Fatal Games does everything right instantly. Well, at least if, like me, you’re hugely into 80’s movies that contain gymnastics routines while an upbeat and over-the-top montage worthy song blasts on the soundtrack. We’re talking a tune that contains the lyrics, “Winning isn’t everything, winning is the only thing”. It’s just one of the decade’s massive amounts of slashers that somehow passed me by when I was younger and consuming every one of them I could get my hands on. It also joins Graduation Day as a sort of wish-fulfillment for those of us who disliked the “jocks” growing up. Whereas Herb Freed’s 1981 flick had our killer knocking off the track team using various goofy weapons (spiked football or fencing sword anyone?) this one steps full-on into silly-as-shit territory by having a murderer who knocks off the cast with a javelin(?!) while wearing a shiny track suit and hood.
Welcome to the campus of Falcon Academy where a generic batch of athletes are getting ready to compete at the Nationals in order to get their shot at qualifying for the Olympics. Early on we get to see them training, being pushed by their coaches, and having a little bit of fun when during a dinner party they get into mischief involving a hot dog in a girl’s lap and a spontaneous tug-of-war and food fight. However, this being a horror flick, people soon start getting killed off starting first with a girl who decides to skip a party in order to work-out only to get pinned to the wall for her troubles.
There’s also a pointless subplot about the administration dosing their athletes with heavy steroids, a whole bunch of the expected nudity (pretty sure the entire female cast gets naked here), some obvious red herrings – including the temperamental Joe (Nicholas Love) - and lots of poorly acted drama mixed with dopey kills and some very touchy feely coaches. Also on hand is Sally Kirkland as Nurse Diane who is the only cast member I actually recognized and gets to lustily massage one girl as well as over-emote throughout.
We also have to suffer through a somewhat dull midsection, a poor joke mixing push-ups with sex, a bunch of pretty standard stalking scenes, and a finale that contains the injured Frank (Michael O’Leary) giving a tearful speech and being the only one who suspects foul play (everyone else just shrugs at the disappearances of their friends) before overlong scenes of him sneaking about. There’s also the standard high-pitched shrill when he finds the bodies of his teammates and the Linda Blair look-alike Annie (Lynn Banashek) as the typical final girl. Also, check out that abrupt as Hell finish!
While Kirkland (Crazy Mama, Best of the Best) is the most established actor here she’s also not that good. Her scenes where they’re talking about the steroids are pretty painful but she does somewhat redeem herself later on. O’Leary is pretty good as the only reasonable person here and would appear in over two-hundred episodes of the daytime soap opera “Guiding Light”. This was Banashek’s only real film role – she appeared as “Cheer Leader # 3” in the Michael (“Little House on the Prairie”) Landon directed drama Sam’s Son the same year. Worth noting is the statuesque Teal Roberts who would play a stripper in a handful of movies as well as being the female lead in the T&A comedy Hardbodies.
Fatal Games is far from being the best 80’s slasher out there but is just as far from being the worst. If you’re into the subgenre it’s a pretty watchable time that can try your patience during the slower moments only to win you back with some of the goofiness I mentioned above and, like I stressed before, a killer whose weapon is a freaking javelin! Director/co-writer Michael Elliot hits all the formulaic marks he needs to and even pulls off a kill set at the school’s pool that contains a decent build-up and some nice underwater shots. This is the type of flick you don’t see these days and is one of the more forgotten of its type making it something worth seeking out for the completists out there. (Chris Hartley, 3/17/16)
Directed By: Michael Elliot.
Written By: Rafael Bunuel, Michael Elliot, Christopher Mankiewicz.
Starring: Sally Kirkland, Lynn Banashek, Sean Masterson, Michael O'Leary.
aka: Olympic Nightmare, The Killing Touch.