Adamantium Bullet

31 Days Of Horror: DEATH SPA

For the next 31 days, we here at Adamantium Bullet will be reviewing one horror film a day leading up to Halloween. Each film will be horrific, terrifying, chilling, pulse-pounding, or flat-out awful. All will be endured in honor of the season. Expect SPOILERS. Welcome to Adamantium Bullet’s “All 80s” edition of 31 DAYS OF HORROR.

In this episode, J Bryant and AngieBee discuss the nutty 1987 nightmare DEATH SPA starring William Bumiller, Merritt Butrick, Ken Foree, Shari Shattuck, Chelsea Field, and Karyn Parsons.

The new fitness club in town has everything a health nut could ever want: a variety of workout machines, classes taught by friendly (and frisky) instructors, and a state-of-the-art computer control system for maximum client comfort. Unfortunately it’s also possessed by the evil spirit of the owner’s dead wife, and before long every dumbbell, leg press, and rowing machine becomes a deadly weapon for her to enact bloody vengeance on the club’s beautiful members. So if you’re looking for a real workout from hell, enter DEATH SPA for a new exercise in terror!

Nineteen dead bodies, though one was a ghost kill so we’re not sure how to count that since a ghost is someone who is already dead, and one was a guy who appears to die but nobody mentions whether or not he actually did, and one was a woman whose flesh is melted off but appears to be alive when last seen.

There are loads of MOST MEMORABLE KILLS in DEATH SPA, but the two most memorable, in our opinions, would be when the sushi fish propelled itself across a meat locker and slit Lt. Fletcher’s (Frank McCarthy) throat, and when Linda (Cindi Dietrich) was attacked by a sprinkler system spewing acid that melted her flesh off and didn’t kill her immediately, if at all. She might still be alive down in the basement of what remains of Starbody Health Spa. The filmmakers never gave a clear answer as to her fate.

Laura (Brenda Bakke) fully nude in the steam room, Michael (William Bumiller) and Marvin (Ken Foree) both shirtless, six fully nude ladies in the shower, one fully nude unnamed blonde in another steam room, loads of shirtless random dudes, loads of guys and gals in spandex and lycra workout gear, and a teeny, tiny, tantalizing bit of shoulder action from Catherine (Shari Shattuck).

The opening crane/tracking shot that starts on the Marlboro Man ad that overlooks Sunset Boulevard then pans down to the parking lot of the Starbody Health Spa then up to the neon sign (which is struck by lightning, burning out just enough of the letters to spell “DEATH SPA”) then into the club itself to establish the layout of the place was pretty damn impressive considering how low budget this flick was.

Linda finds a mysterious note from “Michael” and follows the instructions written on it down into a dirty, poorly lit, drippy, steam and smoke filled, boiler room basement area in the hopes of hooking up with him. Quotes around “Michael” because the real Michael didn’t really write the note, the spirit of his dead wife who committed suicide and is currently possessing the body of her brother did. See MOST MEMORABLE KILL to find out what happened to Linda. Oh and if you’re willing to follow mysterious notes into what is clearly a set-up for a horror movie kill, you need higher standards. A good guy or girl, man or woman, or whoever would not lure you into that kind of situation.

If you didn’t read the plot synopsis or know anything about DEATH SPA going in, you would be sort of right in assuming that it is a slightly crazier than usual slasher pic. After all, that is what the first 75% of the film sets up. What you likely won’t see coming is that DEATH SPA is kinda NOT a slightly crazier than usual slasher pic, but is actually a full-on batsh*t crazy supernatural slaughterhouse complete with cross-dressing, body possession, killer sushi fish, a recreation of the prom scene from CARRIE, death by blender, supercomputer shenanigans, head explosions, head stomping, head squishing, those crazy electrical effects that were in every other 80s horror pic, mass chaos, and the ghost of the hero’s dead wife who committed suicide and is currently possessing the body of her brother. That’s a metric f*ckton of “WTF?!?” to throw at the audience in the last fifteen minutes. It honestly shocks us that DEATH SPA actually manages to make all that last minute chaos work.

> This was Merritt Butrick's final film before his death on March 17, 1989 at the age of 29.

> The extras in the shower scene were obtained from a porn casting agency.

> A cherry picker was used for the opening Steadicam shot.

> An earlier draft of the script had a red herring janitor character living in the basement of the health spa.

> Shari Shattuck's voice was dubbed by another actress.

> The USELESS KNOWLEDGE portion of this review was sourced from IMDB.

Posted by J. Bryant

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