31 Days of Slashers: The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982)

The sixteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow’s ultra-low budget The Dorm That Dripped Blood, also known as Pranks and Death Dorm (1982). Joanne (Laurie Lapinski) is a responsible college student who is staying over winter break to clean a dorm on campus before it is demolished and turned into student apartments. She convinces her boyfriend Tim (Robert Frederick) and her friends to help her. They quickly notice a creepy man peeking into windows at them and sneaking around the dorm. Soon, bodies begin piling up. Could it be the mysterious man or someone else targeting Joanne and her friends?

While The Dorm That Dripped Blood may be a pretty standard campus-set slasher, Carpenter and Obrow utilize the dorm setting quite effectively to add dark spaces that enhance the scares. They clearly had access to the entire building and they take full advantage of the space. What could have been just any boring college dorm location turns into a really eerie and rundown space. Location plays such a big part in slasher films for me. So often the films can fade into obscurity due to boring locations. This film definitely does the most with what it has and that is always respectable. The directors wrote the script while studying at UCLA and ended up filming it in three weeks in a building on campus over the university’s winter break.

The young cast turns in solid enough performances, with a very brief appearance from Daphne Zuniga as Debbie at the beginning of the film. Laurie Lapinski also proves to be a decent lead as Joanne. The rest may be pretty similar to the standard slasher victims of the majority of the films of the era, but they are enjoyable enough. The unique ending of the film, which is definitely much bleaker than other slashers, definitely sets the film apart from its peers.

With its fun location, impressively decent gore for such a low budget, and its shocking finale, The Dorm That Dripped Blood proves to be an effective little slasher that has definitely slipped under the radar of most horror fans. Check this one out!

Unfortunately, The Dorm That Dripped Blood isn’t featured on any streaming service. But the Synapse Films blu-ray, which features the uncut director’s cut that was originally counted as a Video Nasty, can be checked out from your local library and can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Road Games (1981)

The fifteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Richard Franklin’s Road Games. Patrick Quid is driving a large shipment of pigs across the Australian wilderness. On the road, he stops at a hotel for the night and sees a man checking in with a female hitchhiker. The next morning, his dingo begins sniffing the garbage outside the hotel. After picking up more of his shipment, he finds out that the hitchhiker had been murdered at the hotel. He ends up on a wild chase following the killer’s creepy van, but the police start thinking Patrick may be involved in the murder, as well. He pairs up with Pamela “Hitch” (Jamie Lee Curtis), a hitchhiker that he picks up. Will they be able to catch the killer? Or will Patrick and “Hitch” be the killer’s latest victims?

The main draw of this film is Stacey Keach. His performance, which is primarily just him isolated in the cab of his truck for great chunks of the film, is actually quite complex. Keach’s Patrick runs between comedy, intensity, and genuine emotion. He also has a really fun rapport with the dingo that he travels with. And we’ve come to another exciting chapter in Jamie Lee Curtis’s early horror career. She gives a great deal of humanity and drama into her character that really proves to enhance Patrick’s character while on this violent quest.

The mystery surrounding the killer of the film proves to be quite creepy, actually. While most slashers don’t actually creep me out, the killer in Road Games actually managed to spook me a bit. I particularly loved the intensity when Patrick and “Hitch” investigate the killer’s van. The suspense as “Hitch” is searching the van, while Patrick is keeping the killer distracted in the bathroom, is quite intense. It’s nice to have a killer in a slasher film that you don’t really get to see as they commit their murders.

Franklin does a really great job of utilizing the Australian landscapes to truly convey the isolation that truck drivers feel on long journeys. Matching the repetitive wilderness with the bursts of violence by the killer makes for a perfect distraction for Patrick as he gets bored on his long drive. The threat of nature, a great factor in Australian horror films of the time, is constantly present, as well. If something were to happen to Patrick’s truck, he would just be stuck in the middle of nowhere. This adds an engaging level of intensity to the film that definitely separates it from other slasher films of the time where the characters are just in suburban neighborhoods or on college campuses.

Through it’s solid performances, the mystery of the killer, and the use of the Australian wilderness as such a threatening force, Road Games proves to be a really engaging slasher that should definitely be a part of your Halloween viewings this month!

Road Games is currently available to rent on Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, Youtube, and Google Play. You can buy the Shout! Factory blu-ray, which features an excellent restoration and special features, HERE.

I’ll be back again tomorrow with another great entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

The fourteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Robert Hiltzik’s Sleepaway Camp (1983). Following the death of her father, Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) lives with her eccentric Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould) and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). Martha decides to send her niece and Ricky to Camp Arawak for the summer. The target of multiple bullies and unpleasant adults, Angela remains rather introverted. Soon, violent murders start occurring. Who could be killing the campers and the counselors of Camp Arawak? Are Angela and Ricky next?

Most well known for its incredibly shocking twist ending (no spoilers here!), Sleepaway Camp also provides a rather fresh and darkly comic take on the campground slasher concept. Instead of adult camp counselors being the sole target of the killer, as is the case in several of the Friday the 13th films, children are being killed here, as well, greatly escalating the stakes and intensity of the narrative. Hiltzik manages to weave together the comic aspects of the film quite well with the gory death sequences. The film balances out quite nicely.

The campy aesthetic and performances are one of my favorite elements of Sleepaway Camp. From the very beginning of the film where Angela’s father and his gay lover are accidentally killed in a boating accident, Hiltzik sets the over-the-top tone of the film. It is greatly accentuated with the absolutely wild performance of Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha. Her costuming, incredibly dramatic mannerisms, and way of speaking add an absurdly comic touch to the film. Additionally, Karen Fields as Judy, the meanest of Angela’s bullies at camp, steals every scene she is in with her highly-pronounced side-ponytail. The film is also chock full of over-the-top costuming choices, with nearly non-existent crop tops and minuscule short-shorts worn by several of the male camp counselors. While many would argue that the film has a queer subtext, I would say that there is nothing subtextual about the queerness of Sleepaway Camp. Its queer themes are directly visible from the beginning to the end.

While children performing in horror films can often be rather grating or even incredibly annoying, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, and Christopher Collet (Paul, a boy who has a crush on Angela) turn in fantastic performances that really fit the vibe of the film. Rose’s turn as Angela is particularly iconic and I continue to mourn the fact that she was not asked to return for the second and third film in the franchise, which turned into full-on comedies instead of the more enjoyable horror/comedy hybrid that Hiltzik establishes in this film.

Through its campy aesthetic and tone, its iconic performances, and its twist ending, Sleepaway Camp is an absolute essential for every Halloween viewing list this month!

Sleepaway Camp is currently streaming for free on the Tubi and Peacock apps and with a membership on the AMC+ and Shudder apps. The Shout Factory! blu-ray, which features an excellent restoration and special features, can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The thirteenth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is the truly bizarre and incredible The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). While a bit more of a hybrid of slasher, mystery, and comedy, Dr. Phibes still qualifies as an early film in the history of the slasher sub-genre. Famous organist and music theorist Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) was in a car accident four years ago that resulted in the death of his wife during surgery. Unable to speak and terribly burned, Phibes survived the crash. He secretly returns to London to take revenge on the surgeons and doctors that he feels are responsible for the death of his wife. Taking inspiration from the Ten Plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament, murders start occurring and Scotland Yard is eager to stop the killings. They team up with Dr. Visalius (Joseph Cotton), one of the surgeons that operated on Phibes’ wife, to end his reign of terror. Will they be successful?

The Abominable Dr. Phibes features a staggeringly beautiful production design that is filled to the brim with art deco inspirations and lavishly colorful set pieces. The costumes, the props, and the aggressively red blood of the film create an aesthetic that you will find incredibly captivating and engrossing. Dr. Phibes is truly a sight to behold and one that will definitely benefit from future viewings as you will absorb more of the startlingly rich details of the film.

Vincent Price is obviously the main draw of this film. His performance of Phibes is a campy and captivating delight that manages to be both incredibly entertaining but also bizarrely menacing. While he is clearly reveling in the evil of the film’s main character, he never takes his performance into the truly over-the-top area that can often accompany films that deal heavily with camp. Price, as always, is an absolute joy to watch in every frame that he is featured in.

The dark humor elements of the film also work well with the rather disturbing death sequences that Phibes stages. One particular death sequence that stands out is when a man is pinned to the wall by a unicorn statue and Scotland Yard has to turn his body to spiral it off of the statue’s horn. It’s the oddly comic moments like this that allow Dr. Phibes to transcend the traditional categorization of horror and become its own entity. It does feature multiple violent death sequences but it also incorporates a great deal of dark humor and camp into the mix.

Through its stunning images and production design, its lead performance that could not have been delivered by anyone other than Vincent Price, and its dramatic and bloody death sequences, The Abominable Dr. Phibes proves to be an essential Halloween viewing this spooky season.

Unfortunately, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is not currently on any streaming service. The Shout Factory blu-ray release of The Vincent Price Collection, of which this film is one of six featured, can be bought HERE and checked out from your local library.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: The Prowler (1981)

The twelfth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is another film from 1981, The Prowler. The film begins in 1944, as Rosemary writes a letter to her enlisted boyfriend saying that they need to break up. A year later, she’s attending her school’s graduation dance with Roy, her new boyfriend. The pair go to Lover’s Lane to neck in the car, and are soon both impaled with a pitchfork by someone in a military uniform who leaves behind a red rose with the bodies. 35 years later, the university has finally decided to hold the graduation ball again, leaving behind the violent history of the event. Pam (Vicky Dawson) is overseeing the dance with her friends. Soon bodies begin to pile up, as a prowler in a military uniform continues to leave red roses by his victims. Could it be Rosemary’s ex-boyfriend seeking more bloody carnage?

Directed by Joseph Zito, The Prowler features incredible practical gore effects by Tom Savini. Zito and Savini would end up working together again on Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter (1984). As with all of Savini’s work of the time, the practical effects look spectacular and make the film stand out from its peers. The titular prowler’s military uniform is also particularly effective as the creepy facade of the killer.

The film features a solid aesthetic that really takes advantage of the WWII era during its opening sequence. The setting of the graduation ball gives an air of elegance to the whole affair that is not common with slasher films of the era. The beauty of the set design and the location of the ball provides a stark contrast to the brutal murder sequences that Zito showcases throughout the film. The concept of a traumatized veteran from WWII as a villain was also quite controversial at the time.

The Prowler also features a strong supporting cast with Farley Granger starring as Sheriff Fraser. Granger is most well-known for his leading roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951). It’s fun to see the classic Hollywood actor turning in a solid performance in this standout slasher. I always really love when legendary actors pop up in horror films of the 1980s. Vicky Dawson’s Pam also proves to be a strong and capable Final Girl character.

Through its interesting WWII angle, its excellent practical gore effects, and its solid performances, The Prowler proves that is another great addition to your Halloween watchlist this year!

The Prowler can be streamed for free on the Tubi and Vudu apps and with a membership on the Arrow Player app. The Blue Underground blu-ray, which features a solid restoration, can be bought HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Pieces (1982)

The eleventh entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is a bizarre and absolutely incredible film simply called Pieces (1982). The film starts with 10-year-old Timmy murdering his mother after she has yelled at him for putting together a puzzle with a naked woman on it. Forty years later, a university is shocked by several murders of female students and staff. Could Timmy be back to build a real-life puzzle with pieces from his victims?

Pieces is a co-production between Spain, Puerto Rico, and the US, with the majority of the film being filmed in Boston. It was a popular target during the UK’s attack on “video nasties,” or films that featured gore and sexual images. While the film does feature high amounts of gore, it is presented in a fantastically campy manner that just adds a wonderful layer of enjoyment for the viewer.

The film throws in so many random characters that sometimes serve as red herrings while sometimes just being a fun distraction from the narrative. There will be moments, like when the karate instructor appears seemingly out of nowhere to showcase his skills, where you will find yourself asking, what am I watching exactly? But that is all part of the fun with this campy cult classic. This tongue-in-cheek attitude mixed with the gore of the film is perhaps its most appealing attribute. I’ve never really seen another slasher film that feels just like this one.

The film features fun performances from its leads in Kendall (Ian Sera) and undercover detective Mary Riggs (Linda Day) as they work on solving the mystery. There is a peculiar scene later in the film where Kendall is assisting Sgt. Holden (Frank Braña) with research for the case where they showcase their food from Wendy’s in several incredibly blatant shots. This was one of the funnier bits in the film for me, as Kendall is seen really enjoying his Wendy’s food.

If you’re looking for a film that will genuinely scare you, Pieces is not the film for you. It is a campy and hilarious delight mixed with quite a bit of blood and gore. It is a true oddity and one that needs to be shared with friends this Halloween season! After finally seeing it while quarantined towards the start of the pandemic, Pieces has become one of my absolute favorites!

Pieces can be streamed for free on the Kanopy and Tubi apps and with a membership on the Shudder and AMC+ apps. It can also be rented on Amazon. The Grindhouse Releasing blu-ray, which features an excellent restoration, a director’s cut of the film, and solid special features, can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Savage Weekend (1979)

The tenth film in the 31 Days of Slashers series is the particularly sleazy and low-budgeted Savage Weekend (1979), originally titled both The Upstate Murders and The Killer Behind the Mask. Recently divorced Marie (Marilyn Hamlin) is going upstate for a fun weekend getaway with her new stockbroker boyfriend Robert (James Doerr), her sister Shirley (Caitlin O’Heaney), and their gay friend Nicky (Christopher Allport). Robert has bought a farmhouse in the country where he has hired local Otis (William Sanderson) to repair a large schooner. When they arrive in town, Marie discovers that Otis is under suspicion of having killed a woman a few years ago. As murders begin to happen, Marie finds herself fighting for her life. Is creepy Otis to blame? Or could it be someone even more sinister?

This is a very interesting film in the history of the slasher sub-genre. That being said, it is not a particularly well-made or well-plotted film. Filmed in 1976, two years prior to the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Savage Weekend is an oddly bloody and specifically sleazy little picture. Kept on the shelf for years, Cannon decided to finally release it in 1979, following the incredible success of Halloween. Shot on a budget of just $58,000, director David Paulsen was able to feature quite an impressive array of gore effects.

The film is a great representation of the popular town vs. country theme that was featured heavily in horror films and thrillers of the 1970s. Films like The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Deliverance (1972), and I Spit on Your Grave (1978) all feature middle class city folk escaping the city for the wild country. Instead of the promise of parties and family adventures, the characters find themselves tormented by violent and crazed country folk. Savage Weekend is no different, as the New York City protagonists are threatened by the “low-brow” and “simple-minded” country folk of upstate New York. This is best showcased through the town drunks at the bar and their homophobic comments towards Nicky and through the overall crazed characterization of Otis.

The one element that really makes the film stand out, in spite of its rather generic narrative and low-production value, is its shockingly positive queer representation of Nicky. Christopher Allport gets the chance to showcase a depth of character that is oddly not awarded to any other character in the film. When the group arrives in town, Nicky goes into the local bar while his friends buy supplies at the grocery store. Here, he is confronted by the homophobic townspeople who make it clear that he is not welcome. Instead of simply leaving the bar, Nicky gets to attack his tormentors and emerge victorious. While the other characters in the film may be pretty flat, Nicky is shown to be incredibly proactive and engaging.

This film is definitely not for everyone. Narratively, it’s a bit of a hot mess. Visually, the film clearly shows its budget limitations, in spite of its solid use of practical gore effects. It is also particularly sleazy. In spite of all of that, it features a startling progressive representation of gay masculinity in a time when that was exceptionally rare. This is an interesting slice of slasher history and definitely makes a fun addition to your spooky October viewings.

Savage Weekend can be streamed for free on Tubi and with a membership on the Paramount+, DirecTV, and Epix apps. The Kino Lorber blu-ray, which features a solid restoration and special features, can be purchased HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another addition to the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Berserker (1987)

The ninth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Jefferson Richards’ Berserker (1987), also known as Berserker: The Nordic Curse. This little-seen slasher is a bit rough around the edges and definitely falls in the cheesy/fun category, but that makes it all the more enjoyable. Josh (Greg Dawson) is taking his friends to a Utah campground that he used to visit with his dad as a child. Run by Norwegian immigrant Pappy Nyquist (legendary character actor George ‘Buck’ Flower), the campground has been experiencing violent bear attacks recently. While enjoying a fun weekend of camping, Josh and his friends share Norwegian legends about violent Viking warriors, known as berserkers. As his friends start disappearing, Josh worries that the bear is attacking them. Or could it be a berserker who has somehow found himself in the 20th century?

The Norwegian legends at the heart of the story really separate the film from other camping slashers of the time. While most camp slashers usually just focus on campfire tales of killers at the camp, Berserker takes a gamble and adds a level of wildness with its inclusion of stories of Viking warriors. The rest of the narrative may be pretty similar to other films of the time, but this odd choice to focus on Norwegian mythology is very entertaining.

Richards is sure to add solid amounts of blood and gore to the violent sequences and the encounters with the bear and the potential berserker are always very engaging. The footage of the bear is particularly well-utilized for a film with such an obviously low budget. The natural location of the camp is also used nicely and looks quite decent throughout the film.

While the young cast of Berserker may not be the all-star performers of the slasher sub-genre, they turn in decent enough performances. The film is smart to let Flower’s Pappy Nyquist steal the show any time that he is on screen while John F. Goff is great as Officer Hill. Pappy Nyquist is the character that will linger with you long after the film is over, as George ‘Buck’ Flowers is just having such a good time in the role. I always get excited when I see him pop up in an obscure film that I’m watching.

Berserker may not be an award-winning slasher film by any means, but it provides a campy and very entertaining ride for the viewer. If you’re looking for an enjoyable and oddly mythological slasher to watch that you have never heard of, look no further!

Berserker can be streamed for free on Tubi. The Vinegar Syndrome blu-ray, which features an amazing restoration and great special features (and is also the only release of the film beyond its original VHS), can be bought HERE.

I’ll see you tomorrow with another entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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31 Days of Slashers: Terror Train (1980)

The eighth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train. At a pre-med fraternity’s New Year’s Eve Party, Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) begrudgingly takes part in a hazing ritual, luring incoming pledge Kenny Hampson into a room with the promise of sex, where he finds himself in bed with a corpse stolen from the university instead. Kenny is extremely traumatized by the prank and is sent to a mental institution. Three years later, the same fraternity hosts it’s New Year’s Eve party on a train. They even hire Ken the magician (David Copperfield) to perform for the crowd. Members of the fraternity and their sorority girlfriends begin being slaughtered one by one. Could Kenny be back for revenge? Is Alana next on the list of murder victims?

While Terror Train may feature a pretty generic slasher narrative, it more than makes up for it with its unique setting and its use of fun masks to hide the identity of the killer. Throughout the film, the killer wears a variety of masks ranging from the above Groucho Marx mask to the mask of a monk and an alien lizard. This helps keep the kills fresh, as you’re left guessing what mask will be used next. While comical, the masks also somehow manage to be a bit eerie, which is an absolute essential element to a masked killer slasher film.

By setting the film on a small train, the characters are confined to these long and narrow spaces. Spottiswoode uses the sets to assist in the construction of tension as there are fewer and fewer safe areas for Alana to navigate to escape from the masked killer. There is also just something to be said for a mystery that is set on a train. While Terror Train may not feature as many suspects as Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, it does give the viewer a couple of red herrings to add some intrigue to the mix.

Terror Train was filmed in the middle of Jamie Lee Curtis’ tenure as a Scream Queen of the late 1970s and early 1980s, before she went on to more serious dramatic work. Curtis is the real draw of the film here, as her performances are always legendary within the genre. While this may not be on the same level as her iconic role of Final Girl Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween, she is still incredibly engaging here and turns in a very solid performance. The casting of David Copperfield as Ken is also a really fun gimmick in that we are gifted with several sequences of the real-life magician performing his own magic tricks for the frat and sorority members.

With its excellent cast, unique setting, and fun mask designs, Terror Train proves to be an essential slasher watch for your October spooky film lists!

Terror Train is available to stream for free on The Roku Channel, and with a membership on the AMC+ and Shudder apps.

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31 Days of Slashers: The Hitcher (1986)

The seventh entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986). Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is delivering a car from Chicago to San Diego. On the way, he picks up hitchhiker John Ryder (Rutger Hauer). The pair soon drives by a stopped car when Ryder says that he murdered the driver. Filled with fear, Jim is quickly able to kick Ryder from the car. Continuing on his journey, Jim keeps running into Ryder and becomes involved in a series of violent murders. Will Jim be able to stop Ryder’s reign of terror?

While considered a bit of a flop at the time, after only making $6 million back from its $7.9 million budget, The Hitcher serves as a great example of a thrilling slasher film that is worth a closer look. Its narrative is relatively simple and relies on the tension between the two lead characters. Keeping so much of the anxiety trapped within the small space of Jim’s car allows for close character beats that allow the viewer to really identify with Jim. This also allows for a great growth in intensity when the action is finally moved outside of the car.

The strongest element of the film is the antagonist relationship between Howell’s Jim and Hauer’s Ryder. The actors have excellent chemistry and the intense power dynamic between the two really drives the entire narrative. C. Thomas Howell’s performance perfectly captures Jim’s arc from innocence to traumatized protagonist. Rutger Hauer, on the other hand, is clearly reveling in the absolute insanity of his villainous character. Howell and Hauer play off each other in a really engaging and exciting way.

The film features another early performance from Jennifer Jason Leigh as Nash, a waitress at a roadside diner that is thrust into Ryder’s deadly game. Harmon also utilizes the broad location of the open road as an additional threat to Jim. The film is full of striking shots of desert landscapes and mountain ranges.

Through its great performances, shockingly violent moments, and excellent use of small spaces to build tension, The Hitcher proves to be a highly effective slasher that is sure to thrill you this October.

The Hitcher can be streamed on the Cinemax app.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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