So wait… you got two guys and two girls in a dormitory all alone while everyone else is on Christmas break and no one has sex?! That’s right! No one has sex! And THAT, Dear Reader, is about the only surprise THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD has to offer. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have seen these slasher films during their original theatrical run. We’ve been living with the slasher film for well over 30 years now so everything the slasher film has to offer is old hat. THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD was released in 1982 and while there had been a decent number of slasher films released since FRIDAY THE 13TH hit the fucking roof in 1980, there really hadn’t been enough of them yet to build up the kind of animosity we feel today when faced with yet another by-the-numbers slasher. Maybe this film would have felt more original in 1982. I don’t know. All I know is that watching the film play out today was like watching paint dry.
Aside from an opening murder, nothing much takes place in the film until the hour mark. We watch our four leads clean out a soon-to-be-demolished dormitory, make eggs, futz around in the dark and complain about the creepy dude they sometimes see wandering around the building. There is a sequence about a half hour into the film where a young (and yummy) Daphne Zuniga and her family are killed (effectively eliminating all the sex appeal this film had to offer) that manages to be bloody good fun, but other than that, it’s all talk and no play. In order to compensate for the lack of spooks and screams, the film kicks the score into overdrive, scoring every single moment a character walks down a hallway, goes into another room, picks up a piece of rubbish, turns on a light, says a line of dialogue, etc. I’m a fan of composer Christopher Young but the score for the film does little more than mix a little bit of JAWS with a little bit of FRIDAY THE 13TH. Even the score is derivative here.
The lack of T&A and sparse bloodletting may have been an attempt to up the films maturity level, but those elements would have been welcomed here. There is nothing wrong with a slasher film that plays it straight and doesn’t succumb to the more exploitation-oriented dressings like bare boobs and buckets of blood (look at HALLOWEEN and BLACK CHRISTMAS for perhaps the best examples of straight-played slasher films), but the film could have definitely used something more than characters talking, wandering around the dark and endless POV sequences. A little more fun would have gone a long way, especially since the suspense elements simply were not working for me. When the shit hits the fan and the blood does start flowing, there are a few moments where the film earns what little reputation it has. The ending is wonderfully pessimistic (and brings to mind the far superior INTRUDER) though. I’m always grateful for a film that has the strength of its convictions and doesn’t let the good guys win.
If there is a single decent piece of film here, it’s the final ten minutes. Basically an extended chase scene, it works the two red herrings (one, a sleazeball with eyes for our Final Girl and the second, the creepy guy with Beetlejuice hair that she thinks is responsible for the murders) into the climax and plays it out as half-torture sequence, half-run for your life. While the final reveal isn’t at all surprising and the motive for the killing is of the “I love you/I hate you” variety, the performances here reach a definite pitch of hysteria. It’s high energy, high impact stuff and it sends the movie out on a high note that it doesn’t deserve. Where was this kind of energy before? Nowhere to be found unfortunately and that’s why THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD comes out looking like a stinker. It’s just too little, too late.