Every Loser Wins

fatalgames2FATAL GAMES

3.5 Stars  1983/18/81m

“The second prize is death.”

A.k.a. The Killing Touch / Olympic Nightmare

Director/Writer: Michael Elliot / Writers: Rafael Bunuel, Christopher Mankiewicz / Cast: Sally Kirkland, Lynn Banashek, Michael Elliot, Christopher Mankiewicz, Sean Masterson, Michael O’Leary, Teal Roberts, Marcelyn Ann Williams, Melissa Prophet, Angela Bennett, Nicholas Love, Lauretta Murphy, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “I’m going to have to disqualify you…now!”

A largely ignored and critically maligned throwback from the glory days, Fatal Games would make a killer double-header with the similarly themed Graduation Day (both films feature a team photo that some fiend defaces by crossing out those he’s offed).

At the Falcon Athletics Academy, a group of promising young Olympians – known as The Magnificent Seven – are threatened with extinction before they even get chance to set foot at The Games by a hooded maniac, who tosses a mean javelin.

fatal games 1984 melissa prophet

A convenient ledger of suspects exists in the form of their pushy coaches and steroid-pushing doctors, dissatisfied parents, or any of their many insanely competitive classmates who want just as desperately to make the cut. The sprintin’, tossin’, bar-spinnin’ teens are slowly eliminated as they find themselves alone during after-hours workouts, snooping where they shouldn’t, or hanging out in the steam room too long – a fate which befalls one poor starlet who runs around the deserted school stark naked trying to escape the pointy end of the javelin.

While the body count remains fairly controlled, the threatened teens curiosity around their missing buddies culminates in the last few breaking into the academy after hours to rifle through papers, check lockers and such, leading to a rather rushed and abrupt finale, in which clear final girl Annie runs from the wacko, who, not happy just to aim their javelin accurately from afar, can also scale about four flights of stairs in less than 20 seconds.

fatal games 1984

Points are lost for shaky editing, horrible incidental music, “uneven” performances and a laughable lack of credibility – especially during the killer’s exposition, which is given away in most reviews of the film, robbing it of the actually-decent mystery element it trades on. As it turns out, I love the identity of the killer and how ludicrous the motive is, despite being fairly problematic 40 years on. Worth noting that, although four of the five victims don’t see the javelin coming at all, the girls are all poked from the front, and the boys all get it from behind. Raise one eyebrow accordingly.

The grossly disproportionate skin is also eyebrow raising: A scene in the boys’ locker room shows the young men all with their pants on, even in the shower, whereas we venture next door and all the girls are in the nude and rotating to show all to the camera, which hangs around a lot longer.

fatal games 1984

Elliot’s direction is pedestrian but adequate, shooting some action from about three miles away from where’s it’s happening. But the killer is so eagle-eyed with the stick that he could skewer a teen from the other side of the Atlantic.

Likeable characters, some cute humour (“Coach has told me to tell you, he’s increasing your daily workouts to 24 hours”), and a general feeling of unrewarded effort don’t mean the film is as fatal as it’s largely made out to be. Yeah, it’s objectively crap, but it’s lovable crap. Like a manky dog. Linnea and Brinke only appear in the background briefly.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sally Kirkland was later in Fingerprints and Jack the Reaper; Nicholas Love was in The Boogeyman; Marcelyn Ann Williams, under the name of Spice Williams-Crosby, was in Dead End Road; Michael O’Leary was in Halloween Ends.


  • I agree with Horror Gal that this film wasn’t particularly malerobme. Remember, that in 1988, when the first Maniac Cop movie was released, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was still on television. Special effects weren’t all that sophisticated yet, but the bar was still set pretty high for the horror/thriller genre.I think that some of the trivia surrounding this movie is more interesting than the movie itself. Does anyone remember that director William Lustig was the nephew of famous boxer Jake LaMotta? Or how about Laurene Landon, the actress that Horror Gal loves to hate. She wanted to BE a cop before she turned to acting instead. She actually enrolled in Cal-State’s Police Academy at one point. This is funny to me for some reason.I agree with Horror Guy that this series of films are all revenge movies. They aren’t great revenge movies though. If you want to see a great revenge horror flick, go see Carrie instead.

  • Umm…are you sure you’re commenting on the right film?

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