Damn. We’ve really neglected Dead End Drive-In, our supposedly “regular” article about Australian exploitation flicks. And this post is really not going to make up for that neglect – I’m half asleep, somewhat deliriously so, I have a pile of boring real work to do and I just had the hot water turned on in my unit and, after seven weeks of ice cold water, I want to take a fucking long shower. To say I’m distracted would be an understatement. I’m going to keep this post simple, and I’m also talking about a film I know inside out. A film reviled more than it is loved, 1993’s Body Melt!
Australia, 1993, Philip Brophy
The first phase is hallucinogenic… the second phase is glandular…
and the third phase is…
As with most things on Mondo Exploito, this post will be low on critique and high on gushing praise. And you know what? Body Melt is a film that earns our love. When driving home tonight and making the decision to write about Body Melt, I started to ponder what an oddity the film is. How on earth did a film this bonkers and exciting get made with a half decent budget in Australia? Australian movies, from the 80s onwards, are never this fun, violent and/or gooey. There’s no uber-Australiana on display, well, there is, but not the kind that’s usually shoved down our throats. There’s no heartwarming subplots of mateship, lost identities or bogan drama to be found in the script. The humour is not of the blokey variety and the soundtrack is free from Daddy Cool’s “Eagle Rock”. I ask again, how the fuck did this film get made?! Anyway, here’s a very brief (and kind of shoddy) plot outline stolen from IMDB:
Residents of peaceful Pebbles Court, Homesville, are being used unknowingly as test experiments for a new ‘Body Drug’ that causes rapid body decomposition (melting skin etc.) and painful death.
Body Melt may be brimming with goo, gore, bodybuilders, inbred country folk, Harold Bishop and effects, but, believe it or not, it’s actually a surprisingly intelligent film. There is some wonderful satire to be found, much of which comes from the film’s excellent choice of locations and sets. The horribly depressing suburban nightmare of Pebbles Court is very accurate, suiting its obnoxious inhabitants perfectly. The Vimuvial health spa, set up to monitor the effects of the body drug on the Pebbles Court occupants, is also quality stuff. Vimuvial and its plastic employees are a fantastic send up of 1990s new age obsessions with health, body vitality and natural remedies. Visually, the film is quite exciting with hallucinatory camerawork and editing throughout, a style that is ramped up during the film’s dream sequences. Tied in with the visuals is an excellent electronic score from the director himself, Philip Brophy.
But the real draw card of Body Melt is its awesome effects, which are, being from 1993, free from horrible CGI. There are many amazing scenes featuring slimy prosthetics and dripping ooze. Some moments are hysterical, but there is some genuinely horrifying content. The deformed make-up of the inbred victims of Vimuvial still manages to gross me out and even a moment of mucus madness gives me a tingle of nausea at the back of my throat. Rather than ramble on about the quality of these scenes, here’s a few of my favourites (big ol’ spoilers, by the way)…
An added treat for Australian viewers is Body Melt‘s insane casting. In a stroke of genius (and I’m assuming deliberate genius) on the part of director/writer/composer, Philip Brothy, pretty much every cast member is a familiar Australian face. Yes, the cast is full of Australian B-grade (some D-grade) television stars playing roles so far from their typical typecasting that your brain will melt along with the characters onscreen. Ian Smith – Harold from Neighbours! – is the film’s vicious villain. Andrew Daddo – yes, of the infamous Daddo clan – and Gerard Kennedy are cops and the sort-of-protagonists. Matthew Newton, Lisa McCune, Vincent Gil and William McInnes also show up for the ride. Hell, even Tommy Dysart makes an appearance. Who’s Tommy Dysart, you ask? Perhaps this will refresh your memory! Watching actors usually shot safely with hazy television cameras in something as unsafe as Body Melt is bizarre to say the least.
Body Melt is a must-see for Australians and a definite should-see for everyone else. For its absurd casting, its unique style and its balancing act of satire and gross-out gore, Body Melt is the sort of film that Australia rarely produces, and that is something worth embracing. In Australia, you can find it lying around in most DVD bargain bins. I’d recommend parting with the five or ten buck price and having a blast of a time with Body Melt!