10/15/12

Death Spa a.k.a Witch Bitch (1989): Feel The Burn!

As most of you know, I am of course an amazing psychical specimen and I put fitness above almost all else. While I've never been named Mr. Universe, it is only my own modesty that keeps me from competing on that level. Of course, while I'm sitting around pumping iron, I like to take in as many flicks as I can to keep the old adrenalin pumping. So while I was doing some stuff today that makes Paul Ryan's workout plan look like it was for girls, I popped on my headband and popped in the 1989 flick Death Spa, which on my copy was billed as Witch Bitch. Under either title, it's a surprising gem of a film that made me really feel the burn in my horror muscle. So break out you leotards and get pumped up for Halloween. 

At the Star Body Health Spa, whose neon sign goes out immediately to reveal the name Death Spa, a terrible accident happens in the steam room leaving a girl with terrible burns all over her body. The L.A.P.D come to investigate and they have lots of questions about the state of the art computer system that controls the spa. Its malfunction caused the accident, and when a diving board comes loose almost killing a girl the police grow more suspicious of foul play. As the bodies begin to pile up, it starts to appear to the owner Michael (William Bumiller) that it might have something to do with his dead, crippled wife who immolated herself I'm their backyard. Bringing in a supernatural investigator (Joseph Whipp), doesn't do any good, and soon Michael must face his past to save his business and his life. It all comes to a head when Star Body hosts a Halloween costume party that really makes people feel the burn. 

If you don't love the gym and casual styles shown off in Death Spa then there is a dead place in your heart that will never know joy. Aerobic enthusiasts in striped onesies, dudes in short white shirts, Ken Foree hanging around in a casual blue, red, and yellow Karate style gi are all on display just to name a few. Of course, if what you're looking for is big haired 80s ladies getting down to their birthday suit in the shower you're in luck for that as well because Death Spa wastes no time getting to sights like that either. From the shades of One Night In Paris showing up in one scene to the sleazy lawyer, the hard nosed cops, and the neon galore, Death Spa is a near perfect picture of late Reagan era trash. Fun, stupid, and brilliant, the movie far surpasses either of its titles with sheer entertainment value. Plus, make sure to stay for the closing credits for a cock rock light song that can't be misses. I couldn't describe the acting in Death Spa as good per se, but I would call it inspired. William Bumiller makes Michael a likable guy despite what could have been a jockish lunkhead role, and Brenda Bakke makes for a sympathetic female lead as the Witch Bitch's first and favorite target, Michael's new love. David Avery gives the most interesting performance as David, the dead wife's computer programmer brother. At time playing the role a little British (or was it supposed to be gay?), there was for sure something incestuous about him. Ken Foree shows up a couple of times, and what an I say about Ken in this film that the sheer number of high fives he gives out and tank tops he wears doesn't already say for itself.

Director Michael Fischa got his start in film in 1986 in the art department of the film Echo Park, and then three years later he directed his first feature My Mom's a Werewolf with Susan Blakley and John Saxon. The same year Fischa made the drug culture inspired film Crack House with Richard Roundtree and Jim Brown in 1989, a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, and Death Spa. While on the cusp on the 90s Fischa was keeping himself busy, it would ale hi, until 2005 to direct three more films. In recent years, Fischa has returned to his native Austria to continue marketing films and has two releases, Hopped Up- Friedloche Droge and Stella -Auge um Auge, both in 2013. Having at least enjoyed two films in his catalog, My Mom's a Werewolf and Death Spa, makes me want to further investigate this very interesting and varied director. 

The only weak segment of Death Spa comes at the very end where the film jumps the shark in the climatic moments. When zombie frozen fish are attacking, then you've gone too far. Despite, or perhaps because of, the wild veer into cheesier territory, Death Spa is the perfect selection for any Halloween get together and enjoyment will friends will only enhance the experience. Plus then you have someone to show off to, and you can all sit around looking ripped and tearing phone books in half, you know, because honestly who needs a phone books except to rip it in half. So check this one out, and  Until tomorrow, Lair-ers, keep pumping that iron and watching them genre flicks!

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