Director: Michael Elliot
Cast: Sally Kirkland, Lynn Banashek, Sean Masterson
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
Plot: While they train for the Summer Olympics, the nubile young students of Falcon Academy of Athletics are being murdered one by one with a javelin.
Analysis: Fatal Games is kind of in your face about how bare bones it is. What you get is sexy young people chatting, then wandering off to be speared. It's spare, is what it is. It's even got a hell of an organizing principle. The sports-themed characters and killings provide lots of opportunity for bared flesh and nasty murder set pieces.
Unfortunately, the film's first flaw is that it uses the same gore gag over and over and over. Slasher films can survive the killer using the same weapon throughout the entire thing. Look at Scream or Sorority Row. But if it's the same weapon used the exact same way, it gets old quickly, and the inventiveness of using a javelin pales the third time you see someone clutching their gut with half of a wooden pike wiggling between their fingers.
The characters that are getting put through the wringer also aren't particularly interesting. Their dialogue is admittedly realistic to what Olympic hopefuls probably talk about in their day to day life, but you'd be hard pressed to argue that it's interesting stuff to come out of a horror character's mouth. The script is minimal as hell in every way though. The murder mystery is also incredibly anemic. Although multiple characters could conceivably be called red herrings, the screenplay never asks much of them and certainly never thinks to remind the viewer that they're meant to care about who is mowing down these teens.
The only place where the film shines in any legitimate way is two distinct shots. The first is a cool shot of the killer backlit in a gym sauna that is kind of reminiscent of the film-saving shot in Final Exam. The second is a close-up of a tiny character detail of a nervous coach picking at the label on his beer bottle. But that's it. In a nearly 90 minute movie.
Spareness and lack of creativity is not necessarily something that will sink a film for me, considering how many horrible slashers I've sat through in my life. In fact, I was floating along mildly enjoying myself and certain I was sitting through a totally satisfactory 5/10 movie. Until the killer reveal happened. I'm gonna drop some SPOILERS, be warned.
This film's tropiness doesn't stop with the ending, which indulges in the worst The Killer Was Trans storyline I've ever seen. Transness was constantly being equated with murderous rage in the early 80's, but the mystifying motive and confused depiction of what a trans person even is are especially poisonous, enough to make me dock an entire full star from my review of the film. The only spot of light in the sequence is that it also contains the laziest plot point I've possibly ever seen, which is at least remarkable: the killer is successfully hiding their identity until the final girl looks at the floor and sees a twenty year old newspaper explaining who the killer is. You know, those ancient papers that are always lying around in university sick bays. Good stuff.
Fatal Games is kind of like those store brand Oreo cookies. It assembles all the ingredients in the right way, so it's definitionally the thing you were looking for, but it's got a gross aftertaste and you wish you had just splurged and gotten the actual Oreos.
Killer: Diane Paine (Sally Kirkland of Double Exposure)
Final Girl: Annie Rivers (Lynn Banashek)
Best Kill: The killer hides in the pool and gets Lynn right in the gut from underwater while she's swimming laps.
Sign of the Times: The shorts on these boys might as well just be athletic cups painted purple.
Scariest Moment: Annie unknowingly just barely avoids being murdered when she sneaks into the school after hours to retrieve a textbook.
Weirdest Moment: An overwhelming amount of time in the first act is spent on panic about there not being enough napkins.
Champion Dialogue: "How'd you like to come to my house tonight and bob up and down on my bed?"
Body Count: 6
- Nancy is javelined in the chest.
- Sue is javelined in the gut.
- Joe is javelined in the back.
- Lynn is javelined in the gut.
- Frank is javelined in the back.
- Diane falls and is impaled on a trophy.
TL;DR: Fatal Games is a barely-there slasher that is basically competent until a truly dire final ten minutes.
Rating: 3/10Word Count: 778