Sunday, December 6, 2015

Shock 'em Dead with your Killer Workout

Director Mark Freed directed exactly two movies; Shock 'em Dead from 1991 and Lovers and Liars aka Criminal Desire in 1998. Both of these were pretty much late-night cable TV fodder, buried in the Skin-a-Max block of B-Movies. They both also share the common theme of actors who were in career limbo; some continuing a comeback and others hanging on for dear life. Lovers and Liars stars "Bud Bundy" (David Faustino) and Mr. Kung-Fu himself, David Carradine (I'll let you decide which category they fall under). But the far more interesting story is of the infamous Tracy Lords, star of Shock 'em Dead and a woman who literally grew up in the adult film industry from the mid to late '80s. But after getting a mainstream break into TV via the show "Wiseguy", she would get her "legit" film debut in Jim Wynorski's Not of This Earth in 1988.

Three years, a few movies and a John Waters classic later, she took her smoldering good looks to the set of Freed's rock 'n roll horror, Shock 'em Dead. Okay, so it's the early '90s and music still has an '80s hangover. So the rock 'n roll featured in Shock 'em Dead is full-on hair metal complete with lots of hairspray, big riffs and a heavy helping of cheese.  Managed by Lindsay (Lords), the up-and-coming band "Spastique Kolon" is on the hunt for a lead guitar player that will put them over the edge and get them a record deal. But everyone they try out ranges from mundane to just terrible, including nerdy pizza maker Martin. But when Martin is mocked out of the audition, he turns to the mysterious local voodoo lady to make a deal to literally sell his soul for rock 'n roll. He awakens in his new mansion surrounded by hot chicks, and he can wail on the six-stringed axe. But you know as well as I that deals with the Devil never come without consequences and the new rock star in town learns it the hard way; by being forced to murder to stay alive.

Like most movies of its ilk, Shock 'em Dead has a thin plot mostly driven by a gimmick. There is lots of great cheesy hair metal music and performances weaved into the story along with a few (mostly off-camera) kills and a good portion of nudity. Not surprisingly, wanting to leave her adult film reputation behind, Tracy Lords is not one of the nudie cuties. The kills are mostly little-to-no blood and the only real "gore" is a couple of transformations and an exploding head at the end. But there is enough insanely trashy rock 'n rolling and boobs here to keep you entertained for most of the time. There are a few lulls that should have been edited out to pick up the pace.

That leads me to David A. Prior's sleazy exercise slasher Killer Workout aka Aerobicide. After this, his third feature film, Prior would go on to have a wonderfully impressive actionsploitation resume. (Two of those awesome movies, Deadly Prey and its sequel Deadliest Prey, are also both out on Blu-ray from Slasher//Video). My favorite movie of his is Raw Justice which stars a boob-astic Pamela Anderson in her prime getting down and dirty with David Keith of An Officer and a Gentleman fame. But before all of that, Prior would take advantage of the aerobics and slasher movie crazes of the mid '80s with Killer Workout, a movie that would be copied a few years later by director Michael Fischa in a movie called Death Spa. Coincidentally (or maybe not) there is a scene in Killer Workout where someone spray paints the words "Death Spa" on the window of the building. You could do yourself a favor and make these two movies a spectacular double-feature one drunken night when you're alone.

Killer Workout starts with a woman entering a tanning bed nude and getting burned alive inside. Jump forward a bit to "Rhonda's Workout", a spa and gym where sexily-clad females dance and do aerobics that basically look like not-so-clever ways to make their titties jump up and down. This is a place where meatheads walk around with their bulging muscles and harass the hot chicks until they finally give in. But wait, now suddenly there is a killer running around, ever since new meathead Chuck (David Prior's brother Ted) started working there. And like Shock 'em Dead, that's really all that happens aside from a thinly written police procedural. The rest of the time is padded with LOTS of suggestive aerobics, boobs, stabbings and a twist ending to top it all off. Of the two movies, Killer Workout moved a little faster and didn't seem to drag like Shock 'em Dead. Both movies are really entertaining for those cursed with the love of cheesy nostalgia.

They are both now available on DVD and Blu-ray through Slasher//Video via Olive Films' offshoot Martini Entertainment. They are both mastered from tapes; Shock is from a 1" master and Workout is from a PAL BETA standard play. So of course they don't look slick and perfect, but both of them look very good and aside from a few minor spots of scratches, blurriness, etc. these are great releases of both movies.

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