Tim Kincaid Focus: “Bad Girls Dormitory” (1986)
After watching thousands of movies, it’s easy to surmise that making a terrible movie is the direct result of a lack of skill; cynicism or delusion can also play into the inferior end product. Bad movies have always been a given in an artistic medium that, like any other artistic medium, boils down to a metaphor for the world itself: populated by both good and bad, but one’s perception of the good and the bad often comes down to the subjective.
Make no mistake: writer-director Tim Kincaid makes bad movies. But a funny feeling came over me the last time I watched his no-budget, “in the wasteland” sci-fi programmer, Robot Holocaust (grilled by the MST3K crew, natch) – through all the well-deserved barbs tossed in its direction by Joel and the ‘bots, I found myself kind of grooving on its cheap sets, flat performances, and stream-of-consciousness narrative (after all, David Lynch doesn’t have a monopoly on dream-logic).
Prior to Bad Girls Dormitory, I watched Kincaid’s Breeders (a rip-off of Xtro and C.H.U.D., among many others), and found myself transfixed by its relentless – and dare I say fearless – bucking of narrative and filmmaking conventions. It was a bad movie, but unlike other bad movies, those that require a couple of friends (or a case of Yuengling) to properly enjoy, it was spirited and creative – dare I say fearless (again!) – in its tale of unconvincing NYC virgins falling prey to a rape-minded alien invader. Board-stiff performances and minimal logic, coupled with lowbrow concepts, never allow the expectations of a Kincaid film to rise above the worst-case scenario . . . which might be why something like Bad Girls Dormitory is so goddamn fun. Coming into the film knowing its dubious pedigree, there is nothing to do except embrace its bonkers, brain-dead charm.
Released during the ‘80s melee of women-in-prison films, this is one of the best, indulging prurient interest (plenty of shower scenes), ridiculously redundant dialog (“I know where the bodies are buried – I got connections!”), and acting that’s awful in an extremely impassioned way. The steely and stoic Lori (Carey Zuris), who was nearly gang-raped by her scumbag boyfriend’s buddies, is new to the dorm; she butts heads with Lisa (Jennifer Delora – Robot Holocaust), who is like a hybrid of Linda Blair and Margot Kidder’s acerbic character from Black Christmas (when she goes toe-to-toe with a butch giant of a guard, it’s jaw-droppingly entertaining). There’s a revolving door of attractive and/or fucked-up girls filling in the background, and their connections to anyone and anything relating to the plot is tenuous at best; Dormitory is best viewed as a parade of chaos, oblivious to the facets of cinematic logic.
The villains of the piece are a who’s-who of WIP stereotypes brought to dynamic life: a Bridgette Nielsen-meets-Gozer warden (played by the accent-challenged “Marita”); the sinister Dr. DeMarco (Dan Barclay); and a Louise Fletcher-meets-Ilsa nurse with a healthy lesbian streak. While the early synth scores of many 1980s films have aged poorly, Man Parrish’s soundtrack (including such irony-free songs as “Hose Me Down”!) is a semi-brilliant accompaniment to the action.
Dormitory is the type of film where a huge basement is used to store files and cardboard boxes (and can apparently hide dead bodies “for years”!) and acts as a conveniently accessible place to murder snitches. Furthermore, the so-called “woodshop” is curiously free of working machinery (some sound effects are amusingly dubbed in). The film also features a scene where one of the girls (on good-behavior leave, I’m guessing? It’s never explained) is allowed to meet her father over lunch; this goes as well as you might expect, as her father makes poor justifications for why he raped her (cue the obligatory “check please!”), and includes somemore of Kincaid’s patented redundant dialog (“You don’t exist to me! You’re not alive – you’re dead!”).
It’s also the type of film where a vaguely-defined “social services” hunk (Kincaid mainstay Rick Gianasi) stands in the background, watching girls shower (and eventually hooking up with bad-ass Lori) and generally contributing little to the plot until he’s given a shotgun in the last act.
And also: a nail-studded baseball bat appears out of nowhere; literally out of nowhere. Bad Girls Dormitory is fun, not even remotely PC, and proves there is such a thing as brilliant ineptitude – like Ed Wood, Kincaid may have fooled everyone by being the most unintentionally brilliant filmmaker of his time.
Jonny Numb’s IMDb Rating: 7 out of 10
(Bad Girls Dormitory can be found on DVD through Amazon; the full movie is also on YouTube, under a couple “watch full movie!” accounts of dubious repute.)