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December 5, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #205 - Dorm

"We have a lot in common, you know? No one cares about either of us."
Starring: Charlie Trairat, Chinatra Sukapatana, Sirachuch Chienthaworn.
Directed by Songyos Sugmakanan.
Not rated. Includes Taiwanese boys in various states of undress (but not fully undressed), said boys swearing, ghost stories, death, and unrequited lust for baton twirlers.
Dorm in Six Words:
A ghost story. With friendship too.
Why You'll Love It:
I'm not proud of it, but sometimes I get stuck in the mindset that most Asian horror movies (which is a stupid grouping anyway since that's a whole continent) are the same thing about long haired ghosts and jump scares. It's true that there was a type of horror film that became a fad after the success of The Ring and Dark Water, but there were also several horror stories from the far east that offered a touching and human twist on the age old ghost story. One of the most shining examples of this is the Taiwanese chiller Dorm (or, if you're Taiwanese "Dek hor") in which a teenage boy is sent to a dreary boarding school where his closest friend ends up being the spirit of a boy who died years earlier. With a healthy balance of chills and real world drama, Dorm is a rare treat that offers an original tale while providing some classic chills.  The final product is a touching coming of age story, but also a heck of a horror film.
The Highlights:
  • An early film sequence in which several boys try to scare the new kid with stories of ghosts haunting the dorm provides several eerie visions, leading to an unforgettably tense scene where even the dogs are terrified.
  • Also jaw-droppingly effective is a sequence at an outdoor movie theater, where '80s cult hit Mr. Vampire helps produce a big reveal about the haunting at hand.
  • While director Songyos Sugmakanan provides striking images throughout the film, he also gets fantastic performances out of the young actors involved. Without their work, the film probably would have lost much of its power.
Also Worth Knowing:
  • The film has been released with two different covers at two different times in the good ol' USA, both by the usually excellent Tartan Asia Extreme label. However, both covers sorely misrepresent the film. One features a picture of a boy standing in front of a house (that looks nothing like the titular Dorm) while a long haired ghost hides in the window, while the other makes us assume the boy is possessed by a demon that needs to be exorcised. Rest assured, this poorly marketed film is not what you would expect based on the awful cover art.
Dorm is for fans of...
Stephen King-esque stories where kids deal with horror and the fact that they are kids, ghost stories, dorms that don't look anything like what Americans think dorms look like, women with a reputation for being mean who have incredible posture, and kids who can act.

If you like this, you might also like...
Stand By Me (1986)
Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-2000)
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Dark Water (2002)

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