I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Killer Workout

slashersearch14tn_killerworkoutKILLER WORKOUT is low budget fitness club horror made by fringe action auteur David A. Prior, so it has by far the most punching I’ve ever seen in a slasher movie. I gotta respect that, at least. Prior did this between KILLZONE and DEADLY PREY. Unlike his horror debut SLEDGEHAMMER it’s not shot on video, which means it meets my rigid standards of a slasher movie I am willing to try to watch.

When a muscley blond guy (Ted Prior, HARDCASE AND FIST) starts working at Rhonda’s Workout the musclier brunette guy (Fritz Matthews)  jumps him in the parking lot and they have a bare knuckle brawl. Then it happens a couple more times. Lots of old cowboy style ducking and swinging and getting tossed and knocking over furniture. The blond guy is clearly up to something, it seems from our viewpoint like he must be undercover, but other people suspect he’s there to stalk and murder them.

mp_killerworkoutSee, there’s an unseen killer on the loose, who may or may not have been involved in the deadly tanning bed accident shown during a prologue. He or she keeps attacking people with an oversized safety pin. Nothing safe about that. One stab is instant death. A rugged homicide detective guy (David James Campbell, SCARECROWS) is investigating, and he gets to do the action cliche of a speech about how his father was a good cop killed on a routine traffic stop.

The women are being watched by a mysterious figure in the dark, but you never know if it’s the killer, some weirdo with a crush or another weirdo trying to protect her from the weirdo with the crush and/or the killer. Suspicion is thrown all around.

This is way cheesier and sloppier than the similarly themed DEATH SPA, which I’ll be reviewing next. But I’ll give them this: there’s a scene where somebody pranks the club by spraypainting “DEATH SPA” and “AEROBICIDE” on the window. AEROBICIDE is the title of the movie in some countries (also “AEROBIC KILLER”). So basically they thought of three good titles for this and the other guys had to use the one they rejected.

One thing to note, this is completely unironic about glorifying the exercise fanatics. Most of the men in it are bodybuilders (or a fat guy who you’re supposed to laugh at because he’s trying to lose weight, ha ha). It seems like maybe a third of the movie is just musical montages of girls with headbands and legwarmers doing aerobics routines, with occasional emphasis on butts and boobs (which were shaped different back then, I think). Even toward the end of the movie when they all know that several people have been horribly murdered here just within the last few days attendance does not seem to falter at all. The classes are completely full. These ladies fucking love aerobics.

I mean if they didn’t do aerobics then that would be letting the killer win, in my opinion.

It’s weird to think that organized fitness was so new and popular in the ’80s that it spawned a wave of exploitation movies just like breakdancing did. The music is perfect for this, very sincere and slickly produced ’80s dance pop anthems about “the hunger in your eyes” and stuff like that. Kinda FLASHDANCE-esque. A couple of them have lyrics that can be read to fit with the themes of stalking and murder, like this one:

(warning: spoilers, this is a video somebody made out of the movie)

…but at least one of them is just straight up about “you gotta work out.” Not even a sex double entendre like Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.” Just a song about exercising.

Club owner Rhonda (Marcia Karr, MANIAC COP) is kind of a funny character. She has dramatic scenes in front of an LA Gear poster. In one scene she comes into working wearing her Rhonda’s Workout shirt and a headband and says “Oh, I’m not staying, I just stopped by to get my keys.” So that’s just how she dresses normally!

Most of the joy comes from unintentional strangeness like that. Another one is the scene where somebody played a prank with a rubber hand in a locker that happens to be discovered for a fake scare right before an actual dead body falls out of another locker nearby. When a cop is investigating the murder and is startled by the hand he immediately pushes it aside like “Oh, the old rubber hand next to an actual murder gag,” and doesn’t give it a second look. He just automatically knows they aren’t connected.

I guess you could say this is one of them, uh, artisinal movies. It is not a good horror or action movie by anyone’s definition, but you can enjoy it by puzzling over what exactly they were going for. Or you can just aerobicize along with its many montages and it will be good for your circulatory system. As far as ’80s “KILLER” movies go it’s nowhere near as good as KILLER PARTY, but maybe a funnier combination of elements.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 at 12:00 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Killer Workout”

  1. Way to go the succinct review route, Vern… well played, sir. What pushed my weird/but not no much so upon further consideration idea button was your mention of breakdancing. Why has NO one ever made a slasher movie that had poppin’ & lockin’ at its core? The crossover appeal alone would make that a worthwhile endeavor.

    I have a few friends who are serious bodybuilders, and God and Sonny Jesus help you if you try to infringe on their time by getting between them and their daily workout. It’s downright hazardous.

    It would’ve been cool had the killer in this movie somehow rigged a Nautilus machine or a Stairmaster or whatnot besides to go berserk, and thus contribute to the body count. True, not a pure slasher death, but sometimes you gotta improvise.

  2. I should save this comment but the trailer for Death Spa has haunted my dreams for years that I refuse to see it. A hairpin killer sounds much easier for me to handle than what we get in Death Spa. I am such a wimp sometimes.

  3. I’d consider myself a David Prior fan, but I greatly prefer his action work to his horror work. There’s a sincerity to his action films, which often involve PTSD (of which he is reportedly a sufferer from his time in Vietnam) that makes up for his technical shortcomings. His horror movies are more like checklists of the things people who like these movies want to see. Not a lot of personality or heart in there.

    That said, this is better than SLEDGE HAMMER, which is pretty much unwatchable. I’m not even sure what it’s about. A ghost in a plastic mask with a big hammer, I guess? The movie did not really make itself clear.

    Interesting Prior fact: You can hire him as a consultant on your own film. If anybody needs some tips, his decades of low-budget production experience are at your disposal: http://www.davidaprior.net

    Another slasher that follows the physical fitness theme is FINAL GAMES, which is about some murders surrounding a track & field competition. It’s a bit more professional than either DEATH SPA or AEROBICIDE (which is what my copy is called, thank God).

    Larry: I have not found a breakdancing-themed slasher, but there was a horror movie called SLASHDANCE that went after the leotards-and-legwarmers crowd. I haven’t gotten all the way through it because it greatly overestimates the amount of synchronized dancing a horror fan is willing to sit through in between slashings.

  4. Majestyk: Way back when, a friend of mine and I put together a Halloween event in San Francisco called Slashdance 2000. Until now, I had no idea that we were unintentionally ripping off the name of a horror film. Thanks for mentioning that one. Now I need to see it just because. (Also, we did have professional break dancers at Slashdance 2000).

  5. That track & field slasher is actually called FATAL GAMES, not FINAL GAMES.

    These kinds of mistakes are what keep me up nights.

  6. Is SLASHDANCE the same movie as Fucli’s MURDER ROCK? If so it’s worth a watch.

  7. Different movie. This is what SLASHDANCE looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaU45rlCkWM

    I know Fulci’s filmatistical skills devolved in his old age, but even he never sank that far.

  8. I completely understand your stringent slasher minimum qualifications, Vern, but SLEDGEHAMMER is honestly one of the damndest things that I have ever witnessed. If I told you that the title tool was actually a ghost, prone to vanishings and such, would that pique your interest?

  9. Andrew – okay, I do like ghost hammer movies. And you were the one that recommended AVENGING FORCE to me so I trust your judgment.

  10. Is that what was going on in SLEDGEHAMMER? Sometimes Prior is just too subtle a filmmaker for me.

  11. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    October 31st, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Damn, all these slashers I’ve never heard of… I have to say that this one sounds a little less interesting than “Slaughter High”, but still, I can always get behind a bit of bodybuilder butchery. Don’t think it’s gonna be one of those things you just “come across” though, I’m guessing.

  12. R.I.P. David A. Prior. I have praised his action work for its endearing blend of sincerity and idiocy many times, and it seemed like the world was finally starting to catch up with me. He left behind as expansive, weird, and distinctive a body of work as any filmmaker. I’ll miss him.

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