During the early eighties the totally unexpected international box-office of both John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Sean S. Cunningham's Friday The 13th (1980) gave gloriously bloody life to the phenomenon of the slasher movie subgenre. Indeed, with Carpenter and Cunningham's genre classics still fresh in the mind of both horror fans and more mainstream audiences alike, both the studio's and independent producers promptly delivered a veritable wave of similar stalk and slash efforts in order to cash in on the sudden audience desire for seeing obnoxious teenagers falling victim to psychotic killer's. While some of these slasher pictures were well received and have gone on to achieve cult classic status in their own right, most were obviously pretty interchangeable and as a result mainstream audiences eventually began to tire of the stalk and slash subgenre.
However, the presence of the new and lucrative avenue of home video ensured that cheaply made slasher flicks continued to be turned out throughout the eighties. Meanwhile as some filmmakers became increasingly desperate to single their efforts out from the largely uniform slasher crowd, some pretty bizarre and often unintentionally hilarious stalk and slash type horror efforts eventually began to find their way onto the video shop shelves. Notable examples include Michael Elliot's Fatal Games (1984), Jim Wynorski's Chopping Mall (1986), Michael Fischa's Death Spa (1988) and, not least of all, the film I'm reviewing for you today Aerobicide.
Directed, co-produced, written and edited by David A. Prior (a director responsible for a whole host of forgettable straight to video fodder) Aerobicide was originally shot and released in 1986 under the original title Killer Workout, but was later re-christened with its much more familiar and much more memorable title for its video release here in the UK. Marketed as a cheesy exercise in gratuitous gore and T&A, Aerobicide if nothing else succeeded in becoming something of a bargain bin and tatty video shop staple during the halcyon days of VHS, especially here in Britain where it was originally released on video by Apex in 1987 then later reissued in the late nineties on Stephen Haynes' fondly remembered Satanica label.
Aerobicide takes place at the Rhonda's Workout gym where famed aerobics instructor Rhonda's business is thriving as her predominantly young and female customers flock there in order to keep themselves in shape. However, Rhonda suddenly finds her business under threat when a brutal serial killer begins systematically murdering members of her aerobics class in a variety of brutal ways. The ill-tempered Lieutenant Morgan is promptly sent to investigate but despite his presence the killer perseveres in cutting a gory swathe through Rhonda's clientele list. Is the killer a disgruntled or obsessive ex client or employee of the gym? Or does the truth, as Lieutenant Morgan soon begins to suspect, happen to be a lot more sinister and lie much closer to home?
Say what you will about Aerobicide, but you certainly have to hand it to its director David A. Prior. While it is all too plainly apparent from the outset that his practical filmmaking expertise doesn't extend at all beyond pointing the camera at something and shooting it, he undoubtedly delivers on the lowbrow promise of plenty of sleaze and slaughter right from the films unintentionally hilarious opening scene in which a young lady, nude save for a skimpy pair of bikini bottoms, is suddenly roasted alive when the tanning bed she is using malfunctions. From there Prior proceeds to exploit the sleaze potential of the films aerobic class setting to the absolute max as he crams the films relatively brief running time with countless scenes of nubile young women gyrating around in spandex leotards which practically disappear up the crack of their buttocks whilst barely containing their heaving bosoms. The camera shamelessly focuses leeringly upon their jiggling breasts and gyrating pelvises, which should if nothing else ensure that Aerobicide keeps viewers who are on intimate terms with the famous "Mrs Palmer" sufficiently amused!
However, far from being a gratuitously unpleasant wallow in sleazy depravity, Aerobicide in truth is actually nothing short of a camp pantomime of eighties cheesiness which is both too ineptly made and just plain daft for any viewer to possibly take seriously. With their permed hairstyles, perfect physiques and make-up which seems to have been caked on with a trowel, the women all look more like their dressed for a porno shoot as opposed to an aerobics session. Meanwhile it is a toss up as to which is more horrific, the ungodly proliferation of pastel and fluorescent coloured Lyrca on display or the generic, atrociously dreadful girly pop-rock which blares away on the soundtrack throughout. Elsewhere Prior and his cronies keep the laughs coming thick and fast as the film progresses as the aerobic customers of Rhonda's Workout carry on beaming idiotically whilst jigging about maniacally, seemingly oblivious to or not at all bothered by the fact that a shadowy psychopath is busy slaughtering the establishments patrons. If this were not enough Prior even throws in for good measure a couple of jaw-droppingly dreadful fight scenes which feel as if they have strayed in out of a particularly bad straight to video martial arts picture.
In fairness to Aerobicide it does, if nothing else, live up to its billing as a slasher picture by at least ensuring that the requisite killings are frequent and plentiful. Of course the gore effects are pretty much limited to a generous smearing of stage blood and it obviously goes without saying that in Prior's hands these scenes are totally devoid of suspense, plus the killers principal modus operandi of murdering his/her victims with what according to the evidence of my eyes appears to be a gigantic safety pin is more funny than frightening. Nevertheless, Aerobicide still delivers its fair quota of bloody slayings as a girl is pinned through the neck whilst in the shower, another is stabbed whilst hiding in her car, throats are slashed and one unfortunate young male gets his head smashed in with a dumbbell.
However, it must be said that whenever no-one is being killed Aerobicide often seems to forget that it is really supposed to be a horror film at all as the whole premise of a killer on the prowl at the gym is amusingly reduced to an afterthought amidst all the simultaneously cheesy and sleazy aerobic sequences. Needless to say the acting is all resoundingly wooden and awful too. In particular female lead Marcia Carr as Rhonda comes across as bitchy and totally unsympathetic as she acts like she is more concerned about the disruption to her business than she is with the fact that her customers are getting killed left, right and centre. She also receives equally substandard support from her co-star David James Campbell who in his role as investigating detective Lieutenant Morgan spends the whole film scowling and snarling at everyone having seemingly gleaned his whole "hard bitten cop" routine from watching too many American TV detective shows. Meanwhile judging by the calibre of his performance one can only assume that former "Playgirl Man Of The Month" Ted Prior bagged his role as dashing young gym instructor Chuck purely because he just happens to be David A. Prior's brother. Shameless nepotism rearing its ugly head? Surely not?!?!
To be fair it must be said that Aerobicide does at least succeed in keeping the viewer in the dark up until around the hour mark as regards to the identity of the killer. However, that is only because Prior's script never really goes to the trouble of establishing any particularly likely suspects until the killers identity and their rather far-fetched motivations are rather abruptly revealed at around the hour mark. At this point Aerobicide begins to steadily descend into tedium only to then recover in time for a suitably ridiculous ending which delivers both a hilariously silly topless shooting and a completely unnecessary final twist. Just in case dimmer viewers still haven't latched onto what Aerobicide is all about, Prior then polishes things off by gratuitously replaying the films less than subtle, pelvis grinding, breast bouncing "aerobic" highlights for posterity as the end credits begin to roll.
At the end of the day, all I can say is that no-one ever advertised Aerobicide to be a horror classic. Really it is probably just as well they didn't, because if they did they would probably make themselves liable for prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act given the inept direction, awful performances and the complete and utter lack of anything even vaguely resembling tension or suspense. However, as uniformly terrible as Aerobicide may be, if nothing else the unintentional laughs are kept coming thick and fast, whilst the shamelessly blatant manner in which Prior constantly targets the lowest common denominator appeal of bloodshed and bare flesh ensures it is seldom anything less than engaging in its own unique, cheesily woeful kind of way. Indeed, Aerobicide is campily hilarious festival of hideously dated eighties fashions, gyrating female's and gory slayings which fans of trashy "so bad it's good" style horror should positively lap up. It may not be big and it may not be clever, but I'd personally plump for Aerobicide over yet another boring, interchangeable Halloween or Friday The 13th sequel any day of the week.
Aerobicide was released on UK region free DVD in 2001 by Dark Vision, a label run by Sovereign Multi-media, the same company behind the UK horror specialist VHS label Satanica in the late nineties, who - perhaps not coincidentally - also released Aerobicide. At any rate the Dark Vision DVD features a VHS quality full screen transfer which whilst a little soft and fuzzy is at least certainly watchable. However, the sound quality is less impressive, in actual fact the dialogue is so quiet that I had to turn my television up to near maximum volume just to make it audible. Judging by a comment made elsewhere on this forum the earlier UK Satanica VHS release also suffered from the same problem making it very likely that the VHS and the Dark Vision DVD were mastered from exactly the same source. Finally it should be note that the very first UK VHS release of Aerobicide on the Apex label suffered 18 seconds of BBFC cuts back in 1987. Whilst there is no information on the BBFC site relating to any subsequent resubmission's I must say that the Dark Vision DVD showed no signs whatsoever of being cut to me. Although obviously I could be wrong...
Aerobicide (Dark Vision - UK Region Free DVD): amazon.co.uk