The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: AEROBICIDE (1987)

by: Damon Swindall
June 8th, 2011

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS for AEROBICIDE

Ah, back to basics.

Not that I haven’t loved the last couple of weeks of horror with a little more serious side, because I do! Nothing like a truly effective horror film to get the blood pumping, that’s for sure. But there’s a lighter side to the genre that we all love just the same and it’s what the HMN crowd loves to see. The zanier the film, the better for consumption with groups (and possibly a few drinks along the way). Thanks to the horror boom in the '80s, we have plenty of flicks to choose from and this week’s pick is a shining example of everything awesome in the world of '80s slashers.

All that’s needed is to follow a simple checklist and you’re guaranteed success:

- Cast a bunch of co-eds, they must appear scantily clad or, preferably, in the buff.
- Add one psychotic killer with an interesting weapon of choice.
- Create some inventive death scenes.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously!

Well, David Prior’s AEROBICIDE (a.k.a. KILLER WORKOUT) followed this checklist to the letter and, because of it, he created a very enjoyable, classic slasher flick.

Rhonda’s Work-Out is your average small gym. There are sweaty individuals devoted to health, exercise, or just losing weight partaking in the dumbbells, recumbent bikes and, most importantly, the aerobics programs. Suddenly business as usual has been interrupted by a few stabbing deaths on, and off, the premises of various members. The police are clueless. Could the whole thing have something to do with a young model who was horribly burned in a tanning bed accident a few years earlier? Yes, it has a lot to do with that. The gym members might be afraid, but nothing will keep them from some aerobics!

Where to begin on this masterpiece? This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen AEROBICIDE and I love it just the same, if not more! This is the type of film I don’t think I will ever tire of watching. It has some great death scenes, some “fun” surprises, and oh so much cheese. The perfect combo!

The happy aerobics class

Leading off the checklist is the presence of plenty of young co-eds. In this case we have large groups of, mostly, women participating in some very gratuitous scenes of aerobic exercise. These spandex leotard and leg warmer-wearers are featured many, many times during the film, busting out some sweet moves to the sweet, and very '80s, pop tunes. In fact there’s a pattern after each time you see someone die another aerobic session is not far behind. Not to mention you get to see a lot of behind. Rimshot. Prior knows his audience and treats us to many close-ups of the ladies as they stretch and bounce around. Surprisingly, he opts not to show any of this in slow-motion. Not sure why, as that’s they only thing really missing from this film. The only way he could possibly beat this is by including a scene of topless/nude aerobics like in Jackie Kong’s BLOOD DINER (which we watched last year at HMN).

One thing you can always bet on with a David Prior film is that you’ll see his studly brother Ted Prior in a role. Here the muscled man plays Chuck Dawson, who turns out to be a private investigator brought in to go undercover in the gym to track down the maniac behind the deaths. Of course we don’t know this at first, we just know that Rhonda has a new employee who is not really off to a great start. On his first day - within the first five minutes of his first day - he goes to take out the trash and ends up getting into a fistfight in the parking lot. After that’s after he leaves with a girl who saw the scuffle and is now hot for his beefy manliness. Back at her place, we see them drink a couple Diet Pepsis in her yard before she drops down to a bikini to entice him. Sex is implied, but it’s not like she had a choice - ol’ Teddy is quite the hunk. I kid, but he does have some pretty impressive hulking features. Maybe his brother only hires him because he’s afraid of getting beat up if he doesn’t.

Chuck kicking ass

Meanwhile back at the gym, bodies are still piling up while Chuck is getting laid and not doing much investigating. There have been some rather interesting killers over the years who use a wide variety of weapons. Leatherface swung the chainsaw, Freddy has knives for fingers, Jason wields a machete (or whatever else is handy) and ol’ Michael Myers sticks with just a classic big fucking knife; but here our killer stays away from these more common devices to use an oversized safety pin! It looks like something you would use to pin a diaper on someone with an adult baby fetish. I guess it can be scary, it certainly does the trick. I do find it a little hard to believe that this killer can shove it through a person’s skull to puncture their brain with ease, but what are you going to do? This is where you draw the line?

AEROBICIDE is full of hilarity, whether intentional or not. Aside from the massive amounts of '80s teased hair on the ladies, or the insane amounts of screen time given to aerobic footage, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face. Take the working land line telephone in the middle of the yard of the girl who’s hot for Chuck, for example. How in the hell does that work? I don’t see any long 100-foot phone cables snaked from the house through the grass and to the phone next to the set of chairs where they shared their diet sodas. One of the employees, Jaimy, has a penchant for sneaking into the men’s locker room after hours to play with the, presumably dirty, jock straps left behind in lockers. Not sure if that’s more funny or disgusting. Probably equal parts. Rhonda’s sweatshirt is also head-scratching and humorous. According to the sign outside her gym the name is “Rhonda’s Work-Out” but everywhere else the spelling/grammar is a bit different. Nothing else has a hyphen in “work-out” and at one point she’s wearing a sweatshirt that reads “Rhondas Workout”, which I assume means that it’s an establishment where only those named Rhonda can get in some exercise. Later in the film, she is wearing a different shirt and it has the apostrophe. Guess the script supervisor/continuity person missed that one.

"Rhondas" Workout?

With all of the funny moments in this film, from the super cheesy fights Chuck gets into, to the assorted styles and colors of Members Only jackets the cop wears, one scene in particular trumps them all. Said scene is not only tear-producing hilarious, but also usually ends with a lot of people who watch it repeating the same line Detective Lieutenant Morgan says, “that’s not necessary.” All because of how we find out that Rhonda was actually the model who was in the tanning bed fire at the beginning of the film. She rips open her shirt to reveal some very burned boobs and torso. It’s a bit of a shock, but a moment that makes me giggle each time I see it.

Graffiti on the gym
On a down note, one of the worst things about movie is the lack of a proper DVD release. This is one I would buy in a second! Just imagine the greatness of a commentary track, maybe some vintage behind-the-scene pictures or videos, a reversible cover with artwork displaying both titles, a trailer, a soundtrack...alright, I’m getting a bit carried away. Still, a DVD would be amazing and a soundtrack would make me squee. Now that Intervision has burst on the scene with the awesome release of David Prior’s first film, the shot-on-video horror flick SLEGEHAMMER (1983), maybe they will be the ones to resurrect the lovely AEROBICIDE. My fingers are crossed because this is one of those films that everyone needs to see. Tons of fun with some cool slasher moments, quite a few confounding '80s faults and more exercising than you can shake a...well, shake weight at. It’ll be the most fun you’ll ever have in a horror film set around a gym - at least until we watch DEATH SPA in August.

Until next week, save your life - stay the hell out of the gym.

Body Count: 13
Best Death Scene: Stabbed in the head through the convertible car top
Time to First Death: 12:35
Time to First Aerobic Scene: 4:51
Number of Aerobic Scenes: 8
Total Time of Aerobic Scenes: 8:51

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-6/8/11: SYNGENOR (1990)
-6/15/11: LA CASA 5 (1990) aka BEYOND DARKNESS
-6/22/11: POPCORN (1991)
-6/29/11: AMSTERDAMNED (1988)

This director knows his audience

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  • Anonymous

    These reviews are great because they make me remember films I forgot from my youth.

  • Anonymous

    These reviews are great because they make me remember films I forgot from my youth.

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