Lifetime’s “Danger in the Dorm” is tacitly based on a true crime story inspired by the attacks on women at the Oregon State University in 1972.  While the women did survive blows to their heads, 18-year-old Nancy Wyckoff was stabbed in the heart. Nancy’s death terrorized the entire student community of Oregon. The newspaper reports of the time detail how the female students or ‘coeds’ were warned to lock their dormitory doors and to travel in pairs following Nancy’s death. Nancy’s death and the Oregon campus terror were picked by Ann Rule, a renowned true crime author, as the subject matter for one of her short stories. It is this short story that, in turn, inspires the film we have at hand.

Danger in the Dorm (2024) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

A voice-over at the beginning of the film acts as a sort of prospectus for Brighton University which claims to be well-regarded for its attention to the education and well-being of the students. The promise is that of a serene environment where thousands sprawl and not one feels lost. Certainly, inflated words like these stand the most chance of being proven otherwise by the end, and the plot of “Danger in the Dorm” is not spared either.

Two young girls, Kathleen Roberts and Becky Swafford, have arrived at Brighton University and have moved into the southern dorm. Fresh into college, childhood best friends are excited to join the variety of clubs that pique their interests. However, to Kathleen’s annoyance, Becky, who has not yet learned to be independent, signs up for every class that Kathleen is in to be with her all the time. Since childhood, Becky has followed Kathleen and grown her own interests, mirroring the interests of Kathleen. On the other hand, Kathleen’s mother is a nuisance on par with Becky critiquing and trying to control every move of Kathleen. Kathleen finds Sarah and Wade as her friends along the way.

One day, Kathleen and Becky are invited to a party at Wade’s dorm. When Kathleen moves out of her sight, Becky turns into a ball of anxiety. On her way out, Becky gets catcalled by Wade’s friend, Conor, and the two get into an argument. Another student, Patrick, comes to the scene and tries to ask Beck if she is okay, but Becky gives him no attention. Kathleen finds Becky gone.

When she reaches her room, Kathleen finds Becky cooped up and sobbing. Becky accuses Kathleen of abandoning a friend, to which Kathleen says she is just being overdramatic. Soon Kathleen and Becky decide that being in the same school and, more importantly, being roommates was never really a good idea. Becky suggests that Kathleen should move out. Kathleen replies that she has already applied for a single room, well before this conversation. Kathleen storms out, never to return.  At the Women Empowerment Club, Becky meets Conor again and is surprised to see his involvement, given his reputation as a pervert. Becky bumps into Patrick, too, who shows interest in accompanying her for her movie night, but she politely declines.

While Becky is watching the movie in her dorm room, someone knocks at the door. Expecting Kathleen to have arrived, she opens it, and her thrill turns into a ghastly shock. The next we know, Becky is dead. Kathleen is devastated and withdraws herself from her classes. Appalled to see the college authorities’ nonchalance, Kathleen decides to confront the Dean in a class full of students. From Dean Carrigan, Kathleen learns that Becky was murdered.

Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie Ending Explained
A still from “Danger in the Dorm” (2024)

Becky’s mother arrives and shows gratitude to Kathleen for being a true friend. As Becky’s mother is still not aware of the fight and the eventual break up of the friends, she is under the false impression that the murderer could have gone for Kathleen, too. It becomes especially difficult for Kathleen to confess to Becky’s mother that she had, in fact, abandoned her daughter, contrary to her expectations. When the police label Becky’s death as an isolated incident, Kathleen and the other girls start demanding answers to make the campus safe for the female students.

How does Kathleen go about her plan?

Kathleen takes the help of Sarah, the editor of the school paper, to voice the collective disappointment of the female students and the lackadaisical attitude of the police in investigating Becky’s murder. The Wildcat Gazette, the school paper, quickly turns incendiary and starts disclosing the information that the police had previously withheld – that the girls are not safe anymore. Kathleen appears at a talk show on the community radio station of the University. She talks about Becky and the possible danger that lurks around the campus. Soon, another girl, Tammy, gets attacked.

Detective Jessica summons the students to record their statements. While Sarah is insistent on the involvement of a man behind the attacks, Patrick– recalling his last interaction with Becky at the campus convenience store– hints at the involvement of a girl as Becky told him she would have a movie night with her female friends. The new rules restrict the movements of female students at night, with a curfew that demands that they be locked up at 9 p.m. All campus amenities, like the gym, library, and convenience store, will be closed by 8 p.m. Posters are doled out, making everyone aware of the police helpline number. The campus, once lively and brimming with students, quickly turns into a volatile warzone.

Meanwhile, Kathleen’s mother arrives and tries to take her away, citing her safety. But Kathleen stands guard to her wish of being at the campus with the other girls. Kathleen and Sarh organize the girls to form buddy systems so that they can walk around the campus at night. They distribute pepper sprays and whistles among the girls. Wade volunteers with the boys, who agree to be chaperones to girls until everything gets back to normal. Boys are assigned at every building who are ready to be chaperones to girls so that they can move back to their dorms from the main university building.

What does Detective Jessica tell Kathleen about Wade?

Detective Jessica summons Kathleen for another round of questioning, asking her to answer questions pertaining to Wade. Detective Jessica shows Kathleen a poster of a party thrown by Wade’s Sigma Sigma Delta group, which is extremely insensitive. Kathleen storms off to the party and confronts Wade, who says the party is for the greater good of making the situation less frightful.

Sarah takes photographs of Conor and the party and threatens to expose them in the school newspaper. As she is roaming around the boys’ dorm, clicking pictures, she is locked inside a room by someone. Turns out it is Conor who was just trying to fool around by scaring Sarah. Sarah defends herself with the pepper spray and runs away. The boys are suspended, that is until the school board arrives at a voting decision on their expulsion. Detective Harken tells Sarah that she suspects the attacks are deeds of someone else and not Wade.

What happens when Conor gets attacked?

The news of a probable expulsion greatly disturbs Conor. A fight breaks out between Conor and Wade in the cafeteria, and Conor storms into the kitchen. While Wade and Kathleen talk and Wade tries to apologize for his wayward behavior, Conor comes out of the kitchen with a mark of strangulation. Kathleen and Wade run into the kitchen and find no one there. The police find the mural of the original patron of the University vandalized, with a knife drawn and the word ‘CHAPERONE’ plastered on it. Wade automatically becomes the suspect as everyone has seen him pick a knife in the kitchen.

Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from “Danger in the Dorm” (2024)

Detective Jessica Harken tries to draw a line between all the attacks as all of them were in some capacity connected to the Women Empowerment Club. Kathleen also learns from Detective Harken about the altercation between Becky and Conor at the dorm party. Harken considers it unusual as the attacker goes from attacking young, vulnerable women in a private place to attacking a strong, young man in a public setting. However, the talk is cut short by Kathleen’s mother’s interruption.

Conor confesses to having strangled himself to escape the punishment. This is done precisely to portray himself as a victim so that the authority spares him. Detective Harken confronts Kathleen for speaking to a leading suspect, Conor, without her permission and directly involving herself in the case. While this made Harken’s job easier, she advised Kathleen to refrain from doing any such thing in the future.

Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie Ending Explained:

Who is the Dorm Killer?

Soon, news breaks out that the students of the neighboring Summerland University have captured the attacker involved in all these cases. Relief is felt throughout the campus, and the impositions are slowly lifted. One night, while on her way towards the campus gym, Kathleen bumps into Patrick. Patrick casually reveals that he is into meddling with computer circuits.

He slips in the information that he is adept at faking IDs. When asked whether he can traverse anywhere within the campus without leaving a trace, Patrick reveals that there is indeed a trace, but to a different person holding the original ID. Patrick shows her around by trespassing into restricted rooms. Kathleen buys time by asking Patrick if he will be willing to forge another ID for her. Patrick, who is clearly into Kathleen, gladly agrees without charging a single penny.

On the other hand, Detective Jessica interrogates the purported killer, only to find him lying about the murders. When the killer fails to corroborate the weapon that was used to attack Tammy, Harken sees it as a red signal and rushes to Brighton. Patrick grows creepier and creepier with every passing minute. He breaks into the computer lab to make the fake ID. Kathleen, on the other hand, logs into a computer to send an alert to Harken. Kathleen, after spotting Becky’s stuffed toy lamb in Patrick’s bag, is convinced that Patrick is Becky’s murderer.

As Kathleen tries to leave, Patrick stands in her way, figuring out that it is the lamb that has given him away. He confesses that it is his hatred and disappointment towards all the women that have driven him to attack them. Patrick tries to attack her, too, with a knife. But Kathleen uses her pepper spray to defend herself. Harken arrives just in time to save Kathleen. Patrick is arrested and peace is restored at the campus.

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Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
The Cast of Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie: Bethenny Frankel, Clara Alexandrova, Jason Fernandes
Danger in the Dorm (2024) Movie Genre: Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 1h 30m

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