For horror fans, the name Gorgon Video has been long been synonymous with the over-the-top gorefests that lined the shelves during the eighties VHS boom. Now the company famous for bringing us the quasi mondo Faces of Death series is being re-launched by Dark Sky Films parent company, MPI, which promises a slate of good old fashioned Gorgon gore flicks, beginning with 1989’s unhinged supernatural revenge offering, Death Spa!
Welcome to the Starbody Health Spa, Los Angeles’ most popular and advanced workout center, where cutting-edge computer technology (basically a giant box covered in flashing lights) customizes its clientele’s workouts with pinpoint precision. Overseen by recently widowed owner, Michael Evans (William Bumiller) – whose wife Catherine (Shari Shattuck) committed suicide a year earlier, after an accident left her confined to a wheelchair –and programmed by Catherine’s twin brother, David (Wrath of Khan’s Merrit Butrick), Starbody is the model for the future of fitness. However, when an accident in the steam room badly burns and temporary blinds Michael’s girlfriend, Laura (Brenda Bakke), Michael is forced to deal with a pair of inquisitive police officers (Francis X. McCarthy and Rosalind Cash), as must prove to both them and his that what happened to Laura was just an unfortunate mishap. It’s not long before another “accident” occurs, though, and both Michael and the police investigators begin to question the stability of both the computer’s operating system as well as its programmer, David who is still reeling from the loss of his sister. Michael wouldn’t put it past David to try and ruin his business seeing as how David obviously doesn’t approve of his moving on so soon after his sister’s death, but, upon further investigation, David appears innocent, and a frazzled Michael begins to suspect that Starbody is haunted by the vengeful specter of Catherine, herself!
Directed by Michael Fischa, Death Spa is a clumsy-yet-entertaining mish-mash of supernatural slasher and gross-out gorefest with ample amounts of flesh on display courtesy of a bevy of buxom babes culled from the local porn scene. With a cast that includes Ken Foree, as Michael’s head-trainer and confidant, Marvin, Chelsea Field as the flirty Darla, and the sadly departed Butrick and Cash alongside an assortment of novices, the performances are obviously uneven, and Fischa’s direction is merely competent at best, but the kills are imaginative and hilariously over-the-top, and the ridiculous third act is worth the price of admission alone.
MPI/Gorgon present Death Spa in a very impressive 1.78:1 1080p transfer that wonderfully reproduces the era’s neon and pastel drenched aesthete. Contrast is spot on, with rich blacks, smooth skin tones, and a nice sheen of grain preserving the cinematic quality of the image. It’s not the most detailed transfer I’ve seen, and there’s the occasional touch of softness here and there, but the film likely looks as good as it’s ever going to look, and the accompanying 2.0 DTS-HD track compliments the picture with a robust and balanced mix.
The film is also presented on a standard definition DVD.
Extras include a brand new commentary track with Fischa, producer Jamie Beardsley, and editor Michael Kewley. The track is lively and informative, with lots of behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits, as well as some hilarious observations about the film, itself.
Also included is a fantastic 50 minute retrospective entitled An Exercise in Terror: The Making of Death Spa that covers the film from inception to release, and is chockfull of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and stills, and even more great stories about the production relayed by various cast and crew.
The resurrection of Gorgon is off to a great start with Death Spa. While it’s not a great movie by any means, it’s entertainingly silly stuff, and the fantastic bonus features made me go back and view the film again from an entirely new (and appreciative) perspective. For fans of warts-and-all 80s horror, this one is a must-buy!