Whatever you call it, it’s a minor cult item that’s finally making a jump to shiny discs, thanks to Synapse Films, and via an uncensored cut at that.
It’s recommended only to slasher fans and anybody who’s ever wished to see Daphne Zuniga get run over.
Yes, this marks the film debut of Zuniga, who went on to star in the likes of “The Sure Thing,” “Spaceballs,” “The Fly II” and TV’s “Melrose Place” after making an early exit here. She’s one of a handful of students helping to clear everything out of a towering dorm due for demolition in the summer.
Leading the charge is Joanne (Laurie Lapinski), who looks kinda like Hillary Clinton did in the 1960s. Complicating their efforts is a killer — whom we see mostly by his/her hands — out to dispatch them. They sort of deserve it, just for being so stupid. (As one girl says with incredible surprise upon going to her mailbox, “Oh, look, I got mail!” What’d she expect? Snakes? Peanuts?)
Synapse’s print is not close to the quality you think of from high-definition presentations. But that’s not the point; that it is uncut is, so you can see every brutal bit of our angry antagonist slicing through a guy’s hand, drilling through a man’s head, or hitting another repeatedly with a baseball bat outfitted with nails, and so on. The goofy/gruesome kills are usually the lone reason to watch such fare.
Luckily, “Dorm” has another. We learn the killer’s identity about an hour in, leaving the third act stuffed with various characters — including the world’s dumbest cops — with plenty of chances to thwart the culprit. It ends in a joke that’s admittedly sick-minded, but novel. I haven’t seen it tried before or since, which you can’t say often about a genre that thrives on following a template, so bravo!
On the commentary, directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter reveal plenty about their work, done partially on the sly while they were UCLA students, even if some of the details have escaped them in the three decades that have passed. It’s an entertaining listen, although their sound-alike voices make differentiating between them rather difficult.
Because they spill so much there, there’s no overall featurette on the film’s making, but one apiece with the makeup artist (who went on to win an Oscar for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”) and the composer (who can’t tell us a thing about it). —Rod Lott