Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1981, Blu-ray Review) Synapse

Director(s): Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow
Cast: Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland, Dennis Fly, Woody Roll
Synapse Films / All Region / Unrated / 1.66:1 Widescreen / ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono / 88 minutes / PURCHASE FROM TLACULT
Extras: Audio Commentary featuring Directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter / Interviews with Composer Christopher Young and Make-Up FX Creator Matthew Mungle / Isolated Music Track / Original Theatrical Trailers / Reversible Cover with Alternate Artwork

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Most of the slasher flicks from the late ’70s on through the ’80s were pretty familiar plot wise, especially the ones that took place on school campuses. But I guess that was most of them, wasn’t it? Anyway, you know the drill… group of “kids” stalked by an unknown assailant, being picked off one-by-one until someone realizes that everyone else is missing. During this process we are given hints to whom the killer is and a few red herrings to throw us off the track. We are also treated to some bOObage and/or sex in the mix for good measure. By the third act, the killer has whittled down the teens to usually two people; one boy, one girl. Chase and battle ensue, then bang, we find out who the killer is in a not-so-surprising twist. This is the way of the good old American slasher film.
There are certain variations of the formula that make each film its own, but that is a standard template. I love that model outline, it’s my favorite horror movie genre. The grittier and nastier the better. I am not one for too much goofiness or “wink-wink nudge-nudge” moments, I just want to see some fucking carnage and tits… end of story. Well lucky for me Synapse Films is releasing (this Tuesday, April 26th!) a banner movie just for me with Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow’s The Dorm That Dripped Blood aka Pranks. The change from the formula for Dorm is just that the kids are all alone on campus during Christmas break to get the dorm ready to be closed down. This makes it much more convenient for the killer to pick them off without the worry of witnesses.
The look and feel is very dark and gritty without a hint of smirk by the filmmakers. It’s just straight-ass mayhem from start to finish. The brutality starts pretty early with my favorite kill; an absolutely brutal repeated baseball bat to the head accompanied by sickening *THUDS*. There is also a fantastic power drill to the back of a head and a very young Daphne Zuniga gets her head run over by a car with a nice *CRUNCH*. Wow, I didn’t realize until now how much head trauma there was in this movie. The acting was pretty much on par with the low budget fare of the ’80s which is pretty terrible but not annoyingly so and the direction was pretty damn good. The editing and transitions on the other hand were pretty herky-jerky but really, who the fuck cares. It’s just something I noticed because I’m sitting there with my little pad writing shit down.
I also loved that the writers didn’t pander to anyone with the ending. They didn’t force in a feel-good climax just to give the viewer a sense of relief. No lessons learned for the PG-13 crowd. Nowadays that is a real problem for me with movies, especially horror and adult comedies (see: Get Him to the Greek). Really the only thing I didn’t like was the lack of tits. Yes, there was a short scene with a pretty nice natural rack, but that was it. Not even any sex scenes. Although through the entire last third of the movie the main actress is running from the killer in a thin white t-shirt with her perky nipples poking through the whole time. So I guess that is some consolation. I mean, they were nice, natural little titties… but I digress…
I was very surprised with how darkly Dorm was shot that the picture was so good. I can image how shitty the VHS and DVDs with most of the action being cloaked in utter darkness. But this transfer from the 35mm director’s cut answer print (the first print after color correction, sound synching, etc.), originally entitled Death Dorm looks really fucking sweet. There is loads of detail, grain and very little damage save one or two almost non-existent scratches in one scene that I noticed. The sound is also incredibly clean. It’s a new mix that sounds almost too perfect. A lot of the dialogue sounds like it was done in a mixing booth somewhere in Hollywood. There are tons of extras (listed above) but my favorite one was the isolated music track which features the awesome piano and string mood music from the film. I also really dig the reversible Dorm/Pranks blu-ray cover. Definitely pick this up if you are a slasher fan especially.

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