I thought the name Donald Farmer (writer/director of Dorm of the Dead) sounded vaguely familiar. There was also a song in the soundtrack that I knew I had heard before (not a particularly good one), but I couldn't remember where. After a little research, I realized that I had just seen a Donald Farmer film, Red Lips: Eat the Living. Red Lips was four short, halfway decent zombies films wrapped up in an atrocious vampire film. I figured that Farmer had written and directed the vampire story, but wondered how much he had to do with the zombie shorts. After watching Dorm of the Dead, I'm inclined to think he had no hand in the shorts at all. Dorm was worse than amateurish, it was crammed end to end with examples of what not to do as a filmmaker. The size of the budget is no excuse. If your budget forces you to make a movie this bad, don't make the movie.
I think part of Farmer's difficulties are that he doesn't know how to work with what he has. The acting skills of the cast were almost non-existent, but that was only exaggerated by the fact that Farmer was trying to get them to play difficult characters. None of them had the emotive range. The bitchy snob girl was flat, the cynical goth girl was flat, the despicable, self-serving professor was flat. The only actors who seemed to achieve what they were aiming for were the ones that were playing minor characters, and not even all of those. It didn't help that the writing was clunkier than sneakers in a dryer. Instead of having realistic dialog, the characters swapped cliches back and forth, or launched into hammy exposition. I'm not sure the main characters delivered one good line in the whole movie.
The special effects were another area where Farmer didn't know what he was doing. Sure, cheap special effects can look, well, cheap, but at the very least you should set up your shots so it doesn't look completely fake. For instance, if a zombie is munching on someone's neck, taking several large bites and chewing them up over one long shot, the victim should have more than a couple spots of blood on his shirt, and his neck should at least have some holes in it. There was a shot where a zombie was supposedly eating someone, but she was making eating motions when her mouth was nowhere near any kind of body part. It looked like she was licking the carpet.
The continuity was awful. There were scenes spliced together from shots made with different film, lighting, and sound. The flashbacks were awkwardly placed, and I got the feeling that they were originally in a different part of the movie and were just moved somewhere else. The editing was horrible, with long pauses before actors delivered their lines. The logic was shaky, for example when three zombies stand patiently waiting for a character to deliver a monologue before they attack. The character does have a gun trained on one of them, but when has that ever stopped a zombie from trying to attack?
Probably with the knowledge of how bad the film was, Farmer tries to redeem it some by throwing in some pointless nudity and soft porn. It's such a blatant attempt to score some points with male audiences that male audiences should be offended that Farmer thinks so little of them.
What was the plot? Well, you know there's a bitchy snob girl, cynical goth girl, and evil professor. If you come up with your own plot involving those characters, and play it out in your head, it will be better than this movie, and you won't have wasted over an hour of your life.