Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout Review
The fitness video boom was kickstarted, quite by accident, in 1982. As a companion to her massively successful Workout Book (which had been published just in time for the previous Christmas), Jane Fonda put out a companion VHS entitled, quite simply, Jane Fonda’s Workout. It quickly became one of the all-time bestsellers on the format and so a phenomenon was born. Fonda herself brought out new books and tapes at regular intervals, with plenty of others getting in on the act too; by the early nineties Cindy Crawford had replaced the two-time Oscar-winner as the queen of the fitness vid.
Yet even before the switch of crown, it was clear that these tapes were ripe for parody. During a visit to the set of Murder Weapon in 1989, filmmaker Kenneth J. Hall made a joke about how one of its death scenes – involving Linnea Quigley’s repeated use of a sledgehammer – resembled a workout. At the time it was just a throwaway line intended to raise a chuckle and nothing more, but the idea stuck. Before the year was out Hall had gotten a script together and convinced Fred Kennamer and David DeCoteau (producer and director of Murder Weapon, respectively) to come on board for Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout. Essentially it would follow the format of every other fitness video, only with added nudity, gore and zombies.
Barely an hour in length, Horror Workout is built around three routines. Once Quigley has taken a shower over the opening credits for no other reason than it was expected from her movies at the time, she proceeds to limber up front of an open fire whilst dressed in stockings and metal-studded bra. “Would you wanna watch me workout in a baggy sweatsuit?” comes the justification, one that establishes the video’s tongue-in-cheek tone especially well. Horror Workout is fully aware of just how ridiculous it is and shamelessly declares the fact. Hall may have hired a choreographer (in the guise of Cynthia Garris, occasional actor, composer and the wife of horror director Mick), but there are strong doubts as to the validity of these routines – indeed, this may very well be the first fitness video intended solely for spectatorship rather than participation.
Nevertheless, Hall delivers three workout sequences in a fairly straightforward manner. Following Quigley’s solo turn in the first, we then get a pair of group efforts, one with the recent unearthed living dead and another with her scantily-clad slumber party pals. During the audio commentary Hall acknowledges that the actual keep-fit content should really have been trimmed down. He was determined to deliver an hour-long video, though realises now that four sections (ensuring more ‘narrative’ and less actual workout) would have done the trick better. Needless to say, the novelty of zombies exercising or the less-than-subtle ogling of young girls in their lingerie quickly wears thin once stretched beyond a minute or two.
But then Horror Workout’s appeal lies elsewhere. Quigley is the main attraction, of course, and she makes for an incredibly endearing presence. By 1989 she’d been active for more than a decade and secured her status as ‘scream queen’ thanks to almost 50 feature film appearances. Plenty of those pictures were comedy-horrors from the Charles Band camp and so she was well-versed in the brand of humour on display here. It’s irreverent, wink-to-the-camera stuff, played with a giant grin and a goofy, infectious charm. The ramshackle nature of the whole thing has a similar effect – shot in just two days and beset by behind-the-scenes problems (ranging from absent cast and crew members to faulty sound equipment and rapidly fading daylight), Horror Workout cannot help but look a little cheap and yet still the enthusiasm shines through.
Emphasising the cheekiness on display is the decision to incorporate loads of clips from Quigley’s previous movies as a means of both padding and promotion. She explains prior to the first routine, for example, that a scream queen needs to keep herself in shape and build up her stamina owing to the demands of fending off various co-stars and SFX creations, which cues up excerpts from Vice Academy, Assault of the Party Nerds, Creepozoids, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and more besides. Later on the slumber party gathering has a pile of her videotapes to choose from as part of their midnight viewing prompting a selection of highlights from Nightmare Sisters. Rights issues prevented two of her key roles being included – namely Trash in The Return of the Living Dead and Heather in Savage Streets – though both still earn a quick shout-out. Essentially Horror Workout is reminding genre fans of their favourites, though I suspect it would work just as well for newcomers hoping to get a taste of that particular brand of eighties comedy-horror.
Not that Hall relies solely on the film clips to ensure the scares. No slumber party would be complete without a massacre and so he unleashes a Reagan-masked psychopath into proceedings in order to up the gore count and provide Horror Workout with a climax befitting of a Quigley effort. There’s even a gloriously dumb reveal that tops things off nicely.
Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout makes its DVD debut as a Collector’s Edition limited to just 1000 copies. It’s being released by The Fright Film Factory via the Legacy Features’ website and also comes with a signed photo of Quigley and Hall.
The disc itself is pressed, encoded for Region 1 and in the NTSC format. Single-layered, this proves more than enough to hold the 60-minute main feature plus extras. Horror Workout maintains its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, though do be aware that it was both shot and edited on video meaning the presentation quality was never going to be to the highest standards. And so, while the image is clean and the colours looking as intended, it isn’t especially crisp and also comes interlaced – which becomes immediately noticeable whenever there’s any heavy movement. Occasional wobbles come into play too from time to time, though perhaps some will see this as creating an authentic VHS vibe.
The soundtrack, presented in DD2.0 form and without optional subtitles, is similarly flawed. It copes fine for the most part when it comes to the dialogue, though John Vulich’s score (which shamelessly rips off Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Tears’ over the opening credits) fares less well, suffering some distortion during the busier sections. The overall mix is also quite high, so be on your guard when first popping the disc in the player.
The special features are an impressive bunch, especially the audio commentary. Quigley teams up with Hall for this piece and they clearly enjoy going back over their old efforts. In fact, the heavy use of clips from other movies allows for plenty of anecdotes about their productions too, making this a must-listen for genre fans. Importantly, Hall and Quigley get on exceptionally well making for an honest and jokey track (“Oh, you’re popping out there!” shouts Hall at one point), whilst the hour-long length of Horror Workout itself means it doesn’t have the chance to outstay its welcome. Further anecdotage is provided during the 13-minute featurette, in which the pair are joined by producer David DeCoteau and Hall’s brother Cleve, who donned the Reagan mask in the vid. Elsewhere, the disc offers up a gallery of production stills and a trailer for The Halfway House, which Hall wrote and directed in 2004.