Splatter University: A Short Guide to ’80s Campus Slashers

The Dorm That Dripped Blood1982, US, 88m. Director: Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow. Streaming: N/A

The House on Sorority Row1982, US, 91m. Director: Mark Rosman. Streaming: AMC/Prime, Shudder, Tubi

Sorority House Massacre1986, US, 74m. Director: Carol Frank. Streaming: Tubi

Splatter University1984, US, 78m. Director: Richard W. Haines. Streaming: N/A

THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1982) (AKA: Death Dorm, Pranks) Several members of a student co-op stay behind during the Christmas break to ready the building for demolition. A hooded killer sees this as the perfect opportunity to bump off the teens, one by one, in particularly brutal fashion. An unsuspecting passerby gets his brains bashed in with a nail-embedded baseball bat, while another has a hole put into the back of his skull with a power drill. The prime suspect is a mysterious transient who’s been seen roaming the campus, but any savvy viewer will spot the slasher movie “red herring” motif. Friday the 13th was the obvious inspiration for this low-budget splatter flick, as its characters, isolated setting, and Savini-like gore FX are all very reminiscent of that classic, which isn’t a bad thing. The teens are likable enough, the pacing is adequate, and the murders are juicy. In the end, the movie can’t distinguish itself from the rest of the campus-themed slashers of the time, but if you like your feathered-haired student body extra-bloodied, you’ll enjoy The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Originally released in the UK as Pranks, where it was selected as one of the notorious “video nasties”—a sign of quality for many a gorehound. B

THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1982) A group of sorority pals are denied a graduation party by mean old house mother, Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt). That’s because the party is planned for June 19—a date revealed to the viewer, via prologue, as that of Mrs. Slater’s 1961 delivery of a stillborn baby. In retaliation, the sorority women pull a prank which results in Mrs. Slater’s accidental death. They quickly dispose of the body and continue on with their party. The bad news is that someone creeping around the sorority attic was witness to the crime and subsequently commits a series of revenge killings. Could all of this slaughter have something to do with the supposedly dead child from twenty years earlier? A textbook example of an early eighties slasher, highlighted by colorful characters, energetic actors, and a Pino Donaggio-esque score by Charles Band. A slick production that for most of its runtime engages the viewer—until its tried-and-true cat-and-mouse finale, pitting virginal Final Girl Kate McNeil against the slasher, here decked out in a creepy clown costume. A somewhat lackluster conclusion kills some of the buzz, but not much. B

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986) The death of Beth’s aunt triggers a series of strange dreams and hallucinations—visions that include the figure of a man with a knife. Meanwhile, over at the local mental asylum, a patient named Bobby (John C. Russell) becomes violently agitated, escapes, and, knife in hand, heads to the UCLA sorority house where Beth (Angela O’Neill) and her classmates are staying over spring break. The plot parallels Halloween in more ways than one, but Sorority House Massacre deserves more credit than being labeled just another rip-off. The writers obviously put time and care into the structure of the screenplay and have created a thoughtful story that’s more concerned with intelligent, sympathetic characters than with mindless splatter. That said, the movie does have its share of gory kills, which are skillfully intermixed with moments of actual suspense. Only one of those silly it’s-only-a-dream surprise endings stains an otherwise good little movie. B

SPLATTER UNIVERSITY (1984) A schizophrenic psychopath named Grayham is locked up in the city mental hospital. After knifing his doctor in the crotch and slitting his throat, Grayham steals the doc’s clothes and escapes. Three years later, a young teacher at St. Trinian’s College is fatally stabbed by an unseen assailant. Grad student Julie (Francine Forbes) takes over the position, but it’s not her class subject—Marx’s Aspects of Alienation—that makes the student body gradually dwindle. It’s the killer, who strikes again and again. Julie’s new beau (and fellow teacher) becomes Prime Suspect No. 1—especially after Julie and her friend do a little Scooby-Doo snooping and discover newspaper clippings of the recent slashings in his house. But viewers will most likely be eyeing the obvious culprit: the wheelchair-bound dean (Dick Biel) who’s actually—surprise, surprise!—Grayham. Although released in 1984, Splatter University was obviously filmed years earlier (maybe the week after Friday the 13th opened). The make-up effects are chintzy but convincing—a bathroom stall disemboweling is quite gruesome—and the script lacks the slightest shred of mystery and suspense. If you like your slashers fast, cheap, and bloody, believe me—you can do a lot worse. C+

To be continued…

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