Wicked Wednesday: Death Spa (1989)

Why do I do this to myself?

Each week, I spend hours researching movies that sound interesting and good. Things I want to watch and write about. And yet…and yet I find myself here. Watching Death Spa.

Death Spa is about as weird as you’d expect. It’s full-powered 80’s with an incredibly bizarre plotline that doesn’t bother to explain itself. But, with a weirdly high quality of dancing.

Michael is the owner of Starbody Health Spa. The health spa isn’t like just any ordinary spa: it’s run by a computer. The computer system helps each member with a custom work outs.

Oh, and it malfunctions in ways that causes strange and dangerous accidents.

The first is Laura, Michael’s girlfriend. She gets burns while spending time sweating it out in the sauna. The following day, a pair of police investigators arrive at the spa to interview Michael and David, Michael’s former brother-in-law who runs the spa’s computer system.

David’s sister, Catherine, died by suicide the year before by setting herself on fire in a wheelchair. The two men hardly get along, as David suspects that Michael cheated on Catherine while she was still alive.

Michael’s lawyer insists that the computer system stays running as is, or the club will lose its appeal. Michael somehow agrees to this despite the fact that several women are attacked in the showers by hot water and shooting wall tiles.

Laura eventually heals from her injuries (completely unscathed for a woman in a chemical attack). Michael invites her to move in, and she agrees. They go to get Laura’s stuff from the health club, where Michael finds a strange message for him on the computer screen.

Suspecting that the going-ons at the club might have something to do with his dead wife, Michael goes to see a parapsychologist. Dr Lido suggests that he go to the club himself to get a better understanding of what is going on. Somehow (again) Michael agrees to the (very stupid) idea.

Dr Lido is killed by a woman in white. And it shocks no one…besides maybe Michael.

Meanwhile, while Laura is away, David stops by. The poor woman can’t see, but she allows David in anyway. He claims to have done something to Michael’s computer, but when Michael arrives home that night, he can’t figure out what. But don’t worry, this is pretty inconsequential anyway.

Upon investigating Dr Lido’s death, Michael finds his lawyer’s watch in the basement. He confronts his lawyer, but it’s the lawyer’s girlfriend who admits to tampering with the club. They wanted to buy it from Michael at a low price.

But no matter. There’s an ex-brother-in-law to track now! For some reason! Despite the fact that someone

Michael takes the police officers to David’s apartment where they find it overflowing with shit. Somehow they come to the conclusion that David is involved (he does have the wheelchair that Catherine burned herself alive in – which is really just a nice memorial).

They all agree to keep an eye out for David at the spa’s Mardi Gras party. But Catherine/David kills the look out and begins to wreck havoc before you can say “but why is the club still open???”

Catherine/David attacks Laura and ties her to a tanning bed. Using the poor girl as leverage, Michael appears and tries to talk sense into the siblings. He distracts the David half enough that Michael can run away and save Laura.

Unfortunately, most of the club is getting killed off in the meantime. Laura uses the computer to lock the doors of the club and set it on fire. But Michael decides to blow up the entire computer system using the wires and his shoes(?). While many corpses lay behind, Michael and Laura manage to escape along with, more importantly, Rosalind Cash and Ken Foree.

There’s a lot I don’t get here. Death Spa literally tries to do everything: the dual personalities, the suicide, the woman scorned, the evil computer, the scheming employees, twins, and dead babies. But nothing is fully explained here!

How did David come to be possessed by Catherine? Why wasn’t Michael sad to see his dead wife? Was Michael really cheating on his dead wife? Michael spends most of this movie being the hero and being a skeeze ball.

The movie had some inventive deaths, as is unsurprising for an 80s slasher. But it sort of has to be in order to be memorable. This isn’t the only health club-themed horror movie, and it certainly isn’t the best. But it is bizarre enough to warrant a watch for a laugh.

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Riverdale Ep. 31 recap “Chapter Thirty-One: A Night to Remember”

It’s the musical episode, kids! The CW and all of the cast and crew have been promoting the hell out of this (I even saw a promotion on Arrow Video’s Facebook page). Unfortunately for me, I feel completely ambivalent to musical. Though I did go to a high school that was mad about them. A rare but kind treat when you grow up in a small hick town.

I liked “Once More, with Feeling” so I’m okay with this. But all I could pray for going into this episode was one thing: let there be plot.

Jughead agrees to film the behind-the-scenes of Carrie: The Musical at Riverdale High. And Fred Andrews agrees to build the sets to spend more time with Archie, who is at least showing interest in music again. Mädchen Amick is playing Mrs White. Chuck continues his redemption arc. Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead begin to attempt to mend their broken friendships.

There’s a lot going on this week. So I get what I want.

The most important plotline, though, is someone is out to get Cheryl. After showing off her singing chops, she nearly gets offed by a sandbag. Kevin later informs Jughead that he found a letter in his locker from someone claiming to be the Black Hood. The letter demands that Cheryl’s role must be recast, but Kevin and Jughead keep it between each other.

Jughead, of course, shares the note with Betty. So Betty begins interviewing the cast to discover who might be responsible. Starting with Ethel, who believes she was born to play Carrie.

Kevin tries to pull Cheryl out after getting a second letter, but she refuses. But she doesn’t get much of a choice, as her mother refuses to give Cheryl to perform in the musical. But it’s not Ethel who is the understudy, but Midge.

But Betty is also being a bit of bitch, constantly attacking Veronica for being “typecast” as the mean rich girl, Chris. Thankfully, some stern words from Archie sorts her out, and she apologises. Bringing B+V together again.

Hiram tries to come between Archie and his dad by revealing the big secret: the new Firebird. Fred becomes upset, as he always imagined the guys picking out Archie’s first car together. To fix up a piece of junk: together. And it’s sad, and I’m still crying because Fred deserves everything in this world.

Archie begins to feel the reality of his choices. He sees the “dark path” that he is going down, and asks Hiram to stop meddling with his relationship with Fred. He then returns the keys of the Firebird. He goes out to get a junker, and asks Fred to help him fix it up. And I’m still crying.

So this is the true redemption story, everyone. Thank god Archie has seen the light (kind of).

Alice begins to breakdown over the course of rehearsals, coming to the realisation that she’s slowly losing her family. She begs Betty to stay with her. So Betty asks her father to stop by and make amends with her father. They agree to mend their relationship, but Alice admits the truth about Chic’s real father to Hal.

On the show’s opening night, the not-Carrie-White Cheryl returns to her mother’s home covered in blood to send a message: watch the fuck out. She threatens Penelope over the safety of Nana Rose. Cheryl demands her “emancipation” and the entirity of the house the Blossoms are occupying. It certainly looks as though the older Blossom got the message (I certainly love crazy Cheryl).

Before the show, Jughead goes through Ethel’s garbage and finds magazines with letters cut out. Letters like the ones used on the threatening Black Hood letters. She catches him and claims that the letters were for her “vision board.”

As the first act begins, something is clearly wrong. When Midge is meant to sing Carrie’s first lines, all is silent. When the set is moved, her body is revealed: nailed against the wall with multiple knives and a message from…

THE MOTHER FUCKING BLACK HOOD. BACK FROM THE DEAD, YA’LL!

While I’m not nuts about musical episodes, “Chapter Thirty-One” gets everything right. For one thing, it manages to move the storyline in a positive direction better than many of the last few weeks’ episodes have. But most importantly: it creates a reason to watch next week. Is the Black Hood really back? Is it an imposter? What does Ethel’s vision board look like?

Carrie as the musical was clearly the right decision. It’s certainly a cult musical, and it plays on high school tropes just as much as Riverdale does. But it’s also dark and twisted, leaving plenty of room for the show to get a bit twisted. And it was a very clever move.

It makes me feel so happy to be proved wrong. It was amazing to see Riverdale try something with a bit of balls again. Bravo, and well done all.

Wicked Wednesday: The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope (1972)

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of rewatching John Carpenter’s Christine, a movie I haven’t seen in some years. One of the most pleasant surprises I had while watching the movie was seeing the incredible Roberts Blossom on screen again. The man always has a way of getting under my skin, no matter his role.

So went I spotted The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope on his IMDB page, I knew I had to give it a watch.

This 35-minute short film was meant to be shown in school as a sort of supplement to the study of the Salem Witch Trials. It’s by no means meant to be a horror movie, but the odd camera angles and eerie hymns certainly make it feel that way.

The Witches of Salem is based primarily on the court records and testimonies from the trials. In the village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, the Puritans rule. The United States of America won’t exist for nearly another 100 years. Meaning that the king still rules over the colonies.

The Puritans had their document of self-rule removed, potentially putting their religious freedom at risk. In the village, people begin to become afraid. They’re a hypocritical lot anyway: wanting freedom to live their lives the way they want while demanding that other people in the village adhere the same way.

One day, a gaggle of young girls speak to a slave, Tituba (Madge Sinclair), who tells them stories about the Devil in Barbados. The story shocks the girls, but makes one girl in particular distressed. The girl, Betty, becomes hysterical. She sits in bed for days afterwards without speaking.

Her father is, of course, the local minister and believes that his daughter and the other girls have become bewitched. They begin to behave strangely: laughing hysterically, choking during prayers, spinning (that last one being particularly terrifying).

Eventually, a couple ministers try to discover who has been tormenting the girls. They begin to shout names of the locals including Tituba, the local tavern woman Bridget, a minister and a poor woman.

A court is gathered to try the witches, and the ministers agree that the witches can only be convicted with “scientific tests” only. None of that water test nonsense!

And thus each of the accused are found guilty. It’s difficult to tell of the young girls are hysterical or a part of a big joke to get half their village killed. Either way, they behave like a group of mean girls that make the Heathers look like the Baby-Sitters Club. They’re quite eerie to watch (or at least I got a kick out of it).

Unfortunately, Blossom only makes an appearance right at the end as Governor Phips, the man who eventually disbanded the court involved with the trials. A voice over tells the viewers the aftermath of the trials, about how all the “witches” were released (that is, if they hadn’t already been killed) and a literal translation of the Bible could no longer be considered civil law.

As someone who never studied the Salem Witch Trials in school, I thought it was an interesting little short. The age of the short helps enhance the mood. It’s a bit silly, yes, but I certainly wouldn’t have complained if I was forced to watch this in a class.

Wicked Wednesday: Dead Body (2017)

Last month I read all three of L.J. Smith’s Forbidden Game novels. A group of friends get trapped in a game and must outsmart a Norse entity to save their own lives.

I loved it. And how the books haven’t been turned into movies is beyond me. But I have been addicted to find anything and everything that fits into a similar trope. If anything, I’ll accept Clue.

When I read the synopsis of Dead Body, I really thought “This is it!” A group of friends at a cabin in the woods start playing a night game, and someone kills them off. It sounded perfect.

But unfortunately, Dead Body isn’t perfect. At all.

Future Ivy Leaguer Dominic prepares to entertain his former high school friend Ilsa for the weekend. His plan is it for just to be the two of them, and the two Japanese exchange students. Though plans go awry when Ilsa arrives with her friend and much older boyfriend. Followed by three more boys.

Dominic begins to panic, but the kids settle in and begin to party for the night. Eventually, they all begin to talk about their future plans as they’ve all just graduated high school (though all clearly much older). Dominic is upset because he’s forth on the waiting list. But Ilsa’s boyfriend Dwayne doesn’t care. And neither do I.

Dwayne mentions that all of his friends from high school are “dead” or, as he vaguely acknowledges “dead to him”. This is quite a clever bit of the script, but don’t worry – this is never brought up again.

When they become bored of the dead people talk, ‘nerdy’ Rumor (played by a poor man’s Tom Lenk) suggests playing Dead Bodies. The game is played like this: one of the group is chosen to be the killer when slips of paper are picked. Everyone must then hide. The killer must then go around and pinch people, “killing them”. Then if someone finds a dead body, they must shout “DEAD BODY” and everyone then convenes to discuss who they think the killer is.

So the group begin to play, but is interrupted when Ilsa’s friend Sarah sees one of the exchange students ‘dead’ with ketchup on his throat. They reset and Sarah is dragged into the basement by exchange student Mariko. Then, unsurprisingly, the real bodies begin to pile up.

When Ilsa breaks into a locked bed room, she finds Mariko, Kenji and Dominic’s dead bodies on a bed. As no one has cell reception (yet can still text each other), they have no choice but to wait until they can drive to the police. But Rumor comes to the conclusion that since there are no signs of forced entry, the killer has to be one of them.

The kids then proceed to blame each other for various reasons, playing up to their stereotypes. Sarah is found and everyone jumps to the conclusion that she’s the killer. They handcuff her to the bed where the corpses lay, but she manages to escape. One of of their group, the druggie whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, runs into the woods, he gets his head hacked off. Then Rumor gets a hook up his face.

By now, only Isla, her boyfriend Dwayne and Ilsa’s sweetheart Marcus are left. They find their van, but realise it has been vandalised. They also find Sarah, who is about to reveal something to them, but Dwaye shoots her with a nail gun.

After that little event, Marcus and Ilsa suddenly think the killer is Dwayne and kill him. But they’re clearly wrong and Marcus is attacked. And finally it’s to the end. But it’s clear from the very beginning of the film who the killer is, so it’s hardly surprising when they have their big reveal.

And that, I think, is the biggest shame about the film. Who-dun-its are some of my favourite books and movies to read, but they have to have more than one convincing killer. It’s so clearly one person that it’s not every interesting. Plus the motivation of the killer is so ridiculous and impossible, it’s hard to watch.

That ending, man. It really drags itself out. But perhaps it will catch someone else by surprise, so I won’t spoil it here.

Though it’s a fun concept, Dead Body is basically every horror film you’ve ever seen. And on one hand, it makes it clear that it knows this. These sort of self-aware horror films can be incredible. But what’s the point if you don’t do anything clever or new with it? It just comes off as lazy writing.

To the movie’s credit, there are some genuinely disgusting moments that are horrific to watch in a hide-behind-your-hands sort of way. So if  you’re in to that, you might just like this enough.

As for me? I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for my Forbidden Game adaptation to come along.

Wicked Wednesday: Venefica (2016)

Nearly every post I write about short films begins the same way: what makes a good short film? For me, they have to strike that oh-so-difficult balance between being intriguing and satisfactory. All too rarely writers only nail one and not the other.

Venefica is one of most successful at managing to do both…in under 8 minutes.

A young witch in the mountains of New York spends her day chopping wood and keeping an eye on a boy tied up in the nearby cabin. The day is particularly important to her, as the Fates will decide whether her magic will be used for light or darkness. It’s her witch’s coming-of-age, and she must do it on her own (with insistence from mom).

It’s certainly a simple premise, but loaded with fantastic stuff. Writer, director and star Mara Wilson has got a good touch. Within just these short few minutes, she conveys magic and realism at the same time. Little touches like her argument with her mother on the phone are just perfect.

Venefica manages to be so beautiful, interesting and intriguing in less than 8 minutes. It’s some seriously good work. I might have liked a little more context and world-building, I was intruged by her references to Roman and Greek witches. But on the other hand, I’m glad the story is shrouded in its mystery.

I’ll be sure to keep an eye and ear our for Wilson’s future work. She’s got my full attention.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/177479424″>Venefica Trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/mariawilson”>Maria Wilson</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Riverdale Ep. 30 recap “Chapter Thirty: The Noose Tightens”

So last week’s episode of Riverdale ended on a pretty bleak note: Cheryl Blossom in conversion therapy.

And it really doesn’t look good for her. Her favourite part of the week is watching the movies in which she imagines her friends in the various roles. But thankfully Toni isn’t as naive enough to believe Penelope Blossom’s bullcrap. She tells Josie and Veronica about her concerns, and both girls seem on board to help.

Which is slightly weird because Josie is now Reggie’s running mate again Veronica (who has made Archie her running mate after Betty’s exit). It takes one trip to see Penelope, though, to get Josie running. She shows the girls the drawing Cheryl had done of her and Josie. Josie connects the dots and realises that Cheryl was the one who sent her the pig’s heart. Which is right…right?

Veronica’s dad receives some “uninvited guests” in the form of two gangsters that helped plot against Hiram with Papa Poutine. They are anxious about Hermione’s mayoral campaign, but tell Hiram their worries would be eased if they got a large cut of the prison project.

The cut, though, would put Hiram at a loss, and he refuses to meet the demands. But since Hiram has less muscle power behind him these days, the men try scare tactics. Including have Adams (that fake FBI agent/turncoat) shoot Andre.

Putting Andre in the hospital leaves the Lodges completely unprotected. But Archie comes up with an idea before Hiram hands over all his money: give Reggie the Bulldog vote for president in exchange for them blowing up a car. Seems fair.

Archie’s meddling, though, makes him miss his own father’s announcement for running for mayor. But Archie is a big asshole, and I’m over him anyway. Oh and he gets a blue car.

The only people with a week worse than the Lodges are Betty and Alice. Remember how Chic totally murdered some guy? Well, the ‘lake’ that Betty and Jughead pushed the car into was actually a swamp, and the car was discovered.

Alice panics and begs Betty to return home as she’s staying with the Joneses. But she makes an ultimatum for her mom: Chic leaves and Betty stays. Only Alice isn’t about to be pushed around by a 16-year-old and Betty is dragged home with her tail between her legs.

But the peace doesn’t stay long. Just as Betty is demanding a tattoo, Chic arrives with the owner of the car: the dead man’s girlfriend. Understanding that one of the Coopers killed her boyfriend, the woman demands $10,000. Alice agrees and sends Betty. Only when Betty returns home, she finds that Chic’s old, violent landlord is also there.

The two Centervillians say that they are unwilling to leave, even with the money. But before Alice can argue, Jughead and his Serpents arrive to stop the argument. It’s really an olive branch as the Serpents were originally angry that Jughead was running for president with Betty, whose mom abandoned the Serpents.

But at the end of the episode, we see FP and Alice together. Together forever, perhaps? Hopefully. Those two are such a beautiful couple of loveliness it’s just not sure.

But the highlight of the episode came thanks to Kevin.

Toni receives a call at school one day from Nana Rose, who managed to get to a phone by crawling to it. Nana Rose tells Toni that Cheryl is with “the sisters” but the call is cut before she can explain more.

Toni tells Veronica about the call, and they come to the conclusion that it’s the Sisters of Silent Mercy. They go to Kevin for help, who tells them about a tunnel that some of the “patients” use to escape out of the facility.

That night, Veronica, Toni and Kevin go together to liberate Cheryl. In one of the sweetest moments in recent Riverdale history, Cheryl and Toni share their first kiss in a creepy convent.

So Cheryl is safe. For now. And she’s back with a bloody vengeance. If I were Penelope, I’d probably watch my back.

*New fun/shit theory of the week. I’m assuming Chic is the son of a Serpent (probably not FP at this point). What about Tall Boy? He’s a jerk. It could make sense. Especially since Alice doesn’t want to talk about it. Seriously, though, will this be answered this season? I can’t imagine caring all the way into season 3.

The next episode of Riverdale will air in three weeks. And it’s the Carrie: The Musical episode! How does that factor into the plot? Does it need to factor into the plot? We’ll just find out next month.

Wicked Wednesday: Gargoyles (1972)

In the final week of Made-for-TV March, I wanted to watch something a little different. When I saw Gargoyles was a thing, I thought to myself, “Well. I’ve never watched a gargoyle movie for my blog.”

And there was probably a reason for that.

Gargoyles follows a father and daughter pair on their (supposed) trip to Mexico. I say supposed because there is nothing to lead to believe this is set in Mexico other than a brief exchange of dialogue in the first three minutes.

Doctor Mercer Boley is an archaeologist, primarily interested in demons and the like. His daughter, Diana, travels with him to a Desert Museum where they meet the quirky Uncle Willie. He claims to have artifacts and transcripts of exorcism rites that interest the doctor. Only when Uncle Willie takes the two out to his barn, that’s not what he shows them.

Instead they find a skeleton that looks like it’s been pieced together with various animals, plus the skull that looks like a very thick longhorn. The doctor begins to leave, thinking it a joke, but Uncle Willie convinces him to stay for an interview. Uncle Willie locks the barn door and he begins to tell the Boleys about how he found the skeleton.

Before long, though, they hear something on the roof of the barn. It begins to shake, and a fire starts. Uncle Willie dies in the event, but the Boleys escape with the unusual skull.

On their drive, they are attacked by a gargoyle. The beast nearly wrecks their car. The Boleys manage to get to a gas station for help, but the car is thorough damaged. They decide to stay at the nearby hotel for the night, where and eccentric manager keeps watch.

They return to the wreck the next day with the police. But when they arrive, they find that people are already there. Several men on dirt bikes quickly flee, some of them chased by a cop. After the men are all wrangled up, they admit that they were stealing from the ashes, but that they had nothing to do with what happened at the shed the night before.

Though Mercer knows that they didn’t have anything to do with it, he knows that it’s unlikely that the police will believe in tales of gargoyles. So he allows the men to be arrested for theft (and whatever it is that happened at the shed).

That night, Mercer wakes up in his hotel room to find it now contains several live gargoyles. They attack him, but they eventually flee. He does find the corpse of one, though, and decides it’s a good idea to take one to study!

Diana, having seen the gargoyles again, tries to convince the police to release the men. But neither the policeman or the men wrongly locked up believe her story. So she leaves them.

The following night, Mercer and Diana are attacked again when they return for the body. The two manage to escape and try to leave via their busted car, but it doesn’t start. The gargoyles flip the car, and take Diana away with them to their mountain refuge.

When Mercer awakes, he goes to the police station where the hotel manager is begging for help. The police and the locked up men all agree to call for back up while locating where the gargoyles took Diana.

While the men and the weird lady divvy up the work, poor Diana is stuck in a cave. The Head Gargoyle (dunno if he has a name) seems to have a bit of a crush on Diana. But he mostly speaks in long-winded prose about taking over the world from men. Not really Diana’s type, I assume. He claims he means her no harm, but she then sees the hatching of gargoyle’s eggs. You know, the ones that will grow up to destroy all of humanity.

During the search, the men find an empty truck of one of the bikers and the body of the hotel manager strung up a post – dead. They’re then attacked by the gargoyles leaving the cave. When Doc comes face-to-face with one of the gargoyles, the gargoyle says that the hacked gargoyles will need time to develop before they can wipe out men. Doc then says he isn’t sure humanity is ready to be wiped out, which is fair enough.

Mercer eventually is led to Diana, who is being seduced (or something) by Head Gargoyle. Diana is dragged away before Mercer can get her. But the remainder of the search party go in to the cave fighting. One of the bikers even manages to set fire to the eggs before he is pulled down by some of the gargoyles.

With much of the future of the gargoyles destroyed, Head Gargoyle swears to start over again. He takes one of his lady gargoyles and sets off into the night, leaving Mercer and Diana to watch.

And if that doesn’t tell you this movie is weird, it is. This is a very strange movie. The first half is actually pretty good, but as soon as the gargoyles take Diana away, things quickly go down hill. But the cast is pretty great. I would have loved more of Grayson Hall (of Dark Shadows fame), who plays the crazy hotel woman.

Much of Gargoyles is strangely shot. For one, all the gargoyles seem to move like they’re in fast forward. Also, they read really fast (apparently). The monsters in general were pretty poorly developed. Or maybe I just couldn’t understand any of the Holy Wars mumbo-jumbo.

Ultimately, though, I just don’t think gargoyles are my thing.

Director Bill Norton went on to direct several episodes for popular television shows like Buffy, Angel and Roswell. As well as a whole slew of TV-movies. Gargoyles was one of his first pieces of work, and I’d be willing to check more of his stuff out. This, for one, was certainly interesting if anything.