Dorm Of The Dead (2006)

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There’s a scam in the low-budget movie world. It’s a variation on the Cannon model of “make a cool poster, sell that to distributors, then make a film based on the poster”, only a little more advanced. Have you ever watched a movie which started off well, got you interested, then suddenly dropped off a cliff of quality after the first five minutes? This is often associated with a change of location or characters, or both, and is usually the pre-credits sequence.

 

The big secret is, they make that first five minutes to secure funding, and distribution; when they’ve got their money, based on the expectation that the rest of the movie will be as good, they knock out any old piece of cheap crap. This crap will then get sold to cable channels, video rental places (now streaming services, I guess), eke out a meagre profit and the cycle will continue. The ur-example of this is Fred Olen Ray’s “The Tomb” from 1986, which starts off as an Indiana Jones-style adventure before switching to an hour of people talking on telephones, but there’s a case to be made for “Dorm Of The Dead” being a member of this group.

 

Ignoring (for now) the framing device, we get the first segment, where a guy tries to persuade his girlfriend to have sex before leaving, frustrated, only to then meet a couple of zombies, start making out with them, and get eaten. It’s well lit, filmed on decent equipment and (by and large) well acted. Now, the makeup is abysmal, even for a no-budget zombie movie – a bit of grey paint on the face, dark rings round the eyes, which looks even stupider when it’s a woman in a small top and you can see acres of perfectly healthy flesh – but everything else looks good.

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Then, after the credits, we hear that distinctive hum that means someone is using their camcorder’s on-board sound recording, and all bets are off. It’s ISCFC favourite Donald Farmer, who’s been entertaining us since the mid 80s, and just like with most of his movies there’s an absolute ton of things to talk about. Playing over those opening credits, for instance? “Eat The Living”, the same song that so dominated the last Farmer movie, “Red Lips 3”.

 

After a 15-minute segment that has nothing really to do with the rest of the movie, where B-movie regular Tiffany Shepis cheats on her boyfriend, then the boyfriend’s a psycho, then they all get turned into zombies anyway so who cares, we get to the plot. Sarah, a goth girl, mildly insults Clare, a “townie”, in class one day (their verbal jousting is embarrassingly wooden), so Clare decides to get her revenge in the most insane way possible. The professor has a vial of zombie blood, sourced from Haiti, so Clare and her friend steal the vial, find Sarah in her dorm and pour the blood down her throat – this slowly turns her into a zombie, although I suppose Clare couldn’t have expected it to actually be real.

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Where to start? Let’s talk about the editing of a couple of early scenes – the aforementioned classroom scene, then one right after it, where Sarah’s tuition cheque bounces and the principal takes great delight in telling her she’s kicked out of her accommodation (she has to move to Arkham Hall, where all the broke kids are). Anyway, it looks like Farmer filmed everyone in these scenes individually then spliced them together but did it with different cameras and lighting, in different locations, and it’s so obvious, for no real reason. It’s not like any of the actors were famous or good, so why not just hire people who were all able to show up at the same time?

 

In a film which barely hits 65 minutes before the credits roll, there’s also a heck of a lot of padding – check out the scenes where Sarah walks through a funfair, or the one where Farmer regular Jim O’Rear (surely a name more appropriate to a porn star?) escorts her through an enormous convenience store, where nothing happens, slowly. And the acting! Although I can’t use any of my trademark hyperbole, as Farmer has already previously employed the worst actress I’ve ever seen in my life (Kashmere, in “Red Lips 2”), there’s still a wide range of rank amateurishness on display. Ciara Richards (Sarah), Adrianna Eder (Alison) and Jackey Hall (Clare) feel like Farmer was just wandering through campus one day and picked them at random; they appear to have no desire or aptitude for acting. The men in the movie, all scumbags or rapists or both, fare no better.

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Endings in movies are tricky beasts. A great one can elevate a weak movie, and a terrible one can do the opposite. It’s nice to actually have one, though, even if Donald Farmer disagrees. “Dorm Of The Dead” doesn’t so much end as just abruptly cut off, in the middle of a news report where the on-location reporter is unsure what a safe distance from a group of zombies is. There’s been no character development, no resolution to any of the plotlines, no sense of closure, nothing. It’s so poor, if it were anyone other than Farmer, I’d think it might be a deliberate audience alienation tactic. But there’s one crucial part of the ending we’ve not yet discussed.

 

Framing the movie is a Criswell-like narrator, Alf, played by a chap with the delightful stage name of Dukey Flyswatter. He supplies no useful information in the beginning, and just cackles with laughter before saying “get out!” at the end, but it’s his review on IMDB I wanted to mention. He says the film was terrible, only good for ogling the women, and mentions how he supplied his own outfit and improvised his own dialogue. I wouldn’t brag about that, mate! Anyway, he also mentions improvising a scene where he’s the father of a teenage girl, she’s on a date, her date is trying to get her to have sex with him and she’s completely (deliberately?) misunderstanding everything he says. It’s comedy for the severely head-injured, but he says the scene was cut short thanks to some “old woman” on the set complaining about the content, and it never made it into the movie anyway, not even the special features. Well, he clearly turned off the movie the second it faded to black, because the scene he talks about appears in the middle of the credits. And it is bad! It goes on for almost ten excruciating minutes, although I’m really not sure why it wasn’t just put in the movie – it’s no worse than any of the other terrible filler scenes.

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This is, by any reasonable assessment, worse than Donald Farmer’s late 80s movies. The effects are worse, the acting is worse, the dialogue, the editing…it’s a rare director who seems to devolve, but Farmer has managed it. I take no pleasure whatsoever in saying this – he seems like a decent guy, a real film buff, but after wildly bizarre early efforts that never failed to entertain, there’s no sense of adventure or fun in these later ones. Aside from that well-lit first five minutes, the entire rest of the movie seems to have had no money spent on it at all – the sets are all whatever they could get access to for ten minutes, the makeup is just a bit of dirt rubbed on faces, the blood and guts could be freebies from a local butcher (or just Karo syrup)…you could tell me “Dorm Of The Dead” had cost less than $500 and I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

So, I give my shoulders a hearty shrug for this one. It’s abysmally bad, even if (like almost all Farmer’s movies) it manages to find new ways to fail, and is therefore sort of interesting for the bad movie enthusiast.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Rock n Roll Space Patrol Action Is Go (2005)

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I think Troma reached a tipping point of sorts with this. One on end, actual motion pictures; on the other, home movies. I would lay money on at least one person reading this having made something about as good as this with their friends over the course of a boring summer holiday, so why Troma chose to release this, I have absolutely no idea. It’s not the beginning of any glorious careers – in fact, for just about everyone involved, it’s their sole credit of any kind; and it’s not so much bad as it is a bit…pointless?

Buck Fiesta is a Space Ranger sent in his intergalactic spaceship, which strongly resembles a battered old car, to a far distant part of the galaxy, which strongly resembles Springfield, Missouri. He meets up with Red Arrow, and the two of them fight to take down a bunch of space-ninjas, a mad scientist and so on. They fight in the middle of a field, mainly, but they also have a conference in a garage and flash back to an event taking place near a bonfire. Now, the bonfire bit is so obviously home movie footage that I started to get a bit annoyed.

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Now, there’s two ways of looking at this. One is to completely dismiss it as the cheap nothing of a movie it undoubtedly is – four or five friends spent a summer and (according to IMDB) $3000 making a movie to entertain themselves and their social circle. If I knew one of them, I’d have been round their house watching the premier of it and would have undoubtedly been impressed with what they’d achieved. But, Troma have elevated it to some level of legitimacy by attaching their name to it and selling it for real money (despite it being available for free on Youtube, you can still buy it from their website). When you start charging money for something, it being a tiny bit above the level of a well-done home movie just isn’t enough.

This isn’t the cheapest movie we’ve covered on here – “Manborg” cost under $1000, if I remember right; and I don’t think “Swamp Zombies” can have cost much more than than $3000. “The Slashening” (just picked up by Troma) only cost $6000. So there’s not the excuse of extreme cheapness to let them off.

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I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve just done the equivalent of write a thousand words about a knock-knock joke. It’s clearly not meant to be taken seriously, at all. But use your limited time on this earth more wisely and watch something else.

Rating: thumbs down

King Frat (1979)

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I feel I need to mention, before we get going – any praise of anything in this movie is not agreeing with the activities taken part in or views expressed within it. One must laugh at this film as often as you laugh with it.

It’s Florida in 1979. A film crew rolled into town with the ambition of making a few dollars from idiots at drive-in cinemas. The flavour of the month they were ripping off was “National Lampoon’s Animal House”, so to save as much money as possible, they just hired local actors, which is one of the many reasons you may not recognise any of the fine thespians who plied their trade in “King Frat”. Whereas I’ve seen “Animal House”, an undeniable classic, maybe twice in my life, I’ve seen “King Frat” at least ten times. I don’t know why.

Its simultaneous biggest flaw and biggest plus is the complete lack of any morals whatsoever. And I’m not talking about any film of the last 20 years you’ve seen which claims to be crass and tasteless, which usually just involves a bit of mild nudity and a joke about religion; “King Frat” has a seemingly pathological need to cross every boundary imaginable, to offend everyone it can, to take every funny idea from “Animal House” and dial it way up. Whether this results in a laugh or a horrified gasp seems not to bother these people.

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Yellowstream University, named by the local Native Americans for exactly the reason you are already imagining it’s named, is home to Phi Kappa Delta, the scummiest fraternity imaginable. We’re introduced to them as they drive their hearse with the number plate “HEY 4Q2” round the campus. They fart on the Principal, which kills him immediately – later on, they put a burning block of weed in the ventilation of the church where his funeral is being held, steal his body and leave it in their toilet for the rest of the movie. There’s sort of a plot, with them being threatened with removal from campus by the Assistant Dean and the “preppie frat”, but it’s all pretty irrelevant.

Main student at the frat is “Gross-Out”, played by John DiSanti, who was 41 at the time of filming and looked every minute of it. To deal with the sensitive issue of rampant alcoholism in the Native American community, they have a white guy in crappy facepaint as “Chief Latrine”, who we’re introduced to passed out on the front steps of the frat house in the middle of the day, and who remains blackout drunk throughout. The rest of the frat is a sort of undifferentiated mass of beer-devouring humanity.

The main thread of the first half of the movie is a farting contest. It’s a big deal, drawing a large crowd, and Gross-Out is expected to win of course. Lots of people bending over, strained expressions on their faces, with microphones held down there; Gross-Out’s ex-girlfriend competes (she was too gross even for him); and a dog accidentally drinks some “farting juice” and lets rip with such vigour that it’s thrown across the room. In the second half of the movie, we’re treated to a scene where one of the Phi Kappa boys is in a gorilla suit in the back of an ambulance, and the nurse in there notices he has an erection. Rather than literally any other action, she decides to make use of it, mounts him and gets stuck in the zipper of his outfit, where they’re discovered on arrival at the hospital. Plus there’s a trip to a local brothel where the new pledge finds his wait-til-marriage girlfriend working as a “masseuse”. This is merely a taste of the rich buffet of delights that “King Frat” represents.

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If you’ve sat through every minute of this masterpiece and not exchanged at least three shocked glances with your viewing buddy (seriously, don’t watch this on your own, what’s the point?), then you’re a monster and ought to be ashamed. This really is as repellent as teen raunch movies got – basically no plot, just a series of “sketches”; repetitive beyond even my ability to enjoy farting and drunkenness jokes; stupendously racist towards Native Americans (although not towards black people, oddly enough); and genuinely thinks the only way to be “better” than Animal House is to be louder, dumber and drunker. The tagline?

“#@!! the rules, #@!! the Dean, #@!! the college, #@!! everything… it’s beer time!!”

Yet I love it. I don’t know why, but I do. Its mindlessness probably works in its favour – drunkenness and sociopathic behaviour ages well, it would seem. It’s the worst of the worst, the pits, but there’s something gleeful about it. They love what they’re doing, even if they probably shouldn’t.

Rating: thumbs up

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