Horror month – #2 – Fatal Games (1984)

On the surface Fatal Games appears to be pretty straight-forward. It’s just a basic slasher movie set in a high school where a psycho with a javelin stalks and kills top athletes. But, if you think about it just a little, there are some seriously weird things going on here, not to speak of the questionable politics behind the plot.

Set in and around the Falcon Academy of Athletics the film follows a few top athletes as they practise for the Nationals and talk about their Olympic aspirations. From the outset we are reminded of the importance of winning, as the glam rock anthem that soundtracks the title sequence tells us to “take it all the way” and that “winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing!”.

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Look at that amazing title screen!

It soon becomes clear that we shouldn’t expect to take this too seriously and the slapstick is spread on pretty thickly as our top athletes gather for a celebratory lunch in the school sports hall.

Kids will be kids, right…so food gets thrown…and lands in “humourous places”…

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Look…they’re sharing a giant paper towel, since they ran out of individual napkins!

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Then there’s the flesh. This is 1984, so random nudity was obviously deemed as necessary to the plot as the killings themselves.

So, we get couples showering…

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…the boys have towel fights in the locker room…

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…while the girls talk about sex in the sauna…

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…and the female coach gets a bit too close to one of her students during a massage session…

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Anyway, we know that something has to happen soon. It is a horror film after all. So, we get our first taster of some soon-to-be-familiar sinister synth sounds as we’re introduced to Joe, the world’s grumpiest athlete. And he has some serious anger issues.

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“What are you? A ballet dancer?” asks the coach. Joe is not impressed.

But, I mean…this is either the most obvious giveaway or the most obvious red herring ever, because the next time we hear this music is when Nancy, our first victim, is innocently doing some after-school exercise…

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…and before she knows it she gets impaled by a javelin!

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Javelin! Angry Joe!

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See, how mean he is! He’s got guilty written all over that mean face.

But, sorry…I’ll spoil it for you.

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Poor Joe. He was just misunderstood.

Ok, it soon becomes pretty repetitive. Nancy stays behind to do some practise on her own. Cue sinister music. Javelin-wielding manic appears. Sue Ellen stays behind in the sauna on her own. Cue sinister music. And guess who shows up?

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Yeah. That guy.

Joe stays behind to practise late. Sinister music. He gets a javelin through his chest. You get the picture. This pattern keeps repeating until the killer’s identity is revealed at the end. Ok, it might sounds like I’m slagging it, but it is actually pretty well done. Maybe I’m easily fooled, but I was kept guessing until the very end.

Anyway, there are also some other weird things going on here. From the start we know that this school is big into doping, which is just plain weird. The athletes are openly on steroids and other performance-enhancing medications because “the Russians and East Germans do it”. The crazy school doctor, likes nothing more than trying out new tricks, like bust-reducing hormones for the girls.

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Is he the killer?

Then we have our coaches…they’re obviously suspects. We’re constantly reminded of how the male coach is a bit overly aggressive…and Diane, the female coach (or whatever she is, physiotherapist?). I mean, she seems nice and constantly expresses concern for the student’s well-being. But, then there was that massage incident.

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Or what about the kids themselves. They live for the Olympics…maybe one of them just wants to get rid of the competition and keep all the glory for themselves?

And finally, there’s Annie, our token frigid girl. For all the other kids it’s sex, sex, sex, but Annie just isn’t that into it.

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Her boyfriend Phil really tries his best to get in her pants. The other kids aren’t making things easier for them with humourous remarks like “Annie, are you going over to Phil’s tonight to do some acrobatics on his uneven bar?”. If only they knew how pre-marital sex carries a death sentence in slasher films. Then maybe they wouldn’t be so cocky. Is Annie our survivor or our killer?

Anyway, where are we? Top athletes keep disappearing, but it’s business as usual in the school. Nobody seems too worried. By the time Lynn, our promising swimmer, stays behind to do some swimming in the dark, it’s been almost a week since the first girl disappeared. What about the parents? I guess there are some signs of people worrying, but not to the extent you’d expect. I guess the doctor is hesitant to involve the police, because of his somewhat controversial medical tactics.

Oh yes…Lynn…

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She gets it in the pool after our killer dons a scuba outfit!

The plot keeps thickening and by the end it could really be any of the people still standing, but I won’t give it away….cause Fatal Games is actually worth watching. I wouldn’t say it’s scary or particularly thrilling, but it is good fun. It’s charming, pretty well made and it does keep you guessing. And sure, the plot is a bit formulaic and repetitive, but it’s kind of expected in these films.

There you go. If you’re into cheesy 80s horror, you could do a lot worse.

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