The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Fatal Games’ (1984)

Posted by Damon Swindall - April 10th 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Editor’s Note: Due to a CMS error, the Chronicles of Horror Movie Night from two weeks ago posted as last week’s and this one was missing from the system until now. We apologize, but hey, double entries from Damon in a single week is nothing to complain about, right? Enjoy, kiddies.

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’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!

Fatal Games' VHS Cover

In the grand pantheon of the horror genre there are many subgenres. From werewolves, to ghosts, to Satan, and all the way to zombies, you would think the bases would be covered. But no, you can delve even deeper into sub-subgenres. Take slashers for instance. Not only can you classify something as a slasher, but they can be supernatural, realistic, camp terrorizers and, yes, even sports related. This week at HMN we witnessed the sheer power of a gymnastics based slasher film from 1984 called Fatal Games that will leave you in stitches and in shock.

People at a special school focusing on Olympic athletes is targeted by an unhappy killer. These young gymnasts/track-and-field stars are working their hardest to make it to a big competition with their sights firmly set on their Olympic future. Unfortunately for them, someone is jealous and expressing that jealousy in a very deadly way. One by one these kids are disappearing; later found having been kebabed by a javelin. Their dreams in danger, and so are their lives!

Cue ominous music.

She done got javelined

In the 80s they started to take any premise, and I mean any premise, and try to turn it into a viable slasher flick. A killer of gymnasts? Good grief. On the plus side, they did have the foresight to take this rather lame setting and give our mysterious POV killer a pretty bitchin’ weapon. I’m sure in 1984 there hadn’t been too many films, if any, where someone speared their victims with the throwing of a javelin. Forget your machetes, hatchets, or plastic wrap over the head – track-and-field instruments are the cool thing!

The downside of this awesome weapon choice is that even though we get a decent body count, and some toothpicked young coeds, there is very little of the red stuff. How in the hell do you make a slasher with a javelin killer and not give the audience some good gore? Most of the death scenes could be shown in a made-for-TV movie in prime time. If not for the copious amount of boobage this could very well have been a Movie-of-the-Week on CBS. At least we do get a few boob shots, though they aren’t really in sexy situations. Well, except for in the showers where they can’t get naked quick enough.

Fatal Games might be light on gore but it does have plenty of cheese. Take the aforementioned shower scene for instance. While in the girls’ locker room we have full-frontal chicks soaping up, when we see the men hitting the showers they’re wearing fucking jock straps. I’m not saying that I need to see wangs swinging around to have a good time, though some would disagree, it’s just that it’s like the insecure prepubescent kid showering in his white skivvies after gym class. How am I supposed to take anyone who does that seriously? But that’s not the only laugh-worthy moment of the film. Just seeing death by javelin is hilarious in and of itself, not to mention when someone gets speared underwater after the killer dons a wetsuit and full scuba gear to wait, posed with weapon in hand, at the bottom of the pool! One of the guys on the team suffers a pretty hilarious broken leg injury during a dismount from the parallel bars, but that’s not the funniest part. Later he is part of a great, and long, tension building (not really) scene where he’s stalked by the killer as he traverses the darkened school on his crutches. The winning moment comes when he finally sees the baddie and has to run away. Seeing someone “run” while using crutches is fucking hilarious. It makes it look like you’re watching something in fast motion. A total Benny Hill moment.

Lap wiener!

Then there’s the killer…

Wait! Before we continue I must warn you that I’m about to spoil the ever living shit out of this film. I have so much to say about the killer and can’t really do so without giving it all away. So, if you don’t wanna know then just jump to the last paragraph now.

You’ve been warned.

So, after all of the mystery surrounding the deaths of these young, athletic students it’s revealed that the killer is the nurse who has been attending to their needs throughout the film. But that’s not where the mystery ends. Turns out that ol’ Diane Paine – yep, they went with Nurse Paine – hasn’t always been a lady. She had a sex change to try and win big at the Olympics years earlier. Her event? Javelin, of course. Now our final girl has figured this out because Paine kept newspaper clippings of her whole sordid past handy for anyone to stumble upon. How convenient. The real laughs come soon after when the killer’s true voice comes out and it sounds like some secret informer in the witness relocation program. They could have gone with an actual guy’s voice, but no. Then her tragic death is the final gut busting laugh of the whole ordeal as she falls from some high scaffolding in the gym and finds herself impaled on a trophy sitting on the table below. Then immediately… credits.

There is an interesting bit of information about Diane Paine – well, at least about the woman who plays her. The actress behind the post-op killer is Sally Kirkland. Not sure if that name means a ton to you, but just a few years later she would go on to win a Golden Globe and garner an Oscar nomination for her leading role in the 1987 film Anna.

If you haven’t seen this film it’s probably not going to be the easiest one to track down. No DVD release currently but there are VHS tapes floating around somewhere. There are large parts of this movie that are pretty boring and grind rather badly, but there are some solid fun moments in this film and it’s about a killer with a javelin!

Until next week – Be sure to check out the sweet opening credits song “Take It All the Way” by Shuki Levy and Deborah Shelton!

Body Count: 6 (and one beetle)
First Death: 17:55
Best Death: Underwater Javelin’
Number of Blatant Asics Product Placement Items: 6 – not including that everyone is always wearing Asics.
Fun Fact: Scream Queen Linnea Quigley has a small part as one of the other athletes in the film. This makes it the second (to the best of my knowledge) film she’s a part of that mixes sports and horror. The other is Graduation Day (1981).

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-4/4/12: The Runestone (1990)
-4/11/12: Microwave Massacre (1983)
-4/18/12: The Initiation (1984)
-4/25/12: A Night to Dismember (1983)

Boo!

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