(By Matt Konopka) Listen up, you noodle-armed, rail-waisted crybabies! No tears, please, it’s a waste of good suffering! All of you girly-men and women are about to have your pathetic dreams answered, because I am going to PUMP. YOU. UP with this week’s Is Dead Better segment on a horror film that will get you into shape and impress the ladies/guys with how magnificently your puny mind has grown with its knowledge. Put down that pathetic excuse for food called a tofu steak and indulge in the protein-packed hunk that is Killer Workout…
…Written/directed by David A. Prior (Deadly Prey), Killer Workout (aka Aerobicide, aka Night of the Brainless 80’s Dance Squad), concerns a little gym known as “Rhonda’s Work Out”. Clearly, Rhonda (Marcia Karr) knows how to reach her customers. Two years ago, Rhonda’s twin sister, Valerie, was burned to death after a tanning bed (somehow) caught on fire and then immediately put itself out. Yes, it is a killer tanning bed, Southern California beware. Now, someone has begun picking off Rhonda’s customers, and it’s up to her and detective numb nuts, Morgan (David Campbell), to solve the crime and save the day.
A lot of what I’m going to say in this piece may seem pretty non-sensical, but that’s what happens when you have a movie that feels like Road House had sex with a Richard Simmon’s workout video and birthed a weird-looking baby with bad 80’s hair and an incessant need to kill beautiful people. Back in the late 80s, there was a brief surge of what can be dubbed as “fitness horror”, which, along with Killer Workout, included films like Death Spa and Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout. My guess is, the fear of drugs was sweeping the nation, along with food companies telling everyone that fat was bad, and low-fat was good (not actually true), that fitness suddenly became a hot topic, and, as most trendy topics are, became a target of horror films. If you look at 70’s horror compared to late 80’s horror, it’s actually kind of fascinating to see how people went from looking like zero-muscle toned aliens to, er, beefy looking aliens (I still don’t fully believe Arnold Schwarzenegger is human, but that’s not what this is about). Films like these were made as a commentary, to show how goofy the obsessive craze became, and to poke fun at the steroid-layered machismo attitude building in Americans.
Killer Workout is, without a doubt, the epitome of not just bad 80s horror, but bad 80s films in general. Watching this film is like digging up a time capsule that contains nothing but a box of dollar bin movies found resting in box covered in sad goo at the local dump. It has everything: horrible 80s mullets and frizzy mega-perms, 80s style tussles in the streets between men wearing shorts that might as well be thongs, and a soundtrack featuring such classics as “Animal Workout”, with lyrics like “you gotta work out, you gotta work out”. Yeah, feel the burn! But what really makes Killer Workout and other films like it stand out, are the repetitive dance segments which go on FOREVER. In a way, these fitness horror films are similar to Bollywood horror. For those that don’t know, Bollywood horror always features at least one musical dance number in the film, no matter how serious the content. Where Killer Workout differs is that, not only do the dance segments have absolutely nothing to do with the film, but most of them seem to go on for at least five minutes, occur WAY too often, and are really just an excuse to feature an explicit number of bouncing tits and asses hanging out of “aerobic thongs” that just seem so uncomfortable. Seriously, not to continue bashing on that clownish ghoul Simmons, but I would not be surprised if Prior said fuck it halfway through shooting, left, and was replaced by Richard Simmons at the helm. Why was a guy whose method appeared to be “don’t eat anything” EVER a sensation as a fitness instructor? Damnit, 80s, why do you make me question my love of you?
I know the above sounds terrible, and believe me, it is, but Killer Workout is one of those cheesy slashers that fans love to laugh at and quote at late night horror marathons. And my god, the cheese is overflowing in this one. I don’t blame the filmmakers for not being able to attract a grade-A cast for such a high-profile concept-cough sarcasm cough-but they could’ve at least hired a decent effects team. Hell, even that kid down the street with a crayon stuck in his brain could do a better job than this group. During the very first kill, our killer hacks at a woman with some kind of hook. The hook obviously never comes close to touching her, but the real guffaw is the fact that the hole formed in her neck takes FOREVER to pump the blood out. I guess she needed that gym, because her blood pressure must’ve been severely low. It becomes clear pretty quickly that Prior doesn’t trust his effects team, since most of the death scenes are shot in a Psycho shower scene style, where we see zero penetration, and little bloodshed, even though the deaths are not off-screen. But where Killer Workout lacks in creativity and gore, it makes up in sheer absurdity. Did you ever think it was possible for someone to be stabbed in the head through a convertible top? I sure didn’t, but I obviously underestimated the killer’s determination and ability to find butcher knives so enormous they’d give Michael Myers blade envy.
The hilarity doesn’t end with the kills, though. That’s right, Killer Workout is somehow worse than random aerobics videos and horribly executed kills. This is the kind of movie where people have conversations on landline phones in the middle of their damn yard attached to NOTHING. Yes, kids, there was a time when you couldn’t pick up a phone and play Candy Crush anywhere you felt like. You’ll give your abs a workout laughing at lines like when Jaimy (Teresa Van der Woude) comments on the first girl’s death with “she was so pretty”. THAT’s what you’re taking away from this? A girl was just murdered in your gym, YOU found the body, and all you can say is that she was freaking pretty? Something tells me Jaimy doesn’t get by in life off of her smarts.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked much about the characters yet, and that’s because there aren’t any. Not really. About a third of Killer Workout is focused on making normal body types feel like Jabba the Hutt, and another third is spent killing nameless characters we don’t give a crap about, leaving just a third of the 80-minute film to “endear” us to the lives of Rhonda and the man-meat knuckle-draggers that want to date her, which, spoiler, we never care. Believe it or not, Killer Workout does have a surprisingly positive body confidence message, intentional or not. (ACTUAL SPOILER COMING) Towards the end, we discover that Rhonda never had a twin and is actually Valerie, the woman who burned up in the beginning. Why is that such an important secret? If Prior were alive to tell me, he’d probably just give me the finger and tell me to fuck off. R.I.P. Prior, and thank you for the entertainment. During the accident, Rhonda somehow avoided burning all of the parts of her body left uncovered by skimpy aerobics outfits, leaving only her chest and stomach horribly maimed. But does that stop Rhonda from being confident? Hell no. Not only is she a badass babe, but she spends a good amount of time during the finale parading around topless and daring men to look at her scars and try to make her feel bad about them. Seeing a badly burned naked woman confidently blow the killer away with a gun feels strangely inspiring. Good for you, Rhonda, good for you. (END SPOILER)
After the killer and their non-sensical motive is revealed, Killer Workout provides a few more meaningless twists before going back to its screw you for not being beautiful finger pointing with one last shot of literally the only overweight person in the film riding a bike in the gym. Or is that supposed to be some kind of encouragement? For once, I really have no idea. I wish I knew who this person was, because they are like the white whale of this gym, appearing once every few hundred days to remind these body-obsessed tools that killer abs do not have to be a lifestyle. There’s a whole world outside this gym! Oh well, cue one last piece of aerobic-tainment!
This column is all about trying to find gems so that you don’t have to scrounge through the BO filled gyms known as streaming services yourself. But keep in mind, we all have different interpretations of what makes a “gem”. So, if you’re idea of one is a horror film that’s going to burn all of those unwanted calories off thanks to all of the ab-crunching laughter you’ll experience, then Killer Workout is the fitness routine you need in your life. And if you’re really looking for a sick burn, make sure to pair Killer Workout with Death Spa. Get those gains on, bros and brosefinas!
Both Killer Workout and Death Spa are available on Amazon Prime.
By Matt Konopka
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