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Michael Fischa
William Bumiller, Brenda Bakke, Ken Foree, Merritt Butrick
Writing Credits:
James Bartruff, Mitch Paradise

You'll Sweat Blood!

The new fitness club in town has everything a health nut could ever want: a variety of workout machines, classes taught by friendly (and frisky) instructors, and a state-of-the-art computer control system for maximum client comfort. Unfortunately it s also possessed by the evil spirit of the owner s dead wife, and before long every dumbbell, leg press, and rowing machine becomes a deadly weapon for her to enact bloody vengeance on the club s beautiful members.


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/27/2014

• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Fischa, Producer Jamie Beardsley and Editor Michael Kewley
• “An Exercise in Terror: The Making of Death Spa” Documentary
• Trailers
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Death Spa [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 5, 2014)

For some obscure 80s horror, we head to 1989’s Death Spa. The “Starbody Health Spa” seems like a great location for workout junkies, but it comes with one major problem: its patrons end up dead or severely injured. This starts when Laura Danvers (Brenda Bakke) gets burned during a sauna mishap that we’ll find out wasn’t really an accident.

David Avery (Merritt Butrick) programmed the gym’s sophisticated computer system, and he becomes the main suspect. However, we eventually learn that David – brother of spa owner Michael Evans’ (William Bumiller) dead ex-wife – wasn’t the prime force behind the events. The source of Laura’s injuries – and subsequent deaths/problems – comes from a more supernatural place.

Some obscure movies deserve to remain that way, and Death Spa belongs on that list. Yeef, what an awful attempt at horror! Granted, it probably can’t help some of its flaws, as it suffers from many issues typical of late 80s genre flicks, but even when “adjusted for age”, Spa turns into a highly unsatisfying affair.

Unless you’re a fan of campy “so bad it’s good” material, I guess – though I’m not sure Spa even falls into that category. Yeah, it delivers the occasional unintentional laugh, but most of the time, the movie just seems incompetent.

Virtually nothing about Spa feels like the creation of competent filmmakers. Shots display awkward framing and scenes often jump from one to another without smoothness or logic. Pacing seems weak, as the movie never manages to maintain a consistent narrative flow, and the performances are amateur hour at best.

In theory, Spa could’ve been a decent movie. I kind of like the motion of the supernatural killer, and the choice to set the mayhem in a gym offers intriguing possibilities. In the hands of talented folks, the movie might’ve been entertaining and scary.

Unfortunately, little talent shows up here. Actually, that may not be fair, as I’ve seen good work from some of the cast elsewhere, such as Butrick, who was delightful as Johnny Slash in Square Pegs. The general crumminess of Spa negates any skills its castmembers may possess, however.

At least Spa boasts a few nice examples of nudity – that counts for something, I suppose. Otherwise, the movie comes with so many flaws that it can’t even count as a guilty pleasure.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

Death Spa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer came with a lot of issues.

Sharpness was mediocre. While the movie displayed acceptable delineation, it never looked particularly precise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I witnessed no edge haloes.

However, print flaws became a major concern. Throughout the movie, these presented specks, scratches, blotches and other marks. These never became tremendously heavy, but they created a lot of distractions along the way.

Colors were bland. The hues seemed somewhat heavy and dense much of the time, which left them as unsatisfying. Blacks came across as a bit inky, and low-light shots tended to be moderately thick. They weren’t overly dark, but they suffered from some muddy qualities. The image suffered from too many problems to rate above a “D+”.

Don’t expect a whole lot from the film’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack, as it offered a subdued presentation. Music displayed inconsistent stereo imaging; some songs/score gave us nice spread to the side channels, but others remained essentially monaural.

Similar thoughts greeted the movie’s effects, which varied in terms of ambition. Some scenes displayed decent involvement and movement, while others tended to stay pretty centered. At its best, the soundfield delivered acceptable breadth but it never did much to involve the viewer.

Audio quality was mostly decent. Speech remained intelligible but could be somewhat reedy and thin. Effects showed similar tones; though they could sound a bit scratchy at times, they were acceptable.

Music varied as well and gave us decent range with occasional lackluster spots. I noticed some hiss and background noise at times during the movie. Nothing here did much to impress, so I thought the mix merited a “C-”.

When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director Michael Fischa, producer Jamie Beardsley and editor Michael Kewley. Connected via satellite, they offer a running, screen-specific take on cast and performances, editing, sets and locations, effects, and other production areas.

Though they occasionally offer filmmaking nuggets, the participants mostly laugh and remark on what they see onscreen in a literal way. Kewley makes a lot of lame jokes and the track never goes anywhere. I’ve heard worse commentaries, but this one remains pretty useless.

In addition to two trailers - one theatrical, one video – we find a new documentary called An Exercise in Terror. It runs 50 minutes, 55 seconds and includes notes from Beardsley, Kewley, co-screenwriter Mitch Paradise, cinematographer Arledge “Ace” Armenaki, production coordinator David Reskin, art director Robert Schulenberg, composer Peter Kaye, Steadicam operator Elizabeth Ziegler, and actors William Bumiller, Shari Shattuck and Hank Cheyne. “Terror” examines the film’s roots and development, script/story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, Fischa’s work during the shoot, cinematography, production design and editing, ratings issues, music, the movie’s release and reactions to it.

After the commentary, “Terror” comes as a relief. While not the tightest documentary I’ve seen, it covers a lot of appropriate bases and does so in a pretty frank manner. We get a good overview of the film here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Death Spa. It includes all the same extras as the Blu-ray.

If you hope to find a lost genre classic with 1989’s Death Spa, you’ll only encounter disappointment. An awkward mix of Hitchcock, horror and music video, the movie lacks much to make it worthwhile. The Blu-ray offers flawed visuals, mediocre audio and a few bonus materials. I can’t find much positive to say about this terrible film.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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