Death Spa (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

I just slid my keycard to get into the Star Body Health Spa, but it wouldn’t work. Fuck this computer shit.

Death Spa is Killer Workout with more gore and computers, but less laughs. Then again, maybe not. Of course, other trash-horror films indulge in workout activity (Invocation Satanica and Rocktober Blood, just to name two), but Death Spa and Killer Workout are the only two that take place exclusively in a health club. Competition is fierce. Death Spa relies on misplaced A Nightmare On Elm Street novelties to stake its claim, as opposed to Killer Workout’s boob-jiggle/kill/boob-jiggle simplicity. In the end, this film asks for too much concentration on our part. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a few upside down hi-fives and exploding heads along the way.

Michael owns the Star Body Health Spa. It’s a very futuristic place, because “the computer runs the spa.” Years earlier, Michael’s wheelchair-bound wife died in an inferno. Today, the spa is plagued by an unseen force, which silently kills off patrons in very irrational ways. A guy’s face falls off while making out with a girl. Another guy gets ripped apart by a workout machine. A girl FUCKING BLOWS UP while staring at a mirror. Questions arise. Why was Michael’s new girlfriend burned by the steam room, and why is she the only person who wears bandages for the entire film? Clearly, other people have sustained injuries that also require bandages. The fat detective asks, “How does a goddamn diving board just COME LOOSE?” So do a lot of other people. When the Mardi Gras party finally hits, Michael is besieged with paranormal researchers and an in-law with a secret. The fires burn. A female detective proclaims, “Aw, fuck this computer shit!”

Death Spa lays down the law early on (weight machines as “art,” gigantic aluminum computers) and tries hard to maintain trash excellence. Unfortunately, the film gets bogged down with confusion. A general reasoning behind the carnage is never fully explored, as we’re left to contend with lots of characters that look the same and wear Bermuda shorts. Never mind the bad edits, graphic gore, and full frontal nudity. The mid-section of the film still crawls by with dull conversations and badly timed flashbacks. And where are the songs? Sorry, but instrumental guitar jack-offs do not provide a proper complement for workout scenes. Please listen to Killer Workout’s “Rock ’n’ Rock” for a definitive example.

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