Death Spa

Witch Bitch aka Death Spa follows Aerobicide by a year or two, but probably wasn’t technically a ripoff. Although, now that I think about it, both movies feature a dead woman stuffed into a locker. Other than that, and both movies being in gyms, there are few similarities. It just shows you how pervasive the aerobics culture was in the 80s. Also, back then, if you saw a woman out at the grocery store or something in her gym spandex, chances were excellent that she actually had the body for it.

Unlike in Aerobicide there are not a lot of padding scenes in Death Spa of people working out, but there are a couple of dance numbers with crap music. Not as crap as in Aerobicide, but also not as memorable. Except for the closing song of Death Spa, in which they sing about the movie itself. This is one of the many things I miss about the 80s.

The story here is that Michael (William Bumiller) owns a gym, or spa as they called them back then, and the daily operations are completely dependent on his crazy former brother in law David (gay cult icon Merritt Butrick) and the complicated computer system the BIL has set up. Oh, computers.

Now that his wife is dead, gym employee Laura (Brenda Bakke), who danced her way through the opening credits, is the new lady in his life. We see her finish her workout  and get into the sauna nude, her hand starts moving south…and then the system goes nuts and starts steaming her alive. Fortunately she breaks the window and somersaults through.

We find out that Michael’s wife killed herself after a screwup during the birth of their (stillborn? I don’t see a kid anywhere) child left her in a wheelchair. But she didn’t just take some pills; she self-immolated. As more than one character reminds us, she was “burned to unrecognizable ashes.”

Someone is busy killing off the gym’s clientele. Is it the dead wife’s ghost (Shari Shattuck), the brother in law, the computer itself, an angry employee (Alexa Hamilton), a shady business partner, or a combination?

Standout scenes: a gay guy brushes off a horny woman by telling her, “you’re VHS; I’m Betamax.” That’s a unique approach to coming out. Blaxploitation fave Rosalind Cash shows up as one of the cops investigating the deaths. David explains to the cops what “hacking” is. A guy gets his torso ripped apart by a resistance upper body machine. A man has his throat cut by a frozen fish which comes back to life through the magic of, well, magic I guess. There is a death by blender scene. The dead wife and her brother become one, in more ways than one. There is an attempted murder by tanning bed.

My copy of Death Spa is a Japanese import region free DVD; I’m pretty sure this is OOP in the USA. You know you have been watching too many weird films when you can look at Asian subtitles and tell the languages apart, yet can’t read a word of it. Also, apparently Japanese DVDs have to blur out the bush, so no full frontal. Just pixelated frontal.

This is not what anyone would call “a good movie,” but if you’re reading this site you probably don’t need to be told that. The question we have to deal with here at Midnight Showing is, “Does it entertain?” The answer is yes, immensely, a thousand times yes. I would have given it three stars anyway because it’s everything that was great about late 80s horror (everyone looks great, nobody is likeable, everything is leading up to a death extravaganza party that can’t be cancelled), but I have to bump it up to 4 for the plentitude of topless ladies and crazy death scenes.

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About Erin

I watch too many horror movies. My favorite movies include Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, A Tale of Two Sisters, Cello, 2000 Maniacs, Messiah of Evil, The Sentinel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and probably whatever I just watched.
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