Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Death Spa (1989)

I was in the mood for some dumb fun when I sat down to watch Death Spa (also known, at least at one point, under the name Witch Bitch). I wanted something cheesy, something delightfully '80s, and something that was simply entertaining. Death Spa covered two of those things.

It is, as you can guess from the title, all about a spa that becomes more hazardous than healthy for the people who use it. The owner of the spa, Michael (William Bumiller), worries that it may be the spirit of his wife, a woman who committed suicide. Alternatively, it may be a deadly scheme masterminded by David (Merritt Butrick), Michael's brother-in-law who blames him for the death of his sister.

Walking a thin line between competent and atrocious, Death Spa has some undeniable highlights here and there, but it's just bogged down by too many scenes featuring horrible dialogue, uninteresting characters, and not enough carnage. This kind of ludicrous premise is best served by a brisk pace and plenty of gore and/or gratuitous nudity. There's a little of both here, yet not enough of either.

Bumillier is a pretty weak leading man, especially when his character is supposed to be such a charmer who can easily keep increasing female membership numbers at the spa, and he's not helped by the script. Butrick doesn't fare too much better, although he at least gets to make more of an impression in the second half, as things get weirder and wilder. The gorgeous Brenda Bakke has a few scenes that will please her fans, Ken Foree has a few minutes onscreen, and those are really the only cast members who stood out. Oh, there was also Robert Lipton joining in with the fun in a way that makes him worth mentioning.

Writers James Bartruff and Mitch Paradise seem to have spent a lot of time either drinking or smoking substances that made their material seem more amusing than the end result here. It's a set-up that's rife with potential, none of which is fulfilled. Director Michael Fischa doesn't do enough to help, with even the aforementioned highlights never feeling quite as entertaining or over the top as they could be.

I'm sure that some people have fond memories of this one from the days when it was a blind VHS rental that ended up providing them with a fun 90 minutes (or thereabouts). But sometimes those fond memories, be they of movies or something else altogether, should stay as memories. Because bringing them back to be viewed with fresh (and, perhaps, older and wiser) eyes can lead to great disappointment.


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