Friday, June 14, 2024

Danger in the Dorm, on Lifetime

Colleges and universities have refused to take disciplinary action against students threatening their Jewish classmates and calling for the genocide of the Israeli people. So, why should we be shocked if they try to sweep a murder under the rug? Indeed, transparency of campus crimes has been an issue for years. It inspired Ann Rule’s first “story,” which in turn “inspired” the latest Lifetime original movie. Given the multiple disclaimers, viewers should consider Robin Hays’s Danger in the Dorm fiction rather than true crime when it premieres Sunday on Lifetime.

Kathleen Robets and her best friend Becky Swafford are incoming freshmen at a large university that is absolutely not Oregon State—at least not anymore. Roberts is the independent one and Swafford is the clingy one. Frankly, Roberts was feeling like Swafford was a little too clingy for college, so she moved into a single dorm room. As a result, Roberts is crushed with guilt when a masked assailant murders Swafford in her room.

However, neither the administration or the cops will use the “m” word. Instead, they issue statements claiming it was an isolated incident. Then the unknown perp attacks another coed, who survives, but is left coma-bound. At this point, Roberts and her resident advisor Sarah, start taking matters into their own hands. Defying corrupt Dean Carrigan and compliant Det. Harken, they start publicizing the brutal truth of the attacks, while distributing whistles and pepper spray. Wade Mullins, the frat boy wooing Roberts tries to be supportive, but his bro Conor Miller is suspiciously creepy—maybe too obviously so.

Throughout it all, Roberts is reluctant to return her mother Joanne’s calls, even though a psycho is literally stalking her campus. “Fortunately,” she only lives one hour away, so she can easily make unannounced visits.

Reality TV “star” Bethenny Frankel as Joanne, the high-strung mom, kind of makes sense, right? She might have been cast for her celebrity status, but she does the best work in this TV movie. (Frankel already has a half-dozen dramatic credits and originally pursued an acting career, so there you go, I guess.)

Amongst the skulls full of mush, Michelle Creber most stands out, in the right way, as RA Sarah. However, the killer’s over the top twitchiness insults viewers’ intelligence. In general, the cast does not inspire much confidence in the younger generation.

Regardless of its tangential relationship to Ann Rule, screenwriter Benjamin Anderson does a nice job roasting college administrators and their campus cover-ups of violent crimes. However, the time-period seems inconsistent and often contradictory. The kids use discman CD players and clock radios and in one scene and then email and key cards in the next. Cellphones are conspicuously absent, because they would probably have ended the story half an hour early.

There is a lot of overwrought cheesiness in
Danger in the Dorm, but what did you expect? It is pretty much what you think it is, except maybe with less actual Ann Rule content. Pretty much for Frankel’s fans, Danger in the Dorms airs Sunday (6/16) on Lifetime.