Death Spa (1989) — Brah, do you even kill?

“Hello sweetheart. Welcome to my party.”

Justin’s rating: I need a spotter while I handle this flick

Justin’s review: You have to believe me, it’s not some buried childhood trauma that leads me to movies like this. I’m not being paid off by Big Slasher or completing 600 hours of very specific community service as ordered by the court. It’s just that when I see a premise of “computerized fitness center that just so happens to have a lethal spa,” a switch is flipped in my brain and I know I won’t be able to rest until I have seen and conquered this epic tale.

As always in this line of work, the weirdness is the appeal.

When a flashdancer almost gets chlorine steamed to death at a heavily computerized health center, sleazy owner Michael becomes mildly concerned that something is awry. When a whole bunch of other people get attacked and killed in the same place, “mild concern” is elevated to “slightly perturbed.” Who could be doing it? And why? And will this give me a valid reason not to sign up to the gym on every successive January 1st?

The titular center is not just a hotbed of neon, spandex, and throbbing synth beats, it’s also a high-tech marvel run by an advanced computer system programmed by a rather bitter hacker. But it may not be the hacker who’s behind these homicidal glitches — it might well be Michael’s immolated ex-bride come back to take vengeance as a petty poltergeist. Don’t judge, she’s pretty inventive here. And at least this supernatural angle gives us a taste of ghostbusting with the introduction of a paranormal investigator.

But perhaps this spook’s greatest trick is getting the club’s patrons to stick around after numerous attacks and fatalities. People say that they’re worried, sure, but they also don’t leave, even after a weight machine snaps a guy like a turkey wishbone. So it’s a little hard to feel compassionate for people who prize their all-access membership higher than survival.

Many filmmakers would be content to coast on a ridiculous premise, but not in the case of Death Spa. There’s a clear passion here for making something that’s as visually insane and energetic as it is stylish. Parts of this movie feel like an extended cut of MTV music videos from the era, especially with a synth score that absolutely, positively will not quit.

It’s all raging amounts of dumb fun punctuated by wholly unnecessary nudity and bizarre death scenes. Reminds me a lot (in spirit) of Chopping Mall. You watch the asparagus love scene or the killer freezer eel, and I guarantee you that you’ll find yourself grinning while shaking your head and saying, “Only in the ’80s…”


  • Was that spa sign designed by a two-year-old?
  • D….EATH SPA (clever)
  • Spin dancing can be terrifying under the right lighting
  • So much ’80s spandex
  • Hey, it’s a hacker explaining what hacking is in 1989!
  • This confrontation between in-laws is loaded with backstory exposition
  • “Besides, I’m beta and you’re VHS.” BURNNNNN
  • Colored shower tiles can shoot across the room on command
  • Why couldn’t he get his arms out of that weight lifting machine?
  • Asparagus feeding can be a romantic move?
  • The rattling locker doors is second only to her giant pink earrings
  • Blind girls can’t see locker corpses
  • “What a fantastic weight reduction program. People get so thin that they… disappear.”
  • So much big hair in these bathroom scenes
  • Fire sprinklers shooting acid!
  • The ghost suddenly appearing is kind of shocking
  • Ghosts can make guns explode
  • When you want to utter a threatening “Have a nice day,” make sure to get your face about two inches from your enemy
  • “Nice, um, arms.”
  • How long does it take to toast someone to death in a tanning bed?
  • “Careful, one flick of my finger and she’s fried chicken.”
  • The ghost-twin connection is pretty interesting
  • And a killer eel, for some reason
  • This whole movie goes full-on Carrie at the end

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