Sunday, 28 March 2010

Body Melt (1993)

This is what happens when you stifle your sneezes.

Body Melt is directed by Phillip Brophy, best known for his experimental music group → ↑ → (which I guess explains the weird techno soundtrack) and Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, an experimental short film that is centered around various bodily fluids. I guess a crazy splatter film like this was a fairly natural fit. I bet this guy gets sick of this film being compared to early Peter Jackson just because he's from a country that is in a similar geographical area with similar accents, but the comparisons are unavoidable. This film has a slightly different feel to it, though. It has more of a satirical bent, poking fun at things like the 90s fitness craze and happy suburban families.

An evil pharmaceutical company/health spa named Vimuville decides to test their latest batch of body-enhancing drugs on the residents of Pebbles Court, a cul-de-sac in an outer suburb of Melbourne. Disguising the drugs as vitamins, they send out free samples and invite some of them to their facility for a free treatment. One of their top chemists has a change of heart and tries to warn them, but the villainous Dr Shaan (Regina Gaigalas) gets wise to his plan and injects him with a fatal dose of the drug during a sweaty sex scene. As the rogue chemist drives there he begins to show symptons of the drug, which include headache, nausea and writhing tentacles bursting from your neck. He makes a quick stop at a servo to chug some dishwashing detergent, but when he reaches Pebbles Court he crashes his car and gets splattered all over the driveway. When the two detectives show up on the scene they dismiss it as a road fatality, although they do stumble upon the chemists tape recorder, which contains the message "The first phase is hallucinogenic... the second phase is glandular... and the third phase is AAARRGH!"

The storyline is nearly impossible to follow and none of the characters are developed in any detail, so for much of the film you are left floundering for a protagonist. You'll think you have a handle on who the main character is supposed to be, only for them to be killed off. There's no real consistency in the drug's effects either, so really the film seems like an excuse to show people dying in weird and crazy ways. One woman chokes to death after her tongue swells up to the size of her forearm. Another woman's head deflates like a punctured balloon. Another man's penis explodes when he tries to watch some porn. In fact, one of my favourite deaths had nothing to do with the pharmaceutical company at all. A young boy has a grisly accident while roller-blading on a half-pipe, and fatally crushes his face, the camera lingering on the gruesome aftermath. The funny part is that afterwards his family never find his body or even wonder where he is. He's completely forgotten.

A couple of young guys at the beginning of the film probably get the most screen time in a sub-plot that is almost completely divorced from the rest of the film. They get lost on their way to the health spa and end up in a completely different film, a farm full of inbred freaks who like to kill kangaroos and snack on their adrenal glands. This segment seems out of place but it isn't completely unrelated to the rest of the film, since the patriarch of the family is a former employee of Vimuville and his freakish foster children are the results of failed experiments. One of the guys decides to make out with his grotesquely neanderthal daughter, which is bad enough, only for her to freak out and stab him in the balls with a pitchfork. The other suffers a more ambiguous but undoubtedly horrible fate.

One thing I liked about this film is that the cast is full of well-known Australian soap stars. There's something deliciously surreal in seeing, say, Ian "Harold Bishop from Neighbours" Smith getting his ear ripped off by a zombie or firing a gun at a family station wagon. Even a very young Lisa McCune appears as a pregnant newlywed, and I'm sure all the 80-year-old TV Week voters would revoke her 1,392 Gold Logies if they ever saw her here, giving birth to an animate, malevolent placenta that murders her husband. One of the Daddo brothers makes his obligatory appearance (Cameron, the Alec Baldwin of the Daddos) as an eager rookie cop. Even the guy from the Goggomobile ads appears as a cop. It's an all-star cast!

The gore effects in this film are plentiful and pretty decent. They went crazy with the gore and slime. There's also an extended autopsy sequence that is pretty impressive. But that's really all there is. It's fun, but not for fans of well-developed characters, comprehensible stories or cinema in general.

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