The low-budget horror flick The Dorm That Dripped Blood was one of the first teen horror flicks that launched the 80's wave of horror films which revitalized the genre. It is about a group of teens who volunteered to clean up the school dorm during vacation and very soon one after another is getting slaughtered by a killer. If you know films like Scream (1996) or I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) you will be familiar with the concept. The creative minds behind this film were a bunch of young people who shared a love for horror flicks: Jeffrey Obrow, Stephen Carpenter and Stacey Giachino. They wrote the story around their own experiences during a student co-op. The film does not break any new ground and received weak reviews due to a total lack of suspense. I think it is not necessary to go into detail about the film.

The score:

The film was originally titled Pranks before it was renamed to The Dorm That Dripped Blood. At that time the Soundtrack LP was already in print and still carried the original title which was kept for the 2004 CD re-issue. The score marks Christopher Young's entry in the world of film scoring in a genre that he would become pigeonholed for quite some time. His score for Pranks is a mixed bag like other first assignments of composers were. It is bearing the same inventiveness that made his latter scores for the genre very interesting but it is also paying a lot of tribute to composers who obviously inspired Young's work.

The ensemble which is performing the score is rather small and features strings, light percussion and piano. As simplistic as the sound might appear to be, one has to admire the use of an actual orchestra instead of synthesizers on a low-budget project like this one. The score opens with the "Main Title" which features keenly string sounds in Bernhard Herrmann mood and a lullaby melody for celesta at the end. This musical idea is appearing from time to time but there is no actual thematic development in this score. Most of it consists of an atonal sound which is somehow reminiscent of John William's atonal music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) with rhythmical hints of Jerry Goldsmith's suspense music shining through.

"Who's On The Roof" really is in this Goldsmith mood with bouncy low-key percussion, strings and piano. Tracks like "Surprise", "The Last Dance" or "Farewell to Brian" could be the little brothers of "Barry's Kidnapping" from William's Close Encounters, featuring a comparable inventiveness in the string writing though with less going on than in their big brother.

"Bill's Piece of Mind" and "End Titles" bring back the Bernhard Herrmann mood with keen string sounds. Young was focused on building tension without relying on too many real staccato-scares that usually dominate modern horror music. Compared to other modern horror scores, Pranks turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant listening experience. Of course the score does not offer anything new because it is straight forward horror/suspense music but this early effort clearly shows why Young became the composer of choice to score films of this genre. This solid little horror score was not able to save the horrible film but helped Chris Young to launch a successful career.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 60%

Score as heard on CD: 55%

TOTAL: 58%

 

The presentation:

Citadel Records did a good job on this release. The sound quality is very good and the disc features roughly 30 minutes of score. The 2 page booklet contains liner notes about the film and score. It is just a pity that this release is limited to 1000 units. If you are a Chris Young enthusiast you might have to hurry because this album could disappear very quickly.

Presentation by the Label: 71%

 

Summary:

With the release of the orchestral score for Pranks, Young fans are now able to hear how everything started. It is a solid horror score relying on building tension and atonal ideas instead of cheap staccato-scares or noisy orchestral chaos. However, Young does not reinvent the wheel here so if you are not interested in low-key horror/thriller music performed by a small ensemble then Pranks is definitely not a score for you.

 

Tracklisting:

01.  Main Title (01:11)
02.  Somene's in The Kitchen (02:23)
03.  Trapped (00:44)
04.  Nightwalk (01:51)
05.  Who's On The Roof (02:43)
06.  Surprise (01:56)
07.  The Phone's Dead (01:16)
08.  The Sacrifice (03:03)
09.  The Last Chance (02:07)
10.  Farewell To Brian (02:17)
11.  Moonchill (00:42)
12.  No Escape (01:46)
13.  Her Man Awaits (01:01)
14.  Bill's Peace Of Mind (01:36)
15.  A Little Prank / Kiss And Kill (01:41)
16.  Search For Hemmit (01:00)
17.  End Title (01:11)

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Review: Pranks (1981)

Composer: Christopher Young

Label: Citadel Limited

Catalogue Nr.: LEC 8000

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