Monday, February 21, 2011

Death Spa (1988)

Okay, so here's something that should guarantee some cheesy laughs - an '80s slasher film set in a gym. Any movie that has an alternative title like "Witch Bitch" has gotta be worth seeing, so I was right on Death Spa as soon as I'd read about it.

Death Spa opens in amazingly kitschy fashion as we join Laura (Hot Shots Part Duex's Brenda Bakke, actually looking like a completely different person) in the middle of practicing her dance routine at the gym. After prancing around in glowing leotard to some of the most awful music ever recorded, Laura nearly bites it after being gassed in the sauna by an unknown figure. It's up to Mike, Laura's boyfriend and the owner of the gym, to identify the killer. Mike isn't exactly in top shape himself though, as he's clearly on the rebound from his dead wife, who committed suicide a few years beforehand. Mike's creepy brother-in-law also works at the gym, and once a few more crappy death scenes pass he becomes prime suspect - but it turns out that he's not entirely responsible for his actions.

Death Spa is well, kinda lame, but it contains enough cheese to make it occasionally entertaining, in particular the hilarious aerobics/dance scenes and amazing hairstyles and outfits. It's not quite Nightmare On Elm Street 2 territory, but this movie is camp like you wouldn't believe. The whole thing is one big multicoloured, tacky late-80s time capsule, which does make up somewhat for the fact that it has very little going for it, save for the odd bit of decent gore.

Though I had high expectations, a great deal of this movie is just bland - outside of the outrageous fashion crimes on display, it doesn't tick enough boxes to truly qualify as "so bad it's good", and the majority of the characters are completely forgettable - everytime Mike appeared onscreen I had to take a second to recall who he even was. I know many slashers suffer from cardboard characters, but it was particularly bad in this case. The only actor that carries any weight is Ken Foree, who is obviously awesome, his strangely homoerotic exchanges with Mike providing a constant source of amusement. There's also a tiny appearance from Hilary of Fresh Prince fame, so at least there's the fun of spotting a few recognisable faces. If it sounds like I'm grasping at straws here, it's because I am.

Death Spa tries to take things in a slightly different direction by adding a supernatural element towards the end, which does pick things up a bit as all hell breaks loose and various household appliances take revenge on their cruel human masters. Actually, the end of this movie is what saves it from being a complete waste of time, featuring some hysterical death scenes including a dead fish coming to life and ripping a cop's throat out. It's kind of an endurance to test to reach this point though - at one point I was convinced the movie was nearly over, but a check revealed that I was only 40 minutes into the movie. Groan.

So in short, this is a movie that will provide you with a few hearty unintentional laughs, but you're going to have to wade through some seriously dull shit to get to them. Only to be viewed when very, very drunk.

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