posted 02/10/2013

Directed by:
Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow

Laurie Lapinski ... Joanne Murray
Stephen Sachs ... Craig
David Snow ... Brian
Pamela Holland ... Patti

Country: USA
Runtime: 84 min
AKA: Pranks
Death Dorm

Oh slasher films, how I love thee. Let me count the ways: 1) Gratuitous nudity (which is rarely gratuitous in my book) 2) bloody violence 3) dumb kids who should be dead anyway. Today I present to you a seminal classic in the genre! Originally titled DEATH DORM (or PRANKS, depending on the distributor), this quintessential slasher flick is a joy to behold.

Mousy and virginal Joanne (Laurie Lapinski, in her ONLY movie role) is spending her college break in an old dorm, while her boyfriend Tim and the rest of her pals go on a skiing trip. Joanne and four other college kids have volunteered to clear out an old dorm before it is demolished, so they are stuck there for the next couple of weeks. Joining her are Debbie (played by cutie Daphne Zuniga, who would later go on to steal our hearts in SPACEBALLS!), the hunky Brian, the thin Patti, and the sleazy, funny guy Craig. Sadly, Debbie is the first to go, and that is a real damn shame because she is pulling some serious Neve Campbell vibes in this. But anyway, her parents come to pick her up early and her dad meets with the business end of a nail-studded baseball bat, her mother is garroted, and poor, pretty Debbie is run over by a car. There is a killer on the loose now folks, so hang tight! It turns out there is a student on campus, John Hemmit, who shouldn't be there...and he also happens to be the creepy loner kid everyone knows instant red herring for that guy!

So begins a series of walking around in the dark scenes followed by sweet kill scenes! The janitor is drilled in the brain pan in a glorious close-up (see pic below). Someone, possibly John Hemmit, destroys their chicken dinner with the same nail-studded baseball bat. Someone creepily walks along the roof, scaring Joanne and Patti. The power goes out; flashlights and candles are brought into use. Craig and Patti head off to restore power (which is always a good idea), and Patti is choked by the killer and dumped into what I assume is a giant, industrial-sized vat of soup. Craig seemingly manages to escape and they run into crazy-looking (and balding) John Hemmit. John punches Craig out and chases Joanne, so it turns out that he is the killer after all...or is he? John corners her in a room and whispers to her to let him save her and get her out maybe he isn't the bad guy? In any case, she chops at his arm with a machete she found on Brian's armless corpse (who not only turns out to be dead but to be the hero boyfriend character after all, which adds a nice twist) and escapes into the arms of a recovered Craig.

Craig comforts our heroine as they flee from beating the shit out of John. Then old Craig drops this bomb on our final gal after hugging her lovingly:"Don't you understand? It's been me the whole time! I'm the one!" So begins the classic final stalk sequence as Craig chases our gal through the underground pipe-filled hell that is the boiler room, or something similar to that. At one point, Joanne is blocked by a sign that reads "beware of rats" and she turns back, so alas we don't get a rat-filled climax. Craig catches her and promises: "I'm not going to hurt you, I love you!" He takes her on a tour and shows her what he did to Patti and Debbie, but she manages to easily lock him in a meat locker. She races toward a ladder and finds another body, God know's who, but Craig appears, having equally easily escaped from said meat locker. A random dude who had the hots for Joanne shows up and saves her, but he and Craig get into a brawl. The cops conveniently show up and Craig tricks them into believing the new dude is the killer. They shoot him and Craig instructs them to go upstairs and save the others. While they're gone, he throws Joanne, who he had previously knocked unconscious so he could deal with the new dude, into the incinerator, which gets rid of all the witnesses and means Craig gets away with it. Boom! The end!

The weird thing is there is a whole "rainbow" theme running through this movie. Maybe it's a gay statement, maybe not, but there are multiple scenes featuring either a multi-colored flag, or an actual rainbow! Not that there's anything wrong with it, but after a while it became very apparent that it wasn't by accident. What makes this flick so special is that the killer gets away with it! That is so rare in these films. And the level of gore doesn't hurt either. Even though the film hits a lull here and there with the typical "walking around in the dark" scenes, there is a always a sense of tension and some great action beats. I like that I couldn't guess that Craig was the killer and I LOVE that he got away with it. If you consider yourself a slasher fan, you should have already seen this film, but if not...go pick this up, it's a must-have!

- Jose Prendes


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