Thursday, April 8, 2010

Club Dead (2000)

Directed by Mike Bowler
Starring: Tommy Kirk, Lisa Bawdon, Leonna Small, Ron Waldron

"Something's out there, and it stole my beans."

Low budget high weirdness. Club Dead is a feast of implausibility and pseudo-Satanic twists of Cain. Although it's copyrighted 2000 on the box, it looks to have been made in the early 90's, what with the gigantic computer room and the mind-blowing 80's holdout hair styles and fashions. It's an epic (110 minutes!) aerobic killer thriller about a shadowy, possibly Satanic Mafia that funnels money and influence into a fading beauty's low-rent gym. With a new look and modern equipment, "Benson's" gym guarantees that it's members will "lose weight and look great", or they'll never charge a penny, and their formerly ragged looking 50 year old proprietor, now a perky 30 year old, is walking, talking proof of the success of "Plan EX". Mr. Ex, the Phantom of the Nautilus that's running this whole wicked scheme, is a mysterious man in black who skulks around in the shadows of the gym and takes the whole weight loss thing so seriously that he's prone to cutting off body parts of people that refuse to get with the program and lose that unwanted flab quickly enough. A local college newspaper decides to do some undercover investigating, and their star reporter Doyle Shakespeare joins up to see what Mr. Ex is really up to. She finds a club full of hypnotized exercise zombies, and when Ex gets wind of her plans to blow his cover, he lays some witchcraft on her and soon she too, is under his spell. It's up to her editor and long-time friend Cathy to take on the demonic workout guru and liberate the world from the shackles of his exercise Nazis.

Despite the cavernous leaps of faith necessary to buy into the ultra-high concept plot, Club Dead is an entertaining, campy thriller, with plenty of quirky characters and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. Although low on nudity, saved for a brief shower scene, it's got an impressive body count. With multiple electrocutions, an impaling, and countless stabbings. I'm still not sure that when you get stabbed in the belly, blood immediately pours out of your mouth, but I'm not gonna experiment with it, either. Fans of old school slashers and striped leotards will have a field day with this one.

- Ken McIntyre

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