Your Tour Guide Through Cinema Trash (and Treasures)

Dec 28, 2018

Death Spa (1989)


A cool new Los Angeles health club opens, but the customers keep winding up dead.  Featuring murderous bathroom tiles, killer tanning beds, and fatal saunas.


 The Starbody Health Spa is the gym everyone's talking about.  

The place couldn't be more eighties if it tried: bright colored spandex, neon, aerobics music, big hair... when Hollywood tries to recreate the eighties feel but overdoes it, this is what it looks like.

Priscilla (Alexa Hamilton) is a trainer at Starbody.  Field played Teela in the Masters of the Universe movie.

 Marvin is another trainer - played by the one and only Ken Foree.


Starbody's high-tech computer system is overseen by David (Merritt Butrick).  I primarily know him as Johnny Slash from Square Pegs, but he was in a lot of things.  This was his last film before tragically dying of AIDS.

 After a workout, Laura (Brenda Bakke) decides to go for a relaxing sauna.

Brenda Bakke has been in a good number of well known pictures including  L.A. Confidential (1997), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), Star Trek TNG and Under Siege 2 (1995).  Her TV work includes CSI, NYPD Blue, Dark Angel, a regular part on American Gothic, and continues to work to this day.

It's pretty steamy, but you can see Bakke delivers the full monty for this scene.  What's interesting is that I don't think we ever see Bakke's eyes open in this entire film.  She's in it from start to finish, but  as you'll see, we never actually see her eyes.

 A toxic gas is emitted in the sauna, and she can't escape.


 She's not dead, but she's blinded.  Her boyfriend Michael (William Bumiller) is at her side.

 Michael owns Starbody and blames David for Laura's "accident".  I swear this gym's computer system is more advanced than HAL.

 The girls take a shower, when another strange accident strikes...

 Tiles start popping off the wall and hitting the girls.  What a bizarre thing to happen.

 At home, Michael nurses Laura back to health, showering her with romance.

 Michael is getting weird messages on his computer.  "I Miss You Michael"

 Michael consults your neighborhood occult expert.  He thinks it's the spirit of his dead wife, Catherine.

Linda (Cindi Dietrich) receives a letter from Mike telling her to meet him in the gym's basement.  Of course, it's not really written by Mike, and she is killed down by the boiler room.  When Death Spa was initially filmed, there was a creepy janitor who served as a red herring. The janitor part was cut from the film, but doubtless was connected to this scene.

David shows up at Mike's house and acts erratic and disturbed around Laura.  Catherine was his sister, and he carries resentment against Mike's new flame.

The funniest scene of the movie.  Mike confronts a guy... by getting oh-so-close to his face, and just staring.  I was sure they were going to kiss.

 It's Halloween, and Starbody is having a big party. Marvin is serving drinks.

While the party goes on, one of the girls, Vicky (Tane McClure), slips away to the sauna with Tom.

Tane McClure is a VZ1 favorite, and in a shit ton of sleazy movies, but she never shows bush.  This, I believe, is just about as close as she's ever gone.  Pretty impressive.

We find it's not really Tom  as his face melts before her.  


 It's Catherine back from the grave, and she's taken over the gym's computer system.  Catherine is played by Shari Shattuck who did a ton of soap opera work, as well as a lot of eighties TV including Matt Houston, Knight Rider, Mad About You, Valerie, etc.

But now she looks like David.  What the fuck is going on?  Evidently, Catherine has possessed David's body.

Laura has been tied up to die on a tanning bed, but Michael has arrived in the nick of time to save her.


Marvin is thrown through a glass wall when he attempts to restrain David/Catherine.

 All hell breaks loose at Starbody.  Blood is spraying everywhere as the party goers are under attack.

Everyone is trapped inside as the place goes up in flames.  The gym's sign goes from "Starbody Health Spa" to "Death Spa".  THE END

I much preferred Killer Workout to Death Spa.  While this has a lot going for it, with nudity and an overabundance of eighties vibe, it wasn't as fun.  I guess you could say it wasn't as cheesy and bad - with a bit more polish and budget.  And what about the characters of Marvin and Priscilla?  They're introduced, then basically disappear.  I'd have liked to have seen more of Ken Foree.

On the plus side, we get to see Tane McClure about as nude as she's ever gotten on film.  But it's not enough to overcome the dreadfully stupid idea of a possessed computer controlling a gym; the possession of David is beyond bad.  I can appreciate camp, but this was just a little too flat.  Yes, there was a shower scene featuring murderous bath tiles... and yes, a woman is attacked by a blender at one point. But it sounds so much better that it actually is.

★☆☆

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