Fatal Games 1984 Review
Fatal Games 1984
aka The Killing Touch aka Olympic Nightmare
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Starring: Sally Kirkland, Sean Masterson, Lynn Banashek
Review by Luisjo Joaquín González
Fatal Games was released a couple of years after the largest peak in the slasher cycle’s popularity period and it was one of the first additions to my collection on big box VHS. I have watched it many times, but it is never one that I have held a particular fondness for and it rarely gets mentioned alongside other genre favourites. It lacks even the charm of say, Graduation Day, which is a film it is often accused of imitating.
Many eighties slashers that don’t deserve their cult status managed to live on simply because they became rare, which meant that enthusiasts like me, dedicated weeks (sometimes years) trying to to find them. A fair few were also castrated by censors upon release, which meant that the human nature of us wanting to see the things that we weren’t allowed, gave them a notoriety that they would never have deserved without such intervention. In cases such as the one that befell The Dorm that Dripped Blood, the honour of being chucked on the video nasty list and banned for public consumption was a golden ticket to a longer life expectancy as bootlegs would surface and interest would sustain.
This entry lacks any nostalgic benefits and therefore only offers what it says on the tin. However no one can say that a film featuring a hooded-javelin wielding maniac can be totally devoid of interest, so I was keen to give it another look after years of it collecting dust particles in my garage.
An athletic training school is preparing for a National contest and all the young hopefuls are being put through gruesome training routines. Things take a turn for the worse when a javelin brandishing nutjob begins slaughtering the students when they stay behind to practice after hours. It becomes apparent that the disappearances are linked, so who or what could be behind the occurrences?
It seems bizarre to accuse a movie of ripping off Graduation Day, because the film’s director, Herb Freed himself, will probably admit that his cheeseball is hardly a title worthy of such adulation. It’s hard not to level that accusation at Fatal Games however, because there are a few otherwise inexplicable similarities between the two. Everything from the athletic teens getting slaughtered and then their faces crossed off of a team-photo to the javelin stick being used as a murder weapon seems to reference the former sports-themed genre piece. They even start with almost identical credit sequences, which show the characters training in slow-mo shots with a funky rock tune setting the vibe.
Do you remember during the eighties when almost every film had a sugar-coated message and an equally mushy theme tune to hype up headband wearing audiences (which we all were back then)? Songs like Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ are postcards from a lost generation that fortunately thus far hasn’t found its route to return. Now if you thought, “Everybody wants to be a winner” from the opening of Freed’s Graduation Day opus was taking the biscuit in terms of eighties pumping up tracks, then Fatal Games runs away with the whole biscuit pack. Here we have lines such as ‘winning is everything’ and ‘take it to the limit’ (clearly ripped from Scarface’s ‘Push it to the Limit’) and the song is so laughably energetic that I almost jumped out of my bed and began doing press-ups.
It’s a shame that first (and last) time director Michael Elliot never ‘took it to the limit’ as his direction is so flat that it feels like the print was placed under a steamroller before it received distribution. What we have here is two gears: bland and even blander and things don’t get any better than that. There’s one very good shadowy ‘studio shot’ that must’ve been filmed by the next-door neighbour or perhaps it was stock footage, because it is re-used continuously every time the killer strikes and nothing else from Elliot comes close to matching it. Like the maniac from Baby Doll Murders, this guy is a bit of a fashionable psychopath. When on massacre duties, he dresses in a shiny striped tracksuit with matching trainers and it’s easy to see that this is an assassin with considerable eighties style. Of course we are all meant to be trying our hardest to work out who it is hiding under the hood, but the conclusion, upon revelation, is completely implausible if fun all the same.
There’s no real tomato juice goo on display here, but there’s some creative ways to finish off a teenager with a javelin. The guy under the mask has a ‘supernatural slasher villain ability‘. These are much like super hero powers and many eighties psycho killers had them. Like, for example, this guy is able to magically transport to appear exactly in front of a fleeing victim or being able to move a corpse and clean litres of blood in seconds without any products available to do so. The nut job here can throw the said javelin with enough power to impale someone from as far out as 500 yards! That’s a necessary skill however, because the director doesn’t believe in close-ups on the action and everything is filmed from football-pitch length distances. I really enjoyed the swimming pool killing, which was obviously lifted from The Prowler, but it is a real slice of fun as well as being grimly effective. The assailant puts on a full scuba kit and climbs in to the pool, before swimming underneath his intended victim and waiting for her to pass by, before adding her corpse to his collection. How the girl managed to remain oblivious to someone with a bubble-bellowing scuba tank attached to his back and a two-foot pole in his hands was quite amazing, but the sequence is amongst my favourites simply for that.
The only thing that this can really be remembered for is the extremely high levels of nudity on display. All the bunnies (and most of the guys too) are naked at one point throughout the runtime and there’s a hilarious sequence where a girl flees the killer in her skin suit, which goes on for about three minutes. The cast also warrants a mention, with Sally Kirkland who would later get an Oscar nod and comedian Sean Masteson as one of the youngsters. The performances are pretty lame throughout, but I think most of the student-aged cast members were hired more for their gymnastic abilities than their dramatic credibility.
What else can I say? Well the finale is quite well staged, as a guy on crutches finds the bodies of his colleagues stashed in lockers and there’s a chase sequence that ends on a scaffold tower, which was a novel idea. But that’s pretty much the best it gets to be honest.
So this is somewhat lacking in charm and it’s flatly directed, but it’s not necessarily that bad of an entry. I would pick this over 90% of the modern day slasher trash anyway...
Final Girl √