Brian Trenchard-Smith is, without a doubt, Australia’s finest purveyor of genre flicks. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Trenchard-Smith delivered us such classics as The Man from Hong Kong (1975), Turkey Shoot (1982), BMX Bandits (1983) and, the film this regular article is named after, Dead-End Drive In (1986). As the 90s rolled by, Trenchard-Smith started to direct more television, direct-to-video films and Leprechaun sequels with most of his films post-Dead-End Drive In ignored or forgotten. A little trepidation lurking in the back of my mind, I dug into 1989’s Out of the Body.


Australia, 1989, Brian Trenchard-Smith

Out of the Body‘s poster is misleading. It’s as if it’s trying to cash in on Species… only Species came out half a decade after Out of the Body. Despite its sweaty, blue-tinted poster, Out of the Body is not about sexy lady-aliens. As its title suggests, it’s about out of body experiences. David Gaze (Mark Hembrow) is a reasonably average Aussie goofball. He works a steady job at the university with his ex-wife as his boss (they get along quite well) and, in his spare time, he makes horrible Phillip Glass-inspired tunes on his keyboard. He even has a nice girlfriend (Tessa Humphries) and a cat. Gaze’s life turns to poo when he starts seeing visions of horrific murders when he’s asleep. His gal pal tells him he’s “astral-traveling” and perhaps he can help the police catch the murderer. But, of course, the police (understandably) assume Gaze is the killer when he starts rambling like a lunatic to them.

Out of the Body is not a well liked film. It currently sits on a soul-shattering 3.7 on IMDB from only fifty-five votes and the title of the first review I can see reads “One of the worst films I have ever seen!” Well, I can safely say that I have seen far worse than Out of the Body. In fact, I had a very good time with this one. Out of the Body is nowhere near the heights of Trenchard-Smith’s best, but it is still an extremely entertaining and snappy little horror-thriller. Sure, the plot is silly, Mark Hembrow’s performance is completely bananas and I could picture the film’s ending after the opening ten minutes, but all of its cheesiness only adds to its charm. I mean, how can you not enjoy a film where cops talk like this:

Trenchard-Smith knows how to stage quality action sequences and he delivers them with his usual flair in Out of the Body. The film’s ending is enormous fun and some of the death sequences are quite impressive. The killer’s victims are murdered by an unseen Evil Dead-esque force that tears them off their feet, hoisting them in the air. The epic dispatchings are captured with a keen eye and creativity that doesn’t seem to exist in films today. Unfortunately much of the action is annoyingly off screen, but the build ups to these off screen killings are filled with wonderfully manic camerawork and lighting that would feel at home in an Argento film. On top of the film’s stylish execution, we also get a lot of unintentional funnies that add to the enjoyment. No one in the cast fares well, least of all the aforementioned Mark Hembrow. Hembrow is hysterical, screaming most of his lines with eyes bugging from his skull. (We are also forced to endure many shots of his naked arse.) His co-stars are just as bad. The performances in Out of the Body range from wooden to absurdly exaggerated. The only cast member who doesn’t make a total fool of himself is the legendary Shane Briant, but his screen time is minimal.

Out of the Body is not Australia’s finest horror film by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a nice way to kill eighty minutes. If you are a Trenchard-Smith fan, find a copy of this straight away. It delivers if your Trenchard-Smith-expectations are kept in check. Even if you’re not a fan, it is an instant must-see for containing what is the funniest waking from a nightmare moment I have ever seen in a movie: