Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout

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Every generation has its “Scream Queens” from Fay Wray to Jenna Ortega and Emma Roberts. For those of my generation our “Scream Queens” were Neve Campbell and Sarah Michelle Gellar. And while Neve Campbell will always have a special place in my heart for her work in Scream (1996) and The Craft (1996), my absolute favorite “Scream Queen” is Linnea Quigley. Quigley was in a ton of B-grade exploitation films in the eighties and a lot of them were horror pictures. Quigley’s unhinged strip dance in The Return Of The Living Dead (1985) is the stuff of legend.

But what really sets Quigley apart from the pack is that she was a trailblazer in the Workout Video market. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout (1990) is a combination of exercise video, “skin flick” and horror film. Quigley gets her groove on, works up a sweat with a bunch of zombies and has a spooktacular slumber party with her gal pals. Quigley’s workout video packs more spectacle into an hour than any Jane Fonda exercise tape ever dreamed of.

Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout opens with a montage of some of Quigley’s best scenes from a handful of horror movies she made in the second half of the eighties. Then we follow her into the shower for a pre-workout cleansing and some nudity. After Quigley’s dried off she does some warm-up stretches before going on a run. As she contorts her body this way and that she quips wise about her love life and makes some dirty jokes. Quigley, like Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson, is of that generation of “Scream Queen” to whom bawdy burlesque traditions are an essential part of the persona. It’s safe to say that Quigley and her contemporaries were likely as influenced by Ingrid Pitt as they were by Maila Nurmi.

Although Linnea Quigley ostensibly plays herself in Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout, she’s really playing her public persona with equal parts camp and irony. Before she goes jogging and encounters a swarm of zombies she gets a phone call about a part in a movie where she will dance on a headstone in a chicken suit. In reply to this offer Quigley retorts “I already did that” as an obvious reference to The Return Of The Living Dead. Her role as Trash in The Return Of The Living Dead as well as her character Spider in Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) greatly inform the “tough guy” swagger that Quigley exudes in her exchange with the exercising zombies. Essentially the Linnea Quigley of Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout is an amalgamation of all the most attractive or memorable traits of the characters that she played in the preceding decade.

Like most of Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout the zombies look cheap. But it is the obviously low budget make-up and effects in Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout that help make the unorthodox workout video so endearing. The horror genre that is being fused with the workout video is likely the only genre in the tradition of narrative cinema where looking “cheap” or “homemade” is not just accepted, but celebrated. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout is a film for fans first and foremost, often spiraling out of workout routines and into a kind of fantasy fulfillment. For instance, the zombie sequence suddenly turns into a pool party as the undead leap into Quigley’s pool.

Speaking of parties, the next segment in Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout is a slumber party where Quigley and her girlfriends have a pillow fight and then pop a few Quigley classics into the VCR. Quigley and her pals rock-out to what amounts to a Linnea Quigley highlight reel of her sexiest scenes with Night Of The Demons (1988) prominently featured. It isn’t long though before Quigley and the girls start working off all that popcorn they consumed.

The women sway their hips and stretch out their arms as Linnea Quigley whips them into shape (there’s a poster for the Linnea Quigley classic Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers in the background). Being a slumber party in a pseudo horror flick, the women are working up a sweat in some skimpy pajamas with Quigley herself sporting a torn up crop-top that fits the punk chic of her onscreen persona. The purpose of this workout sequence isn’t to inspire the viewer to get up and move, but to allow the viewer to ogle Quigley and company at their leisure. It’s a kind of fan service to be sure, but one that excludes those who didn’t come to Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout in order to fetishize the renowned “Scream Queen”.

When the lights go out the exercise stops and Linnea Quigley and “four half-naked unarmed girls” find themselves in the midst of a slasher movie. At rocket speed Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout hits every slasher movie cliche, relishing in the most superficial delights that the sub-genre has to offer. Again, the execution is cheap and quick; concerned more with playful gestures than actual suspense or terror. Masked in Ronald Reagan’s likeness, the killer slays the fourth girl only to remove the mask and reveal Quigley herself. In a comic tirade worthy of the most sinister gym teacher, Quigley threatens the viewer to workout or end up dead like her popcorn consuming friends.

As the end credits of Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout roll so does a blooper reel. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout is pure, unintelligent, self-indulgent fun. It’s a unique little curio from the heyday of the VHS format when horror knew its golden age and the workout video was a phenomenon. No other horror movie star but Linnea Quigley could have pulled off this bizarre genre experiment. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout is novelty trash but it is essential trash for every horror connoisseur, especially those who think that Linnea Quigley is the most far out of “Scream Queens”.