusual coed killings. And, while all of them hoped they would employ and subsequently enjoy a memorable killing at the box office, only a few ultimately succeeded.

Was The Dorm That Dripped Blood one of them? Most certainly, yes. Better known as Pranks in some areas, The Dorm That Dripped Blood was shot on a budget so thrifty that to even call it a “shoestring” would be arresting. In that respect, film students/first time filmmakers Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter (no relation to John) were sure to make their money back. Their parsimonious brilliance in setting their film in a soon-to-be abandoned college dorm eliminated the costly need to build any sets. Win. And, to top it all off, they had a minimalistic cast of non-actors and complete unknowns (including a young Daphne Zuniga); people whose very acting (in)abilities cause viewers to wholly route for their demise.

Duh, winning!

At its core, The Dorm That Dripped Blood is a simple slasher flick. But, its amateur auteurs conduct their convoy of low-budget terror with a certain amount of refinement rarely seen in newbie moviemakers. That, in itself, is a relief — which makes this one worth picking up to fans of slasher films old and new. For its long overdue digital home video release, Synapse Films has released this cult classic in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo. But what makes this one different is that the print Synapse uncovered for this release was actually a long-thought-to-be-lost 35mm “director’s cut” under the title Death Dorm (strangely enough, the original theatrical/VHS cut is not present here).

The image here is pretty murky. But then, this was a no-budget student film that was shot on cheap 16mm film stock, so you’d expect it to look bad. That said, Synapse’s presentation is better than the movie has ever appeared. The 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC presentation displays the movie in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio with DTS-HS Master Audio 2.0 sound (complete with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated track of composer Christopher Young’s music score!). Special features include an audio commentary with Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, interviews with Christopher Young and makeup artist Matthew Mungle, and several trailers for the film (one under The Dorm That Dripped Blood, the other under Pranks).

Another extra found here (aside from the bonus DVD) is reversible cover. Proud possessors of this early gore flick can choose to house the film in their library under the better-known The Dorm That Dripped Blood title, or under the Pranks one — each with their own different artwork.

In short: give it a whirl.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of Adam Becvar, a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has wasted a vast majority of his life watching movies - so much so, that a conventional life is no longer in the equation for him. He lives alone (big surprise there) in a rural home with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Really.