Monday, December 6, 2010

Killer Workout (David A. Prior, 1987)

Maintaining the physical fitness of your organic structure in a pubic ashtray became such a high priority during the mid-1980s, that even the introduction of a faceless psychopath wielding an exceedingly large safety pin failed to put a damper on their desire to do aerobics in a brightly coloured clothing. The public's enthusiasm for grinding their tightly garbed crotches in unison to the sound of techno rock was at its height, and Killer Workout (a.k.a. Aerobicide) perfectly captures that exuberance with the steely resolve of a legwarmer smeared with enough tough actin' tenacity to fuel the economy of a small European nation for an entire year. Another in a short line of slashers that revolve around exercise, this one, written and directed by David A. Prior (Deadly Prey), wastes little time inundating the viewer's visual spectrum with multiple shots of clingy bits of fabric pressing firmly against the taut, semi-youthful flesh of the agile women (and one token man with a beard) bouncing up a storm at Rhonda's Workout. Quickly establishing a sense of time and place, the film introduces us to this dewy, groin-soaked world with the help of the brilliant "Only You Tonight" by Donna De Lory blasting on the soundtrack, and the director's intrusive camera, which gets as close as humanly possible to bodies of the spa's ridiculously fit members. In fact, his camera gets so familiar with some of the participants, you'd have to be a fool not to envy the spandex suffocating their tender places with their uncompromising commitment to tightness.

A wedged gift to everyone who thought Heavenly Bodies was a tad lacking in the men and women being mutilated with a pointy object department, Killer Workout is here to rectify those concerns by providing a harmonious balance between sexy leotards and pin-based murder.

The film opens with a scene depicting a woman named Valerie, sporting the latest new wave fashions, checking her phone messages and reacting happily to news concerning a much sought after modeling gig in Paris, France. Instructed to make sure that she arrives sporting a tan (speaking on behalf of pale people, I was offended by the caller's tan-centric ultimatum), Valerie immediately heads over to the tanning salon for a quick session under the bright lights. After a few moments, the tanning bed begins to go screwy and bursts into flames.

It's an odd opening scene, as we don't see Valerie's face, nor do we have any idea if she is all right (the flames were pretty intense). But I'm sure it will all be explained somewhere down the road. Until then, we're ushered to the main floor of Rhonda's Workout, a well-attended spa/exercise studio run by Rhonda Johnson (Marcia Karr), a grumpy gal who seems to have the weight of aerobic world resting precariously upon her sweatshirt-covered shoulders.

In the middle of conducting an aerobics class, the look on Rhonda's face is one of sheer irritation. The leering eyes of a personal trainer named Jimmy (Fritz Matthews) were definitely bothering her. But it was obvious it was something else. Spilling the contents of her condom-filled purse all over the parking lot as she got out of her black Porsche, the main pain in Rhonda's well-proportioned ass arrives in the form of Jaimy (Teresa Van der Woude), a tardy aerobics instructor who loves fingerless armwarmers, inhaling jockstraps and the secure grip that only a spandex thong can provide.

Annoyed by her employee's lateness, Rhonda scolds Jaimy, but it turns out she has a bigger problem on her hands when one of her regulars is murdered with a safety pin while showering (who, if you ask me, was using way too much soap). The pinprick covered corpse is taken away in a white body bag and a surly detective (David James Campbell) shows up to ask Rhonda and Jaimy a bunch of questions. The reason the detective is so surly has nothing to do with the convoluted nature of this particular case, it's because he's terrible at his job. (Free tip: Never take your eyes off a disgruntled woman with access to a shovel, especially if they're dressed like a copper lamé harlequin disco clown.)

While the white body bag makes several more appearances over the next few days (one of the morgue workers/paramedics snarkily tells the detective that he will see him tomorrow), Rhonda's Workout inexplicably remains open for business. As expected, a shy, leggy, (unfairly) outcast aerobics enthusiast named Diane (Laurel Mock) is followed home and pinned to death in her living room, and two, no make that, three, burly fellas are pricked in the weight room. Actually, the first victim is bludgeoned with a barbell, while the other two get the pin treatment (one of them takes a safety pin right to the forehead).

An outside agitator is thrown into the mix in the form of Chuck (Ted Prior), a mysterious blonde man who has just started working at the club, much to the chagrin of its easily exasperated owner. While Chuck ends up getting in multiple scraps with Jimmy (one involving a rake), confusing the hapless detective, and, of course, annoying the hell out of Rhonda, he does make some leeway with a full-bosomed gym patron in a pink leotard named Debbie (Dianne Copeland). Impressed by his fist fighting prowess against Jimmy, Debbie, her cock-obsessed brain seething with a visor-fueled brand of intensity, invites Chuck over to her place to drink Diet Pepsi and sit on yellow and white lawn furniture.

Obviously not content with the amount of people who have been violently poked so far with a safety pin, three teenagers (one with a large clump of crimped hair sitting atop her head) fall victim to the pin killer after they foolishly decide that it would be totally rad to graffiti Rhonda's Workout with the words "Death Spa" and "Aerobicide" (a clever play on the words "aerobic," to enhance respiratory and circulatory efficiency, and "homicide," to kill a human being). Anyway, this outdoor stalking sequence pads out the film's running time a bit, and it added some variety to the shots of women exercising to electro-pop. My favourite being: "Rock n' Rock" by Sunny Hilden.

You'll notice that I didn't say, "some 'much needed' variety." Well, that's because I will never tire of watching women exercise in tight clothing to synthesizer-based pop music. As my kindergarten teacher once mumbled under her breath after catching me steal a female classmate's lime green scrunchie, "the hetreosexuality is strong in this one." (Years later I would steal a scrunchie from the singer of The Young Gods during a show of theirs at the El Mocambo.)

Combining the oblique sensuality of Gina Genshon circa Showgirls with the rugged no-nonsense posturing of Nancy McKeon from the Facts of Life, Marcia Karr (Savage Streets) is a demented whirlwind as the vivacious Rhonda, a ballsy woman who takes her thrusting and heaving seriously. I love women who look as if they're always annoyed by something, and Marcia encapsulates this non-existent fetish wonderfully, as the quality of her vexation, especially in her scenes with, well, just about everyone, was truly sublime.

In terms humping the air in a leotard, Teresa Van der Woude is hands down the crown prince of humping the air in a leotard. If the muggy atmosphere inside Rhonda's Workout had an erect penis, it would no doubt be covered with splotchy bruises after working out with Teresa's Jaimy, the only character in the film, by the way, to display any empathy towards her dead peers (she can also sense the pain of the living). Dominating the aerobics sequences like an unbalanced, workout-obsessed fiend, Miss Van der Woude manages to maintain her dignity, while at the same time, flaunt her gingerly assets with reckless abandon.

Adorned with red pumps and black legwarmers (perfectly in tune with the chromatic palette of the film's opening credits), the hubbub that was taking place around the vicinity of Jaimy's feet and ankles was far more interesting than the content of some whole films. Of course, I don't want say which films in particular, as I'm sure no-one wants to hear that their film is less interesting than Teresa Van der Woude's foot and legwear in Killer Workout (I'm looking in your general direction How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). But let's just say the overall spiritual temperament of Teresa's corporeal performance (which also includes her coin slot mouth, unpretentious cleavage and freshly blowdried hair) was one of the best examples I've seen of a modern day actress utilizing the entirety of her slender frame.

It's too bad Teresa's sister Vikki Lynn Van der Woude couldn't have been featured more (she plays a background actor). But then again, you don't want your film to suffer from Van der Woude Overkill. (10 out of 10 dentists have never heard of Van der Woude Overkill.)

Now I know what some of you are thinking, "Hey, man, this flick sounds an awful lot like Murder Rock." And you're right. An unknown killer bumping off sweaty people with a safety pin does sound an awful lot like Lucio Fulci's aerobics-based slasher film. However, Killer Workout has a couple of aces up its sleeve in the form of stylist Stacy McFarland and composer Todd Hayen. You see, while Murder Rock features bland-looking leotards (lots of browns and grays) and an incredibly cheesy music score by Keith Emerson, this film is a virtual cornucopia of colourful leotards (every shade is dutifully represented) and the synthesizer score is a tuneful, Chuck Cirino-esque treat. Using differently able words, it's the complete opposite that film, and one hundreds times more awesome.

If someone were to tell me that I was able to travel back in time to any specific moment in history, I would definitely want to go back to 1986 or early 1987. Why 1986 or early 1987, you ask? Duh, to tag along with Stacy McFarland as she went shopping for all the leotards that are seen in this movie, of course. Not to get greedy, but I would also like to be present when all the actresses (especially Teresa Van der Woude) and the extras (and not just the one's related to Miss Van der Woude) got fitted for said leotards. Oh, and I would make sure that all the shirts that bare the name "Rhonda's Workout" came with apostrophe s's, as, sadly, some of them did not.


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11 comments:

  1. Your post has kick started my 80's fetish. Time to call 1-976-LEG-WRMR

    In my mind, I am wearing my Member's Only jacket, white leather high tops with my acid washed jeans.

    She will be dressed just like the aerobics students in your post.

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  2. Could you have possibly found a better movie to represent the 1980s?
    I think not.

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  3. I knew you'd like this one, Yum-Yum! :) Quite possibly the most perfect encapsulation of all that was wrong and so, so right about the 80s. Start to finish, this one is undiluted cheese-movie joy.

    It even has a fat guy on a stationary bike--who in my memory, though perhaps not in the actual footage, was eating a hoagie while he exercised. I tend to embellish in my daydreams. :P

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  4. Hey...thanks for the great write up on "Killer Workout." I am the Todd Hayen (composer) you mention and this was my second film, composed entirely with a DX-7 and an OB-8. The score is pretty weird but now considered a bit of a cult classic. I also co-composed the feature song "Only You Tonight" with David Cohen and lyrics by his wife Janice Cohen. Those were the days!! http://www.toddhayentherapy.com/blog/

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  5. @Michael Williams: Leather high tops and acid washed jeans are a lethal combination.

    1-976-LEG-WRMR - I'd call.

    Andrew Green: Killer Workout (a.k.a. Aerobicide) should definitely be the decade's official ambassador.

    The Vicar of VHS: Fat guy?!? I could have sworn he was a lady. But then again, what do I know? I've only seen the film six times. ;)

    @toddhayen: Hey, Todd. I'm glad you were able to find my praise for your awesome score amidst all that stuff about legwarmers and tight crotches.

    @Nick Cato. Thanks, Nick.

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  6. Okay, great write-up. Oddly enough, while reading this I couldn't help but think back to my days of working in a porn store. There was a guy who came in every week to rent the same porn film. I cannot remember the name of the film (the guy was pretty damn old and wore the same coat no matter how hot it was outside), but it was from the '80s and set at a health club. The cover featured all these women in full-on '80s hair with leg warmers, wristbands and headbands galore.

    Memories ...

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  7. Aerobicide. Your comment to the composer made me laugh.

    By the way, you mention Gina Genshon in your review? Is she some sort of kin to Gina Gershon?

    Jeopardy: We're in the middle of the College Tournament. We may be caught up by the end of the year. Maybe.

    Have you seen any 2010 movies? I'm really disappointed in the year in film. :/

    By the way, Russ reviewed Rubin and Ed over at our splinter site. He dug it. Yay.

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  8. @Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son": Mmmm, headbands galore.

    I can totally see Gina Carrera and Sharon Mitchell featured on the cover of a full-on 80s porn centered around aerobics.

    @Karim Amir: Gina Gershon/Marcia Karr. It's pretty uncanny, eh?

    Did you know that Gina Gershon appears briefly at the beginning of the Andy Warhol-directed music video for The Cars song "Hello Again"? It's a fact.

    You should have some sort of all day Jeopardy! marathon.

    I've only seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies, The Runaways, Black Dynamite ("But Black Dynamite, I sell drugs in the community!" "Cream Corn! Noooooooooo!" "Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrifications is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery"), the Rush doc, and All About Evil.

    That Russ fella has a wise head in the vicinity of his shoulders.

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  9. David A. Prior is an amazing talent. Not just as a founder of Action International Pictures but as a writer and director of such fare as DEADLY PREY (no 80 crapsploitation video collection would be complete without this), he should be regarded as one of the premier shitmongers of the 80s.

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  10. I love Deadly Prey... review coming soon.

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