As Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog how about we review a couple of “exercises in horror” (Thank you, I’m here all week!) in the form of Death Spa (1989) and Killer Workout aka Aerobicide (1987).
DEATH SPA (1989) – Originally begun in 1986 but not completed and released until 1989, Death Spa is my favorite of the two Health Spa horror films of the 1980s. Part of the fun comes from the kitsch casting:
Merritt “Captain Kirk’s Son” Butrick plays David, a man whose sister Catherine killed herself under suspicious circumstances, causing him to blame his promiscuous brother-in law for her death.
Ken Foree, the cult horror figure, is wasted as a maintenance man whose role is virtually non-existent yet this lame flick gets shown at Ken Foree film festivals. Go figure.
Rosalind Cash herself portrays a cop investigating the multiple deaths at the haunted Health Spa.
Brenda Bakke, Alexa Hamilton, Shari Shattuck and Chelsea Field play mix ’em and match ’em hot babes who among them enact every single “hot babe in a horror film” cliche from the 1980s.
William Bumiller portrays Michael Evans (no relation to the character from Good Times), the owner of the Star Body Health Spa and the widower of Merritt Butrick’s sister. Why is it called the Star Body Health Spa? So that when a very selective burnout of bulbs in the spa’s sign occurs it spells out ” —- –d- -ea-th Spa.”
Coincidentally enough the words “Death Spa” were spray-painted as graffiti on the outside wall of the death-plagued Health Spa in Killer Workout a few years earlier. Because of how long the movie Death Spa was in development arguments still rage over whether or not that piece of graffiti inspired this later release’s title.
SPOILERS: David (Merritt Butrick) has designed a do-it-all computer system to run every single aspect of the Star Body Health Spa that his late sister Catherine co-owned with her widower Michael. Many of the horrific and enjoyably gory deaths are caused by elements of the computer system, thus making it look like David is sabotaging the spa as revenge on Michael.
In reality Catherine’s spirit has possessed David, even making him shave his legs and dress like a woman in some unintentionally funny scenes. Catherine wants her husband Michael to join her in Hell by committing suicide, too. Catherine’s spirit has been sabotaging the spa to try to drive Michael to suicidal despair.
The movie’s as hilariously bad as it sounds and is a lot of fun to laugh at. The gory deaths include one by blender and one by a literal dead fish come to life. Its movements are only slightly more realistic than those talking Big Mouth Billy Basses you could buy several years ago. But the mounted talking bass was much scarier than the killer fish brought to life by Catherine.
Death Spa (re-released as Witch Bitch the following year) deserves a much bigger following because it’s bad in all the best ways. Plus there’s the quintessential 80s-ness of the spa setting and the outrageous workout clothing worn by the women in the film.
KILLER WORKOUT aka AEROBICIDE (1987) – The film that tried to give the world a female Freddy Krueger! This David A Prior film is every bit as much fun as his other B-movies. Prior seriously deserves a major retrospective of his films.
His works are always entertaining and are never so bad as to be unbearable, they just embody all the cliches of the various genres he works in to the point where they seem like sly pastiches of 1980s movies made decades later. Think of House of the Devil or Beyond the Black Rainbow. In any event Prior’s movies – which often feature his brother Ted – always leave you smiling.
(SPOILERS from early on) Killer Workout begins with a model named Valerie (Marcia Karr) thrilled to learn she’s gotten a job on a prestigious shoot. She’s expected to show up tanned so she goes to a tanning salon, where the tanning booth malfunctions with her trapped inside.
Her scalp and most of the rest of her body is burned and scarred beyond repair. She even has to wear wigs from then on because hair cannot grow on her scarred head. Valerie takes her settlement money from the malfunction and establishes a new life for herself as “Rhonda”, her twin sister.
Concealing her bodily scars beneath her workout clothes just like she hides her disfigured scalp under wigs, Valerie/ Rhonda has opened up a new spa and gets psychotic revenge on people with perfect bodies by killing them one by one.
I’m spoiling the slasher’s identity right off the bat because the gender of the killer is the main point of interest of Killer Workout. Overall it’s nowhere near as campy and outrageous as Death Spa but it IS infinitely enjoyable if you know going in what is really going on.
Valerie is not only crazy but incredibly stupid. She kills so many people on the premises of her own spa that it can’t help but make the place a magnet for police investigations. Valerie/ Rhonda’s never-seen silent partner even hires a Private Investigator (Ted Prior) to look into the gory murders.
Marcia Karr is very good as the slasher behind it all. In fact, you can’t really appreciate her performance until after you know she’s been the “monster” all along.
The scene where our madwoman disrobes to show another character her bald head and horribly burned body – complete with PARTIALLY MELTED BREASTS – is pretty damned memorable. Killer Workout ended with a setup for a sequel, as Valerie/ Rhonda’s spas were about to go nationwide as a chain.
Unfortunately a sequel never happened. Pretty disappointing when you consider how many lame 80s horror flicks became long-running franchises. And how many slashers use a large safety pin as their main weapon?
FOR MY ORIGINAL LIST OF NEGLECTED BAD MOVIE CLASSICS FOR HALLOWEEN – https://glitternight.com/2011/10/24/the-eleven-most-neglected-bad-movie-classics-for-halloween/
FOR ELEVEN MORE BAD MOVIE CLASSICS FOR HALLOWEEN – https://glitternight.com/2012/10/31/eleven-more-neglected-bad-movies-for-halloween/
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE:https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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