Friday, October 9, 2009

Film Review: KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 85 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Ted Prior (SURF NAZIS MUST DIE), Marcia Karr (HARDBODIES, SAVAGE STREETS, MANIAC COP, and 'Twinks' in CHAINED HEAT), Dianne Copeland (MANKILLERS), David James Campbell (SCARECROWS).
Tag-line: "The workout will kill you!"
Best one-liner: "Only you toniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!"

KILLER WORKOUT. AKA, AEROBICIDE. Now, before I can begin, a rant. It's every American's right– every American's God-given, inalienable RIGHT- to conceive of stupid shit, put it on film, and have Italians worship it/rip it off. That's how the film industry works. We can have dumbass movies like TROLL, and the Italians will respect them so much that they'll beg, cheat, steal, and LIE so they can have the honor of pretending they've made legitimate sequels to them (i.e., TROLL 2, TROLL 3- THE QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD).

In America, DAWN OF THE DEAD, JAWS, and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK are just 'movies.' In Italy, they're GENRES. (See ZOMBI 2, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, MONSTER SHARK, THE LAST SHARK, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS, 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, etc., etc., etc., etc.) Now, look at something like FLASHDANCE (1983). It didn't QUITE become a genre in Italy, but the reverberations of its sweat-dripped spandexy presence were surely felt.

Lucio Fulci caught the FLASHDANCE fever, and caught it bad. He made MURDER ROCK (1984), which is basically a FLASHDANCE: THE GIALLO. And that's a great thing. But allow my tirade to reach its crescendo: 1986 brought us KILLER WORKOUT- a complete and utter AMERICAN retread of MURDER ROCK, from the aerobics school setting to the killer's preferred weapon (a hairpin in MURDER ROCK, a gigantic safety pin in KILLER WORKOUT).

This is not how it works, Italy! We come up with the stupid shit, and YOU make it look pretty and nonsensical. Not the other way around. That's how it works. (Which is why the upcoming 8 1/2 rip-off NINE makes me a little antsy.) But the point is, when LA DOLCE VITA came out in 1960, America didn't immediately produce unauthorized films called THE SWEET LIFE 2, SWEET LIVIN', BABES IN FOUNTAINS, or THE CAT WITH NINE AND A HALF SWEET LIVES. There's a system of unwritten rules in place, and we should stick to those them, lest cinematic chaos reigneth. Anyway. On to KILLER WORKOUT:

Let's take a gander at the prerequisites. Asscrack? Check. Banal but rockin' 80's tunes? Check. A main theme that rips off John Carpenter's theme to HALLOWEEN? Check. When in doubt, this movie shows extended scenes of L.A. d-bags doin' crotch-thrustin' aerobics. And this movie is in doubt alllll the time.

The songs are interminable, but in a good way. Well, in a relatively good way. They're not nearly as good as the stuff Keith Emerson came up with for MURDER ROCK.

Anyway, prepare yourself to become real familiar with the following lyrics:

"On-ly you tonight! (buh-buh-buh buhhmmm) On-ly you tonight! (buh-buh-buh buhhmmm) On-ly you toniiiiiiiiiiiiiight!"

"She's a knockout.... Let her rock out! She's a knockout.... she'll take you out!"

"You gotta work out, gotta work out, gotta work out at the workout!"

"When you reach your gotta SWEATTTT....BENDDDD...

"Rock....and rock! –Rock and rock!"

"Aero-bicide...Aerobicide.....the perfect're tryin' to find...."


So the plot involves a SHITLOAD of random murders at an aerobics studio. Why the school doesn't just shut down after the first two is a bit of a head-scratcher, but why it remains open when literally twenty people have been murdered there in one week really blows the mind. All of this may or may not have something to do with a tanning bed accident that happened some years ago. A cop starts investigating the crimes and immediately says "Name's Morgan, you're going to be seeing a lot of me." Then, about five minutes later, he departs by saying, "You're gonna be seeing a lot more of me." And we do.

A dude (the director's brother) who kinda looks like Christian Bale

shows up just to flex his muscles (literally). He gets in a back alley fight with a dude that's so drawn out, it may have been the inspiration for a similar scene in THEY LIVE.

A woman says "Wow, that was rad!" while wearing a sun visor.

There's more spandex and legwarmers and neon green thongs than FLASHDANCE and MURDER ROCK combined. There's all kinds of bizarre product placement, too: Nike, L.A. Gear, Miller Genuine Draft, Pepsi....and they all get thanked in the end credits! My question is, to what extent were they involved? This is too low budget for them to have given money. Did they get a free case of Pepsi and a couple 40 oz MGDs out of the deal? An imperfect pair of "as is" Nike sneakers? Or did they independently place these products and thank the companies, HOPING that they'd be so impressed they might send them a Thank You note, an invitation for a free tour of the Pepsi factory, or perhaps a corporate endorsement for KILLER WORKOUT 2?

Annnnnyway, all of a sudden, the body count gets INSANE. I couldn't even keep up with tally marks- it's death, death, death, death, recanted death (dream sequence), death, death, recanted death (dream sequence). I'm scratching out tally marks and then replacing them and the scratching them out, so I have no damn clue how many people die in this movie- not that that information would be useful to anyone. It adheres to the 80's rule of swimming pools- "if there is a pool, someone must be pushed into it, flailing." The lead character, Rhonda (Marcia Karr), is a total mouth breather to the point that it becomes distracting. And near the end, in a crucial scene, she's wearing this weird, baggy, golden glittery outfit that looks like it was stolen from wardrobe on set of THE WIZ or at the very least, David Bowie's "Blue Jean" video.

This thing loses a lot of steam as it goes along. There's fewer workout scenes, and more aimless 'chase' scenes. And I would rather watch an ineptly staged workout scene [with characters (accidentally? purposefully?) looking into the lens as they pulsate] than an ineptly staged, drawn out chase scene. I mean, how often do we get to see Troma-lookin' jock-types running around those sun-beaten L.A. foothills where they filmed ROBOT MONSTER? All the fuckin' time.
And how often do we get to see jazzercising women doing pelvic thrusts that I have a hard time believing anyone could find sexy

while wearing outfits that look like T.J. Maxx vomited on some spandex?

I say- not nearly enough.

It ends on a pretty solid note, though- someone exclaims "By midweek, this place will be packed to the walls with gorgeous bodies!!!" and there's an (intentional) self-reflexive look into the camera.

Whew. So it's no PERFECT, it's no FLASHDANCE, and it's definitely no MURDER ROCK, but it's a pretty enjoyable VHS slasher, all things considered. And for weeks afterward, I fully expect to have "Only you toniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!" stuck in my head. So, um, have a killer workout and feel the burn or whatever. Make sure you stretch first. Three neon green, spandex-wrapped, crotch sweatin' stars.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)

1 comment:

Jason said...

"when LA DOLCE VITA came out in 1960, America didn't immediately produce unauthorized films called THE SWEET LIFE 2, SWEET LIVIN', BABES IN FOUNTAINS, or THE CAT WITH NINE AND A HALF SWEET LIVES"

oh my goddd that's exactly what they would have done in the 70's!!!!! "THE CAT WITH NINE AND A HALF SWEET LIVES!!"