Michael Fischa's Death Spa is a cheeseball supernatural slasher in badly edited three-act structure. The sleaze is quickly solidified barely five minutes in with full womanly nudity gasping for oxygen in a locked, ammonia-filled sauna. Shortly afterward, an unfortunate coiffed hair Betamax fan suffers massive torso restructuring from an unruly pec deck and more nubile girlies have shower tiles hurled at their steamy genitalia while washing off. Primo loudly color-splashed trash from the decade that threw copious amounts of dove white yayo upon brutally toned hardbodies.
Then the whodunit aspect settles in with the arrival of the detectives and Michael trying to find the roots of the disastrous happenings at his spa. Tom is suspect being standoffish toward both the investigators and Michael's chemically-blinded new love (after the horrific suicide of his handicapped wife a year prior). Meanwhile, Michael enlists the help of a psychiatrist/medium who inevitably becomes another victim along with a stream of others. This middle portion does overpower the more exploitative attention grabbers earlier, but honestly, the slowdown isn't too off-putting. Despite being a bit soapy, the acting by Bumiller, Lipton, and love interest Brenda Bakke actually excel past the questionable expectations that arrive with a movie entitled "Death Spa" or "Witch Bitch" depending on your territory. You actually start to question who the killer could be...at least a little.
That said, no one pops in a movie entitled "Death Spa" or "Witch Bitch" expecting a future showcase on Inside the Actors Studio. The furious final act is when the identity of the murderer is revealed and the premise wildly sways through a protracted gory climax. Heads explode from vibrating mirror, faces melt by dripping acid and/or suddenly explode a la Fulci's The Beyond, death by maniac blender, death by frozen barracuda, terrified boobies surrounded by fire, mystic burnt corpses, and a useless Ken Foree surviving like a boss. Sure, none of these zany delights reach the technical level of a Savini, but one can't help but feel that Fischa, crew, and cast are genuinely trying to deliver exactly what us undemanding horror dorks want.
And sometimes, like in the case of Death Spa, that's enough to sheen over the many rough areas. In his own probably unintentional way, Fischa imparts a longevity far beyond his film's immediate moment with this giving nature. A little something that all memorable horror films, or at least memorable horror film moments, share. Although this one certainly isn't an obscure classic, but easily one of the more deserving pieces of '80s fun as of yet officially unreleased on DVD. Just cuz, check out the cover scans of the two editions pictured above, MPI's U.S. VHS and Tokuma's Japanese VHS, over at The Scandy Factory's cover gallery.