Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fatal Games (1984)

... aka: Killing Touch, The
... aka: Olympic Nightmare

Directed by:
Michael Elliot

At the Falcon Academy for Athletics, seven student athletes excelling at swimming, track and field or gymnastics seem to be off to promising careers and possible Olympic dreams. That is, until someone starts spearing them with a javelin. As the madman or madwoman or mad-a-little-bit-of-both stalks the darkened hallways of the school, the surviving students try to stay alive, while surveying the possible suspects. For starters, there's Dr. Jardine (played by the director), who's been shooting up his star athletes with a special "medicine" (*cough* steroids *cough*) that may have worse side effects than just stomach cramps. Then there's compassionate nurse Diane Paine (Sally Kirkland), who seems to get a little too touchy-feely giving therapeutic massages to the females. And Coach Jack Webber (Christopher Mankiewicz, also the co-writer and producer), who's a little crazy and overdemanding. And let us not forget Coach Drew (Marcelyn Ann Williams, or as she is more commonly known, Spice Williams). The blurb on the back of VHS box claims she's a suspect but doesn't elaborate why beyond telling us she's a lesbian. You know, cause being a lesbian in an 80's slasher automatically lands you on a list of serial murderer suspects.

To supplement the repetitive and tame killings, the director decides to take this down an After School Special route about midway through, so there are scenes asking us to care about the relationship between our bland female gymnast heroine Annie (Lynn Banashek) and her equally dull track star boyfriend Phil (Sean Masterson). The acting is pretty abysmal, even by slasher movie standards. One gets the feeling most were cast for their physical prowess than for their thespian skills. In fact, several of the ones playing gymnasts, are clearly trained in the area, as we get to see them demonstrating their skills a time or two. Others on the roster of potential victims include future soap opera star Michael O'Leary, Teal Roberts (from the popular 80's teen sex comedy Hardbodies), Angela Bennett (a black actress who is seen running through the hallways buck naked trying to avoid the killer) and Nicholas Love (co-star of The Boogeyman, brother of Suzanna Love and former brother-in-law of Ulli Lommel) as a hot-headed javelin thrower. The best of the lot is probably Melissa Prophet, who'd later nab roles in Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995), but she's the very first one killed off.

None of this is to shame top-billed Kirkland though. She's an excellent actress when given good material. This just isn't good material. A few years after this was made, she'd receive a well-deserved Oscar nomination for playing a former Czech movie star struggling to find work in New York City in Anna (1987). Two other familiar actresses are also to be found in tiny roles. Linnea Quigley (who'd appeared in a more substantial role in the similar 1981 slasher Graduation Day) was the body double for Banashek during her massage scene, though she's billed as an "athlete" in the end credits. By sheer coincidence, Kirkland and Quigley were guests on the same episode of Chuck Woolery's short-lived talk show in 1991 and briefly discussed this film. Brinke Stevens - who isn't billed at all - can be seen in the background several times taking a shower.

So in short, another dud from the slasher era. OK-ish production values, plentiful nudity, next to no blood, zero suspense, terrible acting, choppy editing and continuity, a lame killer reveal (we really know nothing about the person until a newspaper clipping supposedly sheds light on it) and a terrible script. The former was co-written by Rafael Buñuel... the son of Luis Buñuel! Oh yeah, and there's an amusingly cheesy theme song called "Take It All the Way" performed by Shuki Levy and former Miss USA Deborah Shelton that we get to hear several times along the way.


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