The inmates with perms can’t act. Janet hears heavy breathing and moaning and creeps around the reform school in dark and murky scenes. Ants attack. An inmate uses a whisk as a curling tongs and dies. There is more bad acting. This was filmed in 1988 and sat on the shelf for 2 years. The goings on aren’t agreeably horrible and the plot is not propulsive or a masterpiece of concision. John Carradine lurks in the basement (this was his final film).
The bright South African sunlight (it was filmed there) undercuts the attempted depiction of the reform school as a blasted place. Gary is unhelpful and acts uncomfortably weird and has malevolent charisma. The German mutters unintelligibly. More disingenuous people meet nasty fates in non-queasy, non-malevolent ways. Janet is oddly untroubled by anything and is weak, pathetic and fond of endless shrieking.
The film is daft, preposterous and populated by miserable actors but it is so terrible, it has a camp charm. The reform school girls all wear tight Lycra. They also all seem to be 30 - so why are they there? There is no cautiously rationed peril. More people end up the basement which leads to an infuriating darkening of the image. John Carradine turns out to be Gary’s father. A local cop (Arnold Vosloo - with hair!) chases Janet.
What are the moral or legal grounds for the girls to be held there? Gary proposes to Janet for no clear reason and gives disapproving stares. There are fights and the head mean girl (Allen) gets an unsettling end in wet cement. There is a villain speech that reveals disturbing motivations. There are chase scenes, more death, large ham acting and none of this deeply harrowing. Janet (Karen Witter of ‘Popcorn’) is bricked into a wall but manages to escape. No one wonders how the loony got all the building supplies. Janet gets over her near-immurement with ease. The mad dad lurks and there is a sinister sequel hook ending. This was egregiously entertaining in a weird way.
“Her two little sisters whom she tried to kill.”
“Boycott the bitch.”
“That’s my father.”
“You have a rich inner life.”
“Some sort of paranoid delusion.”
“You’re really freaking me out here.”
“I don’t kill people.”
“Made me better.”
“Run! Run! Just like all the rest.”
“Janet! Don’t run away from me!”
“A small, dark place. All alone.”
“There’s no killing me.”
“The apocalypse they created.”
“The Testing Floor. No one has ever escaped from this facility.”