Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: Death Spa (1989)

By  · Published on October 12th, 2012

by Michael Treveloni

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge (unless you count that time Michael was challenged to eat at Schlotzky’s again), so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!


After suffering through the loss of his wife, all Michael wants to do is get his life back on track; problem is, he’s the manager of a popular spa that houses some murderous gym equipment. What began as a series of bogus accidents soon escalates to something more sinister. With patrons dropping like dumbbells, it’s up to him to learn the secret behind the trendy club’s malevolence. Health and fitness can drive people to some bizarre extremes, but what can be done when it’s the gym that needs exorcising?

Killer Scene:

A beefcake struts around the workout room showing off his sweaty muscles. After sidling up to an automated workout machine (painted an unhealthy piss-yellow) he starts a series of reps that should make everyone jealous. The futuristic machine adds weight to his workout, calling out the lbs as it does in a soothing woman’s voice. The equipment is like a distant cousin of HAL 9000, except instead of space exploration it is tasked with making studs even meatier… and meatier he gets. She-HAL takes advantage of the muscle-man’s penchant for tying his wrists to the pads and pulls his arms backwards, turning his obliques into bloody Jiffy Pop while those around scream and do everything but try and help.

Kill Sheet


Being a movie centered around a health spa, it’s fairly expected that breasts should show up sooner or later. If that’s your bag, it will please you to know that sooner is the answer. Death Spa wastes almost no time in delivering on the nudity front. A woman, clearly exhausted after a night of jazzercising hits the showers and tanning bed, showing us that tan lines are not part of her makeup. Another occasion uses the communal shower to showcase a bevy of in the buff bathing babes. Later on an erotic(?) scene involving asparagus-play shows the softer side of the film.


Anyone who has been to a gym has had visions of some of the equipment malfunctioning and maiming a user. Playing off that action, Death Spa has a few inventive sequences involving weights and diving boards and showers. Aside from that there’s also a gauntlet of chemical poisoning, acid burns, self immolation, electrocutions, possessed blenders and an exploding hand . It’s a shlocky grab bag that delivers what it can, whether it looks good or not.


Sadly it’s not big on fright. The scariest offering is actually not a horror sequence at all but one of the sexy ones. While there are a lot of haunts and gore, Death Spa shows them rather straight forward so there’s little to not see coming.

Final Thoughts

When the 80s fitness craze exploded, it was kind enough to leave enough neon and spandex behind to slop together a horror film. The Jamie Lee Curtis/John Travolta movie Perfect highlighted fitness and vanity and the rigors people were willing to endure for them. If you peeled back that film’s icky surface, it would probably look a lot like Death Spa. Here, all the pretensions are cut away, getting straight to the enthusiastic nitty gritty in a sex and synthpop package, complete with a witch and a haunted, homicidal fitness center.

Death Spa sits nicely alongside movies like Blood Diner and Night of the Demons in that they are all campy and understand that. It’s also easy to watch it roll over a premise that is at once horrible and fantastic. Drawing from a bottomless pool of ludicrous ideas, it is impossible not to have fun watching a scheming computer hacker / ex-brother-in-law, freak out at cops, who are investigating a killer who happens to haunt a day spa. When the brew boils over into a Mardi Gras themed party it’s easier to just soak in the bedlam than to ask questions. Also for those Ken Foree fans, guess what? He’s here too!

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