I was kind of hoping this film would be about Jane Fonda going on a killing spree or maybe Susanne Summers knocking people off with her killer thighs, but this unfortunately is not the case; instead we’re treated to over a dozen deaths with most of them being committed with a giant safety pin. Yes you heard me right, you’ll find no chainsaws, axes, or gardening implements dripping in blood in this movie, nope the makers of this film went for the most original weapon they could think of, it’s just too bad the writers never actually came up with a reason for the killer to use this particular device.
This is going to be a rather spoiler filled review so for those of you who don’t want the twist and turns and shock ending ruined for you please refrain from reading further until you’ve seen the film, of course all the surprises in this film are so over telegraphed and obvious that they would have a hard time shocking a five year old. But who am I to deprive others of the joy and pain I suffered while watching this flick. Well now that you’ve been duly warned let’s get into the meat of this baby.
The film starts off decently enough with a woman returning home and checking her answering machine. One of the messages states she has landed a modeling assignment in Paris for Cosmopolitan magazine; the only stipulation is that she has a tan. Full of excitement at her future prospects the young beauty immediately heads to the local tanning salon. This is where her luck takes a turn for the worse as the tanning bed she chooses malfunctions resulting in roaring flames, and not the all over even tan she desired. The poor woman screams and thrashes pitifully to get free, but she is unable to extricate herself.
We now jump ahead five years (we aren’t actually informed that five years has elapsed until much later in the film, my guess is they couldn’t afford the “Five Years Later” superimposed graphic) and find ourselves at Rhonda’s Work-Out. We are introduced to Rhonda Johnson the co-owner of the gym, she is a witch with a capital “B” and between chewing out employees and fending of advances by Jimmy the gym’s resident sexist pig she just stomps around scowling at everyone. The gym itself is full of people dressed like they escaped from Olivia Newton John’s Physical video, and are happily doing their aerobic workout with smiles verging on the insane plastered to their faces, and get use to those smiles because even as the death toll rises the smiling and exercising just never stops.
Before we get on to discussing the killings I should mention the music and songs written for this film, to call them 80’s bubble gum pop is an insult to most of the crap that came out in that time period as these songs are truly horrendous with such great lyrics as “She’s a knockout, you better watch out, She’ll take you out!” and from my personal favorite song entitled Aerobicide chants “Working out until you die!” over and over again. Not much in the way subtlety are they?
Now we best move on to the murders in this film before you, my gentle readers, nod off. If this movie is lacking anything it’s certainly not in the body count area. And our first victim is an attractive black woman who is taking a nice long shower while her fellow health nuts call it a day and head off to wherever pretty people go when they’re not exercising. In this scene I’ll give props to the filmmakers for avoiding what dozens of cheap slasher films have done in the past, by not ripping off shots from Hitchcock’s Psycho. Mind you the scene is so poorly edited, and shot that they would have been better off stealing a bit from Hitchcock. The girl is brutally stabbed to death with aforementioned giant safety pin, and what’s truly amazing is the amount of blood that can be generated without there being any wound actually visible. Maybe it’s some magical property of the safety pin? One of the employees later finds the body stuffed in a locker, but not before a lame fake scare involving a resuscitation dummy in another locker.
Enter Detective Lieutenant Morgan to solve the case, but he’s got competition as Chuck Dawson, the gyms new employee, is actually an undercover private investigator, hired by the gym’s senior partner to see what’s going on. Unfortunately as the death toll climbs they both prove to be about as effective as the water tight doors were on the Titanic.
Aside from safety pin stabbing, we are treated to throat cuttings, a hanging, and heads caved in by barbells, all handled in such a way as to not let us get a good look at the killer, even though it’s obvious it has to be a woman as all the men in the film look like models for steroid abuse, and the hands and physique of the killer are rather slender.
At one point the coroner comments, “I’m running out of body bags.” I’m not an expert on the law or police procedures, but I find it hard to believe that the place is not only allowed to open the morning after a body is found on the premises, but that it isn’t closed down after the fifth or tenth victim. My only guess is that the never seen senior partner must be the mayor of the city. And of course these horrible murders will certainly not stop the customers from showing up every day, with smiles firmly in place
Chuck “Super Sleuth” Dawson suspects sexist pig Jimmy of being the killer, and breaks into his place where he finds a rather cheesy shrine to Rhonda. Jimmy, who is incredibly jealous of Rhonda, eventually kills our “hero” Chuck, and is soon on the lamb as everyone now believes he’s the killer. Things start to come to a head as we are treated to exciting fisticuffs, thrilling foot chases, and nail biting gun play (oh dear my sarcasm meter just broke). Until Rhonda blows poor Jimmy away and of course is treated by the media as a hero.
Now everyone’s happy, that is everyone but Detective Morgan whose investigations led him to discover that Rhonda Morgan is in fact Valeria Johnson the woman who we saw burned in the tanning bed accident. She now wears a wig and a full body Lycra suit to hide the burns that cover seventy percent of her body. Morgan believes she killed all those people because they are all beautiful and perfect like she use to be, and it eats her up that nobody can ever look at her body again without feeling sick. With the murders resting on the deceased Jimmy it appears that Rhonda/Valeria has gotten away with it and there’s nothing are hapless flatfoot can do about it…or is there? On the pretense of police business he lures Rhonda out into the middle of the woods to “show” her something, and she never questions why he’s carrying a shovel. After trudging for awhile through the woods she refuses to go any further and Morgan’s response is, “This will do just fine.” He sticks the shovel into the dirt and starts in a monologue on how is dad was a great cop and how he was forced to cross the line between good and bad when a serial killer got off on a technicality. The murders resumed until one day the killer simply vanished never to seen again, and Morgan knew that his dad had killed him. Now he is going to follow in his dad’s footsteps to keep Rhonda from killing again. Stupidly he turns his back on her during his speech and she grabs the shovel and kills him.
Cut to the gym where Rhonda has shown up to pick up her keys. An employee tells her how business is booming since the city has made her a hero, and that by mid week this place will be packed to the walls with beautiful people. When the employee leaves we see Rhonda pull out her key chain which is surprise, surprise, a giant safety pin. She smiles evilly at the camera, and roll credits.
The people involved in the making of this film must have seriously thought that if the had enough deaths, and plenty of T & A on camera that nobody would notice how completely lame the so called plot was. It seemed that almost every scene was preceded by shots of women working out at the gym, with some shots veering right into Airplane type parody by just showing close-ups of the breasts bouncy up and down. As for the acting…well if I was told they just grabbed people off the street and had them reading off cue cards I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised. So if you’re a true film masochist feel free to check this flick out, if not your better off watching any number of the Friday the 13th movies.