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Film / Reform School Girls

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Reform School Girls is a 1986 American film written and directed by Tom DeSimone. It stars Linda Carol, Wendy O. Williams, Pat Ast, Sybil Danning and Sherri Stoner.

The film depicts the story of Jenny (Carol), a teenager who is sent to a girls' reform school that is operated by a sadistic and evil warden, Sutter (Danning), and her henchwoman Edna (Ast). She also has to deal with the local bully Charlie (Williams).

Not to be confused with the 1957 AIP film Reform School Girl, or its 1994 Showtime remake.

Reform School Girls contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Lisa's foster mother used to lock her and her kid brother in an icebox in the garage as punishment. Her brother eventually suffocated during one of these episodes.
  • Big Eater: Terri. When the girls are working in the field and waiting for lunch, she complains every time one of them mentions food as she is starving. She later takes advantage of the Prison Riot to grab food and scarf it down rather than rioting.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: The speaker tower in the middle of the compound is known as 'the Voice of God', as Warden Sutter uses it solely to broadcast moralistic religious homilies to the school.
  • Car Fu: Charlie drives a bus into the tower that Edna is climbing, setting it on fire.
  • Claustrophobia: Lisa suffers from claustrophobia as a result of being locked in an icebox as punishment by her foster mother. She does not react well to being placed in isolation.
  • Climbing Climax: In the climax, Edna snaps and starts climbing the tower while firing at the girls while insanely cackling "Complete control!" over and over.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Claudie steals a fork from the dining hall and uses to take a guard hostage; holding it to her throat and making the other guards back off, allowing the mass breakout to proceed.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: As a punishment for Jenny's first infraction, Edna says she is going to remove one privilege from her. Just as Jenny is sitting down to dinner, Edna announces that the privilege she is removing is dinner and sends her back to the dorm. Claudie later manages to smuggle her some bread.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lisa undergoes a Trauma Conga Line from the moment she enters the reform school. The final straw is when Edna stomps on her kitten and kills it. As a Prison Riot erupts, Lisa walks outside like a zombie, climbs the tower, and falls off to her death.
  • Driven to Suicide: After the murder of her kitten drives her over the Despair Event Horizon, Lisa goes to the tower in the centre of the compound, climbs up, and falls to her death.
  • Evil Laugh: The sadistic head matron Edna lets out a prolonged evil cackle every time she inflicts a punishment or does something else unpleasant to the girls.
  • Fat Bastard: Edna, a.k.a "Big Ed", is the sadistic head matron of the school who delights in torturing and sexually exploiting the girls.
  • Foster Kid: Lisa is a foster kid who has repeatedly run away from her foster homes. She is being sent to reform school till she turns eighteen.
  • Gardening-Variety Weapon: During the final riot, the girls grab the farming implements they use while doing hard labour and employ them as weapons against the guards.
  • Girls Behind Bars: The film was intended as a spoof of the genre but, in parts, plays out as a relatively straight example.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: While escaping from the infirmary, Jenny smashes a glass flask over the head of the night nurse.
  • Hand Gagging: Charlie and her Girl Posse clamp a hand over Lisa's mouth when they abduct Lisa from her bed and drag her off to her initiation.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Charlie is a major antagonist for most of the film, but when Edna hangs her and her girls out to dry following Lisa's death, Charlie joins Jenny's rebellion against Edna and is ultimately the one who takes her down.
  • Indecisive Parody: The film is intended to be a spoof of the Girls Behind Bars genre, but plays the tropes quite straight in places.
  • Juvenile Hell: The reform school is run by a sadistic warden, the head matron is a sexual predator, the girls do forced labour in the fields, and there are punishments including denial of food and solitary confinement.
  • Kick the Dog: Edna gets two moments of absolute villainy for no purpose other than to demonstrate her cruelty. In the first, she burns Lisa's toy rabbit: a Tragic Keepsake that reminds her of her dead kid brother. In the second, she brutally stomps to death the kitten the dorm had adopted.
  • Lingerie Scene: When in their dorm, standard attire for the girls appears to be lingerie; especially of a type that would not be allowed in a reform school, such as thong panties and teddies. The first time Jenny enters the dorm it resembles nothing so much as a 1980s lingerie show with a grunge theme. This is partially justified in the fact that Edna, the Head Matron, is outright a sexual predator and is likely the one who approved the standard dress code.
  • Madness Mantra: After Edna snaps and starts climbing the tower while firing at the girls, she begins insanely cackling "Complete control!" over and over.
  • Mark of Shame: This is how Lisa regards the Slave Brand Charlie puts on her butt cheek.
  • Man on Fire: Edna catches fire before she topples off the top of the tower during the climax.
  • Outside Ride: After she steals the bus, Charlie kicks out the windscreen and climbs out on to the roof, while the bus is still driving.
  • Prison Riot: One erupts after Lisa is Driven to Suicide.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Psychologist Dr. Norton seems to be the only authority figure at the school who is not a megalomaniac or a sadist. When she gets proof of what is going on at the school, she goes straight to the board to expose it. At the end of the film—after Edna has been killed and Sutter removed—she is shown as the new warden.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Charlie does a Heel–Face Turn and joins Jenny's rebellion against Sutter and Edna, but is killed after taking a shotgun blast to the chest, and using the last of her strength to drive a bus into the tower to kill Edna.
  • Shower Scene: The film has two prominent shower scenes. In the first, Jenny and the other new arrivals are forced to shower as part of the decontamination process when arriving at the school. Later, important exposition is delivered during a communal shower scene featuring most of the inmates of the school.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: Warden Sutter quells the riot in the girls dorm by firing a shotgun into the ceiling.
  • Sinister Shiv: Charlie carries a shiv made from a razorblade mounted in a toothbrush handle. She threatens to cut Jenny's face with it in an early scene.
  • Slave Brand: Charlie marks 'her' girls by branding a circle on their butt cheeks. When Charlie brands Lisa, this is one of the last events in the Trauma Conga Line that ultimately drives her to suicide.
  • Sleeping Dummy: When Jenny sneaks out of the dorm to meet the truck driver, Lisa covers her absence by stuffing pillows under her blankets.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Lisa has a toy rabbit that belonged to her kid brother (who died as a result of their foster mother locking him an icebox). She promised him she would keep it safe. Edna sets fire to it in the first of her Kick the Dog moments.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Lisa undergoes an unending stream of trauma, starting even before she enters the reform school. Her life as a foster kid was hell as she and her brother were brutally punished by their foster parents, resulting in her brother's death (that she feels partly responsible for). Her Tragic Keepsake is destroyed by Edna, she is confined to 'the Hole' (she suffers from Claustrophobia), she is worked till she collapses from exhaustion and dehydration, Charlie makes her her bitch and brands her butt cheek with a Slave Brand, and her kitten is murdered by Edna. This makes her cross the Despair Event Horizon and she commits suicide.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Jenny hides the kitten she finds in the field in the top of her dress to smuggle it back into the school.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Warden Sutter is a religious fanatic who believes in exercising total control over her charges, while the head matron Edna is a sadist who sexually preys upon the girls.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Although not chained together, the girls are sent out to do hard labour clearing fields under the hot sun. At least one girl drops from exhaustion and dehydration.