Wednesday 8 March 2017

Killer Workout (David A Prior, 1987) DVD Review

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“The workout will kill you!” Otherwise known as Aerobicide, David A. Prior's (Deadly Prey) late-in-the-cycle slasher flick – and feature début – is perhaps the most unabashedly 'eighties' of them all. Beauties clad in Day-Glo Lycra writhing to terrible pop music in the quest for bodily perfection? Check. Convertible Porsches and muscled-up bros with dodgy hair styles? Check. Conspicuous shots of condoms in the wake of the AIDS crisis that was dominating the decade? Check. Visor caps, frizzy hair, and ankle socks? That'll be a big old check on that, too. In some ways, for good and bad, the 1980s have never left us – not in these specific ways, mind you – but the decade of greed and synthesised music has been back in vogue for a while now. But does that mean Killer Workout is any good? Let's find out...

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“Not tonight, not tomorrow night, not any night – how many times do I have to say that?” In the wake of an explosive mishap at a tanning salon (so that's what the image on the cover art is!), a slew of murders come to plague Rhonda's Work Out – a gym/aerobics studio. Rhonda (Marcia Karr, Chained Heat) is the owner and operator, with a sour demeanour and a try-hard devotee lingering around her in the muscular form of Jimmy (Fritz Matthews). Similarly, Jaimy (Teresa Van Der Woude) is one of Rhonda's instructors and is getting pestered by another one of the resident jocks – Tommy (Richard Bravo). Even with the guys' lack of understanding about boundaries – the pair of brosephs are cast as dim-witted and ineffectually horny – it seems to be business as usual. Well, it is, until one of the members is stabbed to death – with an over-sized, industrial strength clothes pin (yes, seriously).

“Just teach the class and stop showing off your tits and tight little ass, got it?” When Jaimy stumbles across the body – while she's busy fondling a jock strap! – Johnny Law gets involved and wants to know who owns the locker that the body fell out of. It belongs to one of the other girls, but when that theory turns into a red herring, Lieutenant Morgan (David James Campbell, Scarecrows) figures out this won't be an easy case to crack – certainly not with his lackadaisical approach to criminal investigation! As newcomer Chuck (Ted Prior) gets on Rhonda's nerves, and while the bodies pile up – as many as three at a time – you'd think that the gym rats would opt for a bit of sofa time, or at least find a new gym, but nope … it's time for another aerobics class as the paramedics zip up yet another stiff! Talk about dedication to having a good body – exercise fast, die young, leave a well-toned corpse.

“A better feel? Look, you want a feel try Hollywood Boulevard, now get the hell out of here!” With a handful of T&A scenes – one of them on the somewhat unconventional side – Killer Workout aims for simple genre pleasures. All seven – yes, seven – aerobics sequences play out like that Benny Benassi “Satisfcation” music video (perhaps this movie is where they got the idea for it?). Conspicuous close ups of lunging crotches and sweat-speckled boobs abound, but it's not all about the female form here as the guys get a look in, too. Chuck and company lift weights while strutting around in tight vests and short-shorts – the women are beautiful dancers, the men are jacked-up stunt performers (quite literally in the case of Ted Prior and Fritz Matthews).

“Wow – that was rad!” Few of the cast were hired for their acting talents, it would seem. The aforementioned Prior and Matthews don't exactly command the screen when it comes to the talky bits, but once they get into a delightfully cheesy punch-up their presence makes sense. The same could be said of most of the other cast; none of them are aided by some thuddingly dull dialogue and a distinct lack of tension throughout, but there are a few tongue-in-cheek lines that lift the movie up momentarily. However, never knowingly under-(or over)-acted is the shape of it, further compounded by the imprecise editing, which regularly cuts in too soon and/or cuts away too late, thus troubling the overall pacing of several scenes.

“I'm getting out of here while I'm still in one piece – if you had any brains you'd do the same thing.” Unsure whether it wants to be a comedy or take itself seriously, the movie is a generally cumbersome affair. The same could not be said of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, which knows exactly what it wants to be and how it wants to set about achieving that. Failing to provide any slasher movie thrills or build any tension, Killer Workout stumbles early on, coming across as low-rent as some of the locations. There are sparks of something better throughout, though – the opening tanning salon mishap is charmingly zany, and a short-lived glimpse inside Diane's (Laurel Mock) lonely home life tugs at your sympathies – but ultimately it feels more like the impression of a slasher movie than the genuine article. It's as if someone was told about slasher movies (by a person who didn't like them) and proceeded to create one according to that lowly template: a vaguely plotted succession of beautiful people getting carved up. That all said and with the (copious) criticisms aside, fans of straight-to-video B-Movies – or those who saw this as a kid and have a pang of nostalgia that needs servicing – will find something to enjoy. It works more as an intriguing time capsule of 1980s America during the post-boom slump of the slasher flick than as an actual movie. There's plenty of kills, T&A, and 80s cheese on offer, with some rather goofy moments scattered throughout, but there's little to seriously recommend this. As post-pub fodder, though, it might yet earn a place on your DVD shelf.

“She was so pretty.” / “Not anymore.” 88 Films' DVD release (did they have DVDs a thousand years ago? Must be a typo: 2016 rather than 1016!) is “lovingly restored”. Is it buggery, and to be quite frank, don't take the piss. What this is, is a VHS rip – as evidenced by the numerous instances of tracking noise that flicker across the screen at random intervals – and the quality, on occasion, dips dramatically. In one instance – in the middle of a sequence within Debbie's back garden (no, that's not a euphemism) – the average picture quality suddenly down-shifts to resemble the eyesight of a paralytic drunk. It's all the funnier for the fact that the picture sharpens up just before she whips off her dressing gown to reveal her bodacious bikini bod. In another instance – during the end credits – if you wanted to know what the songs used in the film were, then good bloody luck with that: they're rendered utterly illegible (as the audio wobbles like the aforementioned inebriate).

Part of the 'Slasher Classics Collection', number six to be precise … wait a minute, there already is a SCC#6: Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (released by 88 Films a year before this) … anyway, presented in the 4x3 ratio (this is from the heyday of slap dash straight-to-video genre fare, after all) with mono audio that hums in the quiet spots, the so-called 'restoration' ain't pretty in the slightest but is at least, for the bulk of the running time, functional. Perhaps years of indulging in some of the finest DVD and Blu-Ray presentations have softened me up – I must no longer resemble the horror mad teen who gleefully enjoyed a cropped fourth generation dub of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sourced from a thoroughly used video cassette tape. Special Features? Very light on the ground, I'm afraid. There's a brief alternative opening titles clip, 18 minutes of trailers for other 88 Films releases, and a reversible sleeve – you don't even get a scene selection menu. Do you remember about fifteen years ago when those used to be a 'special feature' that was boasted about on the back covers of DVDs alongside 'Animated Motion Menus'? 88 Films have regularly put together impressive releases (at least from what I can surmise from the ones I've purchased and general fan feedback), such as Anthropophagous or Bloodsucking Pharaohs In Pittsburgh, but the treatment afforded Killer Workout must surely be the exception that proves the rule.

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