Death Spa – 1 out of 5
I think I came across this film on an article about absurd horror films and since it is October and since I absolutely love really bad horror films, I decided to search out a copy of this film and give it a review. After locating a VHS copy of the film owned by a friend of mine who still clings to an outdated video medium, I dusted off my VCR and decided to see how on earth this film would make a health spa a location for horror—even more so, how the hell would they make the health spa the antagonist? That’s right, in Death Spa, the spa is the killer. Well, kinda.
|What a dumb name for a spa--|
|Oh, now I see. Very clever, film.|
Michael Evans (William Bumiller) owns the hippest health club in the world. Thanks to a state-of-the-art computer system (the film was made in 1989 so imagine how the filmmakers thought that looked like) makes the entire place automated. Gone are the days where you had to physically lift weights on machines or actually open a locker door because now the computer will do all that for you. However, a string of deaths start to take place and Michael fears that someone has corrupted his system or his former brother-in-law, the designer of the computer system, is blaming Michael for the suicide of his sister (Michael’s late wife) and is out to destroy his business. Or, even more absurd, the spirit of his late wife inhabits the computer system or is controlling it and she is out for revenge…
|And yet, they will still charge you an arm and a leg for this sparsely filled|
First off, I feel I need to clarify my rating because even though I am giving it a single French fry out of the pack I didn’t hate this film. This is one of those movies that are amazingly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Death Spa is not a film with captivating characters or decent effects or even passable acting. Instead, the film is one of those features that are amusingly labeled “so bad its good.” So, this movie may be getting a bad score for technical elements and the storytelling aspects of the story but for its sheer fun factor and the laughs it provides is immeasurable. Okay, Rev. pull back your hyperbole because it wasn’t something as epic as Troll 2 or The Room but there’s no denying the awful charm this film holds and how hysterical it gets with its badness.
|You can smell the last leg of the 80s in this film.|
I think my favorite aspect of this film has to be the fact that the script feels so incredibly sloppy. For example, I am almost completely certain that when the writing team sat down to craft the script they started writing and after realizing they can only realistically get about two or three deaths that are both spa and computer related before they hit the wall then realized they had to phone in another death or two before they ultimately had to admit defeat and had to incorporate a ghost into the mess. The addition of having Michael’s late wife be the catalyst to kill people in this spa quickly turns an idea that is already hard enough to take seriously and makes it flirt with just enough horror film clichés that it turns the whole recipe into something magically hysterical and utterly impossible to take seriously.
|However, this energetic dance/workout routine really ties the film together.|
Another aspect of Death Spa I really enjoyed was the phoned in deaths. The kills that take place in the film never really feel like they are trying and they only get more that way as the story continues. Even better is when the film hits the third act and all hell is breaking loose. It’s at this point that any semblance of rules established in the story are abandoned and the causes of the kills make no sense. For example, in this portion of the film, the computer/spa/ghost kills a guy with wood paneling in a steam room, murders a cop in a walk-in refrigerator with dead fish/eel like creatures and murders a bartender with a blender to the hand (that’s right, you read that correctly. A woman is murdered because she had a blender attack her hand). There’s no real rules to how the ghost can use pretty much every square inch of the spa to kill and how exactly the computer can be the link to make this all happen but it’s in this weak string connecting all these things absolutely hilarious. Had it just been a ghost inhabiting the walls of the spa, it would make horror film sense but the added element of the computer makes this usually routine example of a haunting come off absolutely ridiculous. The whole thing really feels made up as it goes along and it lends itself to the whole experience.
|If only the health spa knew that buying those monster eel things would end|
up in a death...
These two aspects of the film are definitely my favorite and what made me laugh the most but this film has a lot more to offer in the whole “so bad it’s good” spectrum. They’re the usual bad acting, atrocious editing and the laughably shoe-horned in nudity (and there’s an absurd amount of nudity in this…it’s almost as if the production were trying to hide how bad this film was with gratuitous boobies) but this film gets even better by having some very strange dialogue, sequences that look like flubbed takes that were the best they had so they went with it and an ending that just felt like the director and writers just shrugged their shoulders.
|"There's showers and steam rooms in health clubs. We can have so much pointless|
nudity!" - The Writers
|So...what exactly is this room in the spa?|
This poor filmmaking is never illustrated better than in the final moments of the film. I’m not too worried about spoiling this one because of its age but in these final moments we see the film’s good guys take on the burned remains of the angry ghost. The ghost attempts to attack Michael but he ends up ripping her arm off (and I'm kinda feeling like it didn't go as plan--because he struggles to get that arm detached), then the cop with Michael then proceeds to say, “Okay okay okay” (actual dialogue and delivered like a person agreeing to Taco Bell over McDonald's when the question of where to eat comes up). The cop, with enthusiasm that numbers in the negative, states this before shooting the burned corpse/ghost hacker in the head and then they all accept that this is enough and walk out of shot. The whole thing felt like it was either poorly improvised or just a really bad take that they had no choice but to go with. It really makes the whole experience worth it and is the icing on this bad movie cake.
|The special effects haven't aged a goddamn day.|
I didn’t sit down to watch Death Spa with a false belief that I would find a hidden gem of a horror film that was compelling, interesting and frightening. I expected cheese and it gave me cheese in spades. The film is poorly made and it gets the bad score for that fact but this movie is far from hard to sit through. This is really just one of those great examples of films to watch with your friends and a copious amounts of pizza and beverages of your choice (if you like alcohol, you can have that but you better be of age and you better enjoy that shit responsibly) and just laugh the night away as you watch the poorly made spectacle unfold. And the best part is you can laugh with or without making fun of the film. As a horror film, Death Spa is terrible but as an accidental comedy, the film is gold!