Saturday, August 14, 2010

Death Spa (1988)
Dir.: Michael Fischa
Genre: Horror

People get so thin they disappear!

We've seen a lot of things here on The Enematic Cinematic and Death Spa is, well, one of them.  Directed by Michael Fischa (who went on to direct one of my childhood favorite pieces of artful cinema 1989's My Mom's a Werewolf) and released in the time appropriate 1988, Death Spa doesn't bullshit.  It's exactly what you would think it should be.   

Michael Evans (William Bumiller), a young hip owner of a high tech popular health spa becomes plagued with nightmares of some lady in a wheel chair burning (don't you hate when dreams of your mom on fire ruins your day?).  At the same time, his super hip spa becomes plagued with mysterious accidents involving loose diving boards, flying shower tiles and pointy objects impaling spa goers.  Is it the super computer that controls the entire spa?  Is it the ghost of the burning cripple?  Does anyone get a refund?

Ew, like gay! There are naked girls in this sauna!
Eventually we learn that the progressive techno super computer that controls everything in the spa, even the showers (?), was programmed and is run by Michael's creepo brother-in-law David (Merritt Butrick, this movie is full of butt names).  Not only is David a creepy looking blond guy, he is also the twin brother of Michael's recently dead wife, (shitty twin name alert) Catherine!  He still thinks Michael is an asshole for not being dead like his sister and there's even talk of some sort of baby that was going to happen, but didn't because....well, you'll figure all this shit out when you rent it.  What's that?  You don't have a VCR?

Okay, well supposedly Michael's wife Catherine was sperminated with his seed at one point, but when she tried to give birth, something went wrong and she ended up in a wheelchair and the mother of a dead baby.  This some how pissed her off and she hated Michael up until the day she wheeled outside, dosed herself in gasoline and lit her shit on fire.  Pretty cool morbid, right?  Michael didn't let it break his spirit though or damper his love of good health and physical fitness.  He continued to run the spa and pass out his protein shakes to all the young chicks that came in and out of the place.  This was all of course before the mysterious goings on and Michael's reoccurring nightmares.  A couple of dead bodies later, he starts to wonder...Is the place haunted by the crippled ghost of my jealous ex-wife or do I need to really start bitching at my maintenance guy?   Even more political yet, is 80's technology the beginning of the apocalypse?  Whatever the reason, Michael keeps the place open until enough skinny assholes are properly burnt or dead.

The film opens in a dark parking lot of the closed for the night health spa.  The camera focuses on the neon lit sign that reads, "Star Body Health Spa."  Suddenly, a WTF roll of thunder and crash of lightning!  The sign has been struck by computer graphics nature itself and a portion of the letters are burnt out!  It now reads, "d ea th Spa!"  Oh shit! It's one thing if your local "Discount Mart" didn't pay some bills and turns into "c unt Mart."  That is funny as farts and I would just take my cell phone picture and then continue on inside to purchase my cheese puffs and beer.  It's another thing if my gym (okay, A gym) said "death Spa!"  That's a foretelling of futuristic events!  Or at the very least, a good excuse to not work out that day, but of course the 80's were too vain to let a little obvious irony stop them from sweating in their door knockers and acrylic nails.

Like, oh boy...
The script is fairly predictable and all the non-notable actors play pretty much the same character according to time period and gender, though there is one stand out I should mention.  In a death spa full of low grade periodic one episode television actors, the unimportant character of "Darla" is played by Chelsea Field, famous known for her gripping portrayal of Teela, adopted secret child of the Sorceress of Eternia, but raised by the tough on the exterior, but secretly tender-sided Man at Arms, in the documentary live action adaptation of He-Man Masters of the Universe.  She is also married to much more notable star, Scott Bakula of "Quantum Leap" fame.  Also, according to the Internet Movie Database, her dad once sold a horse to Captain Kirk William Shatner.  Besides that, the cast is a whole lot of random "Jake and the Fat Man" and "Trapper John, M.D." one-timers.  All this mediocrity in mind, there are some redeeming chodes of entertainment sprinkled throughout Death Spa.

First of all, there are a number of inappropriate/unnecessary things happening in this allegedly health spa.  Evidenced by a numbered list below:

1. Coffee

For some reason, the health bar serves coffee.  Who the fuck either starts or ends a work out with a cup of coffee?  I've done a Pilates class with gin in my water bottle before (I'm bending my back on a big ass ball, that shit hurts and requires relaxation!), but come on, coffee is the ultimate dehydrator.  The last thing I want when I'm sweating and about to pass out is a hot cup of coffee.  Health bar FAIL.

2. Mardi Gras Party

Throughout the film, the spa employees and members are all seriously jazzed about the upcoming costume Mardi Gras party happening at the HEALTH spa.  There's even going to be free pizza and a keg.  What kind of bullshit message is this?  The short period of time I had a trainer, okay, it was just a free consultation that came with the beginning of a gym membership I never saw through (or fully paid off), Troy was a total dick about my drinking habits.  Or at least feed me some urban legend about how beer increases belly fat.  Boo Troy.  Preach to someone who is actually motivated to lose weight, okay?  Also, who the fuck was planning on staying up all night to clean up all this shit before the spa opened the next morning at 8:00 AM?  Oh, yeah I forgot it was the 80's when coke solved all these problems I just stated.

3. Sex in the Sauna

Okay, GROSS!  Do you know how many fucking butts and balls have been sweating and sticking to those seats?!?  Do you want to catch jock itch in your vagina you dumb shits?  I don't even go bare foot in the shower of a gym, let alone bare pussy in the fucking sauna!

Death Spa is riddled with specific 80's references and one-liners.  At one point, Darla (who might be an employee?) begins flirting with some allegedly hunky spa goer named Robert whilst he works on his deltoids.  She asks if he can bench more weight:

Robert: "Sure, when I'm trying to impress a girl."
Darla: "Why not impress me?"
Robert: "Because I'm Beta and you're VHS."

Oh shit, like total 80's BURN!!

Feel the burn! Okay, too easy.

In another scenario, two detectives show up to investigate all the dead people's deaths at the spa.  After an employee is locked into the sauna and burned in the eyeballs by chlorine gas, the spa manager, Priscilla and owner, Michael try to explain.

Priscilla: "It was an accident."
Lt. Fletcher: "Yeah, but this accident nearly dissolved a girl like Alka-Seltzer."

I would do a "...what a relief it is" Alka-Seltzer bit here, but, it wouldn't be funny. 
All and all, I found Death Spa to be pretty entertaining.  Heads explode, hands are blended and even a cop is killed by a reanimated fish, but something I couldn't help but notice throughout the film is how similar it is to 1986's Killer Workout (aka Aerobicide).  Check out a clip reel for Killer Workout below, also, watch out for a scene in which some person tags (that's graffiti for all you non-hipsters) a window with the phrases, "Aerobicide" and the much more telling, "Death Spa"!  What kind of 80's health/horror irony B-movie (alleged) plagiarism is going on here?!? 

If you haven't seen either movie and possibly plan to, don't read ahead because I am going to have to use some major spoilers in order to dissect each poo nugget properly.  Although, to be honest, it's pretty obvious in each film who the killer is from the beginning so it's not giving too much away.  Also, with cinematic turds such as these, the mystery also known as the general plot (or the thrills for the purpose of rhyme) is filler really to the heart of every B horror movie, the kills and spills!  Also, shut the fuck up, quit whining and read on!


Death Spa VS Killer Workout    

1. Heath Nut/Horror Victim Irony

Both of these films play off the irony of the health conscious and physically fit some how meeting untimely deaths by the very place or activities they sought to better their bodies.  Also, playing off the new aerobics/health craze of the 1980's.  Health spas and gyms already have shower scenes, chicks in spandex and sweaty cleavage so pretty much, this shit writes itself!

2. Not Enough People Killed By Gym Equipment

Something both of these movies lack is the use of the gym equipment itself to kill people.  In Death Spa just one guy dies when a weight lifting machine tears him apart.  Okay so I guess there is a deadly sauna and tanning bed situation, but I don't know.  I still felt like there were some missed opportunities.  Come on, there's treadmills and bicycles all over the place!  I almost die on those things without the help of killer computers or dead ex-wife ghosts!  In Killer Workout there are a few more gym equipment kills with the killer using hand weights to bash a head, but other than that it's a giant safety pin and a knife.  What a waste.
What you mean no? Can't you feel my boner?
3. Douchebag Dude Bros

Thankfully, there are a plethora of agro-douchebag-dudes in tiny tank tops and half-shirts in both films.  From clever quippy Robert in Death Spa to beefy Jimmy with Steve Perry haircut in Killer Workout, the options for date rapists are endless!  Just be sure to take your pill on time ladies!

4. 80's, 80's, Like Totally 80's

Spandex!  Synthesizers! Tights!  Head bands!  Non-supportive bras!  No, I'm not talking about an American Apparel store, I'm talking about the 80's you guys!  The 80's!  Yeah, I'm kind of over it too.

5.  Sweet Work Out Mix Theme Songs

Each of these films has their very own sweet 80's work out theme song.  Killer Workout has Donna De Lory's "Only You Tonight" featured in the above clip reel.  Death Spa has the the possibly named "Killer Groove" with lyrics like:

"...lock your windows, lock your doors, the killer groove is back for more - he's on patrol..."

I don't know if this song is really titled "Killer Groove."  I didn't bother to write it down from the credits and I can't find the soundtrack on the internet, but it should be called that so I'm making the final call.

6. Cute Girls Get Totes, Like Killer Bummed When They Turn Into Burn Victims

Having no nipples makes me want to wear wigs!
The basic premise of Death Spa and Killer Workout are pretty much the same down to the reason the killer kills.  In Killer Workout, gym owner Rhonda is still really bummed about that tanning bed accident that left her so awkwardly burned from the neck down she no longer has nipples.  How can you seduce Steve Perry hair with no nipples?  So, she just feels like, fuck these beautiful non-burned people and starts killing them.  In Death Spa, Catherine, the crippled dead ex-wife of spa owner, Michael, kills herself by setting herself on fire.  Then her ghost possesses her twin brother and finds ways to burn cuter ladies that have alive vaginae her widowed husband has sex with.  So I guess the moral is, being a burn victim sucks, but like, especially when you're totally cute with a bitchin' bod.
Though the rip-offs are alleged, Killer Workout may win by default because it came out in 1986, two whole years of re-writes and re-dos before Death Spa in '88.  Either way, Death Spa still remains to be a very watchable movie of the horror/health genre.  I definitely recommend at least a single viewing, especially it if you like boobies and body explosions and hate skinny bitches.

Girls Michael (death spa owner) bones: 6
Shower Scenes: 2
People Killed With Gym Equipment: 1
Fat Funny Gym Goers: 1
Specific 80's References: 3
Possible Incestuous Sex: 2
Fake Outs: 3
Burnt People: 7
Ghost Makes Panther Noises: 5
Body Parts Explode: 2
Dead Wife Dreams: 5
Body Count: 15
Ghost Seductions: 2
Implied Pirate Rape: 1
Fish Kills: 1


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