Dorm that Dripped Blood, The (US - BD)
Gabe views extra frames of HD head drilling, bludgeoning and coed stew...
Besides the joy of general availability of once (legally) unavailable films, the most exciting thing for horror fans about the digital home video age is the discovery of uncut prints of previously censored films. Though uncut prints of various MPAA cut features had been available on the bootleg VHS market for decades, these copies were ugly messes, and rarely presented in original widescreen, and every once and a while something genuinely unavailable is discovered. Since the inception of DVD previously lost uncut prints of From Beyond, My Bloody Valentine, The Wicker Man and Dario Argento’s Phenomena have been released. We can now add former ‘Video Nasty’ The Dorm that Dripped Blood (aka: Pranks) to that list. For years, slasher fans assumed the various DVD releases of Dorm that Dripped in Blood were the entirely uncut version of the film, when out of the blue Synapse Films discovered a new, longer, gory cut entitled Death Dorm. Like My Bloody Valentine, Dorm that Dripped Blood isn’t a great film, or one we needed to rediscover, but it’s very good for its type, and the gore quotient is the main reason to see it, so the promise of more red stuff is certainly reason for celebration.
The Dorm that Dripped Blood (not to be confused with Amicus’ The House that Dripped Blood or The House on Sorority Row) is fun because it sits in that wonderful no man’s land between utter amateurism and effective horror filmmaking. Slasher films tend to work best when it feels like we’re in the hands of a director that doesn’t appear to have much in the way of scruples. In these situations, the audience can giggle at the shortcomings, but still worry a bit about how far the violence may go. Unfortunately, in this case the amateurism far outweighs the prospective danger. The photography is maddeningly dark (as opposed to effectively, or creepily dark), the cutting is awkward, and none of the actors are good enough to overcome the limits of their dialogue and characters. Like most ‘80s slashers the problem here is in the unsympathetic and disinteresting characters, and the parts of the plot that don’t feature grotesque murder. Directors Jeffery Obrow and Stephen Carpenter (who’d go on to work together on The Power and the 1987 film The Kindred ) attempt to stretch their thin, generic script into 88 minutes by half-heartedly developing romantic relationships between characters that are almost impossible to tell apart, and sadly languishing in the non-suspense between killings. The title also hints at, or at least implies the possibility of a lot more T & A than we’re given (exactly one pair of boobs in a scene that was added after final cut). The majority of the characters aren’t even coeds, let alone naked, pillow-fighting sex pots. Obrow and Carpenter score minor points for not making the killer’s identity entirely obvious, but lose a few for a heavy-handed red herring.
I haven’t seen the original released cut more than once, so I’m unable to compare the extended gore to the censored gore. What I can say is that The Dorm that Dripped Blood is an especially brutal slasher that certainly crosses the lines of the 1980’s R-rating. Some of the violence is quite prolonged (like the sequence in which a man is bludgeoned for a solid minute), while others are left to our imagination, likely out of budget constraints (like the following beat where a girl is crushed with a car). The pieces that aren’t left to our imaginations feature some pretty convincing make-up effects, though the illusion is often lost when the director’s attempt to incorporate the real actors in wider shots. The drill to the back of the head kill is certainly the show stopper, and according to most accounts the reason the film was originally banned by the BBFC. Other nasty bits include a celebrated death by industrial pressure cooker, the after effects of which don the cover of most home video releases, and a thoroughly mutilated corpse.
‘This transfer was created from the only existing 35mm answer print of the original director’s cut’, states the back of the box. That’s the good news. The other good news is that this print looks way better than the 1.33:1, non-anamorphic UK Vipco DVD release (which somehow found its way into some American stores in the form of a NTSC version). The rest of the news isn’t great. I believe Synapse that this print was the best they could possibly manage given the materials, but also have a sneaking suspicion that a certain other company that specializes in cult horror releases might have put a little more money into cleaning things up. The directors even mention on the commentary track that the 16mm release looked better than the 35mm blow-up. Film grain is heavy, heavier than I’ve seen on a Blu-ray release yet, but the bigger problem is the flicker and occasional chunks of dirt that go along with the grain. It’s difficult to believe that the film was shot on 16mm, rather than Super 8. The image is very dark, though it is easier to discern the nighttime stalking and slashing here than the Vipco DVD, which often appears to have no image at all. Another problem is colour quality, which appears too blue for what I’m assuming was intended. The film is generally unattractive, and I’m pretty sure that blue gels weren’t utilized to create mood. The non-blue hues bleed and run into each other during the darker scenes, or are washed out entirely during the lighter ones. Even at a relatively un-wide 1.66:1 framing the film looks a little too tight, especially headroom, but I’m going to assume that this is just a symptom of less than impressive filmmaking, especially since imdb.com lists the original theatrical framing at 1.85:1. Fans left to deal with older releases will find reason to celebrate, but based on Synapse’s pedigree, and their Vampire Circus and Embodiment of Evil releases, I’m considering this one a disappointment.
Before the release the Synapse blog gave a warning and description of their remastering process, which can be read here.
There are no frills or fuss on this DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track, but there are also no signs of compression, damage, or distortion either. Dialogue is consistently clear, and relatively natural. Even the lip-sync matches the vast majority of the time, despite likely being recorded as ADR. Folley and other sound effects work runs hot and cold, from the natural and heightened, to the obviously canned and phony, but again, there was no point that things became distorted or showed any signs of damage. The one element that keeps The Dorm that Dripped Blood from languishing in obscurity, aside from its temporary banned status in the UK, is Christopher Young’s effective and moody score. This was Young’s first notable film score, and actually shows signs of the composer’s eventual greatness with films like Hellraiser, Wonder Boys and Drag Me to Hell. The music, which is also featured isolated from the rest of the soundtrack on an alternate track, sounds warm, crisp and full-bodied despite the lack of stereo separation or LFE support.
Extras begin with a lively and entertaining commentary from directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter. Here we learn that The Dorm that Dripped Blood was basically an elongated graduate school project created while the directors were still buzzing off of their first viewing of John Carpenter’s Halloween. Well, I actually already knew that because I read books about this crap, but the specifics of the production haven’t been this thoroughly filled-in for public consumption before this recording. Great moments include a brief argument concerning exactly whose grad thesis the film was (neither director wants to take credit), a tale about gambling away ‘points’ while playing cards with the cast and crew, the story of Carpenter learning the film was banned in the UK, and several notations of how much walking around there is in the film.
‘My First Score’ (8:10, HD) is a brief interview with composer Christopher Young, who doesn’t really remember any about his actual The Dorm that Dripped Blood score, but recalls the facts of getting the job, working with the directors, and the difficulty of putting together such a long series of cues at that early point in his career. ‘My First Slasher’ (9:30, HD) is a follow-up interview with make-up effects creator Matthew Mungle, who discusses his work at Joe Blasco’s make-up school, his relationship with the directors, his budget, and the MPAA cuts. This interview also features some behind the scenes photos, and a brief comparison between the cut and uncut drill shot. Extras end with two trailers, one under the title The Dorm that Dripped Blood and one under the title Pranks (note: neither title really makes any sense).
This newly discovered uncut release of The Dorm that Dripped Blood is reason to celebrate for slasher and Video Nasty enthusiasts, but the rest of you will probably want to skip this college project-turned-feature length release. I’m sorry to say that even considering the loose critical terms set forth by the slasher genre, this is just a generally bad movie, and sadder yet, a boring one. The 1080p HD video quality isn’t very impressive either, though the DTS-HD Mono soundtrack sounds great, and the directors’ commentary track is pretty darn entertaining. The only reason I’d suggest a blind buy is that it could be considered an investment in Synapse’s upcoming Hammer Blu-ray release which we all want to look like a million bucks (and which might feature commentary from Kim Newman?).
*Note: The images on this page are taken from the included DVD copy, and do not represent the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 26th April 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Directors Commentary, My First Score, My First Slasher, Trailers, Isolated Musical Score, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter
Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland
Length: 88 minutes
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