Frightmare/The Dorm That Dripped Blood

October 11, 2011

Frightmare takes its story from two juicy bits of Hollywood lore. One involves horror great Bela Lugosi, who (it is rumored) started to lose touch with reality toward the end of his life, possibly because of his drug addiction, and may have drifted into his Dracula character while not in front of the cameras. He was buried in his Dracula cape.

The other tale is a practical joke that director Raoul Walsh played on Errol Flynn, who was despondent after his friend John Barrymore’s death. Walsh, sick of Flynn’s whining, went down to the morgue, stole Barrymore’s body, sat the great actor’s corpse down in his living room, and invited Flynn over for a couple of drinks. Flynn became suitably freaked out when he arrived.

In Frightmare, a famous vampire actor (Ferdinand Mayne) dies, is buried in his costume, but insists he will return from the grave. Then his mausoleum is broken into by some college kids who steal his body and proceed to party down with it. Then they put the body in the attic of the party house and go to sleep, whereupon the actor gets up and takes his revenge during the long night.

Naturally, when the kids hear rustling upstairs, they get spooked. One girl says to her boyfriend, “I want you to look everywhere—even the attic.” Right. In the attic. In the dark. It’s that kind of movie.

Frightmare wants to have a sense of humor, but it’s tepid, shapeless stuff. At the beginning, when we see the old actor shooting a commercial, he looks at the director and says, “It is you who are inept, not me.” Nuff said.

The Dorm That Dripped Blood is a wonderful title, but when I went to see it, it had another title. The film bore the name Pranks, although this makes no sense—and then at the end of the film appears, in small letters, Death Dorm. However, I prefer The Dorm That Dripped Blood, and since the film lives up to this title, we shall use it.

Five people are hanging around an old dormitory, cleaning it out before it’s torn down. They look forward to hard work and good fun, but it is not to be. A maniac ruins everything by backing the car over one of them. Then someone comes in and messes up their dinner table, which really sends them into a tizzy. Then they hear something on the roof in the middle of the night, prompting the obligatory line, “Why don’t we split up and look around?” We know they’ll drop like flies after that.

It’s a whodunit. The five people all think maniac is this creepy guy with frizzy hair who scavenges through the garbage, but Ol’ Frizz does a turnaround near the end, tries to help the heroine, and gets hacked up for his efforts.

You can already sense that The Dorm That Dripped Blood is livelier than Frightmare. However, the acting is much worse, and it’s cheaper looking. I did like the last five minutes, though, in which an unexpectedly nihilistic conclusion is reached and it is suggested that somewhere, blood will continue to drip. Ripe for a sequel, it is. Look for it next semester.

First published in the Herald, September 11, 1984

I’m sure I knew the Errol Flynn story thanks to The Men Who Made the Movies, Richard Schickel’s classic TV documentary series, which profiled Walsh is spectacularly salty fashion. The movie stars the tireless Ferdy Mayne and was directed by the imposingly named Norman Thaddeus Vane. IMDb.com says the movie was released in 1983 and Dormin 1982, but that’s how horror movies crawled around in those days. The Dorm That Dripped Blood came from the filmmaking team of Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, whose 1987 film The Kindred is—well, tune in tomorrow.


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