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.



spookyx3 said...

needed the escape of film more than ever in 2018: 502 new features, highest since i've been keeping track; discovered the usefulness of half paying attention while doing other things (GRADUATION DAY, HAPPY HELL NIGHT, SPLATTER UNIVERSITY, FINAL EXAM, PROM NIGHT 4 etc.); all but dumped imdb for letterboxd; saw this thing JAWS that everyone's raving about; 15 new brinkes; did the first five WITCHCRAFT sequels; embraced streaming (173 films); started buying VHS/laserdiscs again; tried more post-'93 horror (circa 35 titles)...

hope you had a good movie-year, hope to see you here again soon.

(FATAL GAMES never got near the VCR in the old days; marked it 'seen' 3 weeks ago. aside from the L+B sightings and -- "you-gotta-be-kidding!" -- that guy on crutches hobbling around in the dark for like 10 straight minutes, it's already evaporated from memory.)

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I'm jealous you had such a great year. I maybe got 150 in and some of those weren't horror or are too recent to review here. Barely ANY the past three months or so, which kills me. I'm hoping things start slowing down for me here sometime soon. This next month is going to determine a lot so we'll see what happens! *crossing fingers*

Funny, I remember next to nothing about this movie, but I did find a Chuck Woolery (!!) talk show clip where Sally Kirkland and Linnea Quigley both happen to be guests and they briefly mention this!


spookyx3 said...

> Woolery (!!) talk show

ha. lasted just 13 weeks. 43rd of 64 episodes, aired november 13th, 1991. cool clip! asked about her first horror film she describes a scene from GRADUATION DAY. DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK is earlier... i haven't seen that, though.

spookyx3 said...

i usually land in the 1-250 range overall. took in around 170 horror pics in 2018. my resolution this year was to watch "higher quality" stuff -- i used to see 50-100 real knockouts, a number that's dwindled to <15 annually since 2014.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Funny, I didn't even KNOW he had a talk show until I stumbled upon that! She seems to have done at least a couple of horror films before Graduation Day. Psycho from Texas I think may have actually been the first she did. In fact, I think I remember her mentioning elsewhere that it was her first. It's probably hard to keep track. I have a hard enough time remembering what I did last week let alone 20 years ago. lol

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