Monday, November 30, 2009

Killer Workout (1986): or, The Power is You, the Power is Me

Sometimes it takes a little bit of time before you know it's for real. Meeting at a friend's Scattergories party, you exchange phone numbers and send a few harmless texts. You agree to meet for coffee, share Cinnabuns and a good conversation. More texts, phone calls, emails, a few movies and a trip to the zoo--then, after a few weeks or even months, you look across the table in the food court in front of Sbarro's, your eyes lock, and you realize it: you're in love.

Other times, the feeling waylays you like a highwayman in a Naschy flick--you catch a glimpse, just the merest twinkling of an eye, the glint of a giant hoop earring, the *zwip* of a spandex bodysuit, the briefest flash of a neon headband, and BAM! You're heels over head over heels again in love.

Maybe it's the fact that I reached puberty and suffered from its ravages for most of the heyday of Wham! and Hall & Oates; maybe it's my taste for the absurd coupled with a love for the athletic and fitness fashions that were haute couture when Reagan was president and Harrison Ford ruled the box office. Whatever the reason, for David A. Prior's 1986 slasher opus Killer Workout (aka Aerobi-cide), I knew right from the start. I love this movie.

I can't fight this feeling anymore

In the middle of the 1980s, when aerobic exercise (or more properly "aerobicize") was taking the nation and the world by storm, health clubs all over the country sought to capitalize on its popularity by adding huge studio rooms with mirrored walls and parquet flooring to the regular free-weights and Nautilus machines. In doing so they drew in scores of women with huge breasts, huger hair, and a penchant for dressing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance (thus boosting business, perpetuating the aerobicize craze, and feeding the sexual fantasies of maladjusted movie reviewers for decades to come). It is in one such flesh-molding factory, the accurately if uncreatively named "Rhonda's Workout," that our sad but beautiful story takes place.

Killer Workout starts off with the requisite flashback bang: a mysterious woman on the eve of signing the contract for a lucrative modeling job (in Paris!) celebrates her good fortune by catching a few rays on the tanning bed, giving the appreciative audience full nekkidity within three minutes of the opening shot. (Are you taking notes, budding young filmmakers of tomorrow? That's TEXTBOOK.) Of course it's the pre-credits sequence, so it comes as no surprise when tragedy strikes--a mechanical malfunction traps her in the UV-bed's deadly embrace, causing the machine to belch smoke and burst into flames like an ungrounded Easy-Bake Oven!

An indeterminate amount of time and an AWESOME credits song later, we find ourselves at the aforementioned gym, where proprietrix Rhonda (Marcia Karr, looking an awful lot like Jo from TV's Facts of Life--which is to say, hawt) is standing in as aerobicize instructor for irresponsible employee Jaimy (Teresa Van der Woude), who is running late, apparently because she couldn't find her cross-trainers--which is the only logical explanation for why she shows up wearing a spandex leotard, leg-warmers, and high-heeled red shoes. (Though when stumbles out of her Porsche and spills a purse-full of condoms onto the asphalt, another possible explanation presents.) Rhonda is a tough, no-nonsense businesswoman, and sets her slatternly subordinate straight: "Business is bad enough already! Just stop showing off your tits and your tight little ass!" Wait, what?

Let's get ready to sweat

Also present at the gym are: musclebound mullet-bearer Chuck (Ted Prior, later of Karate Warrior 2 and Surf Nazis Must Die!), a new employee hired by Rhonda's mysterious silent parter Mr. Ericson; roided-out perv Jimmy (Fritz Matthews), who has an unhealthy affection for Rhonda; and an assortment of gym regulars, including a gay weightlifting couple, dozens of side-ponytail-wearing lingerie models, and at least one fat guy in overalls who does nothing but ride a stationary bike and gawk at the beautiful ladies.

It's not long before someone starts killing the gym patrons, just like you probably knew they would, although you likely didn't guess that the murder weapon would be a giant safety pin. Seriously. After a couple of unnamed extras are offed, the LAPD send out Detective Lieutenant Morgan (crater-faced tough guy David James Campbell), who subscribes to the "treat everyone like a suspect and gargle with Dran-o before speaking" school of police work. His presence does nothing to stop the killings, however, and soon the gym is getting a reputation for people not surviving their workouts. Strangely, this does nothing to the attendance level of the aerobicize classes, as every time we see them in session (and we see them a LOT--not that I'm complaining) they seem absolutely packed.

It's easy enough to summarize the plot of Killer Workout, but this is one of those cases where a mere synopsis cannot begin to do justice to the awe-inspiring beauty of the thing itself. This movie is packed so absolutely chock-full of tasty 80s cheese from one end to the other, it really defies logical explanation. From the awesome extended workout footage to the laughably choreographed kung-fu fights to the crimptastic mousse-abusing hairstyles to the good 10-minutes Lt. Morgan spends tracking down and fighting an obvious red-herring, there's just nothing here that fails to put a huge stupid grin on the Vicar's face and fix it there. Add a boom mic cameo and a "cop goes rogue and takes the law in his hands" ending (that ends in complete COP-FAIL), and yes, my friends, it's love.

No pain, no gain, no brain.

Sure, there are some things I would have liked to have explained--the mysterious Mr. Ericson gives every sign of being a Big Baddie suitable for a last-reel reveal, but don't hold your breath for that one--but in the final tally the good far outweighs the bad. Because let's face it, when you've got a perfect 80s pop soundtrack written FOR THE FILM (with some of the most grin-inducing lyrics ever), plenty of gratuitous nudity, and a "break the fourth wall and wink at the camera" final frame, well, everything else is just details.

2.75 thumbs. And if anyone has a copy of the soundtrack, email me and NAME YOUR PRICE!

Because words fail me, here are a dozen more fantastic images from Killer Workout:

Nice and Brown

"Business is so bad, I had to sell my apostrophe!"


Not So Safe

The Queen of Crimp

Just Do It

"Be vewwy quiet..."

The Carradine Club

You'd Wear It

Shadow of the Boom Mic

"But Vicar, I haven't done my stretches!"

Work Them Thangs


Anonymous said...

This is quite simply one of the most amazing movies ever made. And the oversized safety pin should make its way into slasher films more often. There is nothing more terror inducing.

The Duke of DVD said...

It's quite possible that this is THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE, but I'll have to watch it to make sure. Going by your excellent review, Vicar, I'm inclined to go with my gut.

Incidentally, I knew I was in love for the first time when I heard that special phrase everyone wants to hear from their lover: "There is no safety word."

Kitty LeClaw said...

Wow... WOW!!!

I must see it at once!

Jenn said...

I've got a killer workout for you

Not like you think I mean either. Nudge nudge wink wink.

When we were talking about this the other night, I thought we were talking about Horror Workout or something that has Linnea Quigley in it; it's like her doing aerobics through graveyards while zombies are chasing her and you can work out with her if I remember correctly. Like Jane Fonda but with a horror theme. But of course I had been drinking, as per the usual and got confused, as is my way. So yeah, I need to see some death by tanning bed and some death by giant safety pin and the all around awesomeness that is the fashion in this movie.

And now the Duke's comment has me thinking of that VHS or Beta song...'I'm in the corner, saying the safe word...' in my best Interpol impression singing voice, which trust me, ain't all that!

Yes, I've been drinking again. :)

The Vicar of VHS said...

@Planet of Terror--You'd think by now that the movie-going public would have tired of the old machete/butcher knife/chainsaw tropes. Same-old same old, give us something new! Sadly, today's filmmakers have not a tenth of the inventiveness of the geniuses behind KILLER WORKOUT.

@Duke of DVD--I remember that girl!

@Kitty--I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. I'm still smiling, five days after my initial viewing. It really gave me something to be thankful for.

@Jenn--I can't believe you found footage of the Duke and me working out and posted it to youtube! Whenever the Duke and I get pumped up, we always make it a point to lifta scrot...

As to the Linnea Quigley Workout, I actually have a copy of that around here somewhere...I guess I'll have to dig it out. I know Kitty did a review of it on her blog, and it was awesome.

It's drink-o-clock somewhere!

Yum-Yum said...

This movie looks super-terrific!

"a giant safety pin"

"a spandex leotard, leg-warmers, and high-heeled red shoes"

"plenty of gratuitous nudity"

You just sold a movie.

Oh, and funny captions. :D

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