BODY MELT (1993)

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

We’ve always been sceptical of health farms and diet pills, and this obscure little gem from Down Under just validates our thoughts.

The middle-class residents of housing complex Pebbles Court become the unwitting guinea pigs for an unscrupulous health company whose new vitamin Vimuville certainly helps the user shed the pounds. Well, actually, it causes them to hallucinate, mutate and ultimately, melt. While the hapless victims are put through their suffering, the police attempt to figure out what’s going on and close in on the shifty company and corrupt doctors, who all appear to care very little about the shocking results of their trails.

While the story is fairly simple, the execution is more akin to an anthology movie, as each reaction to the vitamin - and gruesome death - is treated in an episodic fashion. It’s understandable when you realise that the script was made up of a series of short stories, but what it might lose in cohesion (there’s a lengthy segment in which a pair of tearaways stop off at a run-down garage-diner occupied by an inbred family that seems completely irrelevant until it turns out old papa provides a vital ingredient to the vitamin formula), it makes up for in pace and inventively gory demises.

Body Melt tries its best to be as ‘cult’ as it can. Not just in the effects, but with some of the more outlandish aspects of the characters. We’ve touched on the inbred garage family already, and they certainly tick all manner of boxes in the weird stakes, but then there’s also the security for the head of the company. They are overly muscle-bound and dressed for the gym rather than in suits; one of them also has an unnaturally high-pitched voice, and the other dies by exploding penis after popping the pills. If anything, it works in spite of all the forced elements, rather than because of them. There’s a distinct antipodean charm to it that highlights some very different sensibilities but keeps the satire relevant to a universal audience - be it the fake infomercial, health fanatics or the intense autopsy examiner.

Being an Australian production, it’s no surprise that there are a few familiar TV faces, notably Neighbours’ Harold Bishop himself, Ian Smith and Gerard Kennedy (The Flying Doctors), and it’s fun seeing them in such a schlocky (and incredibly gory) flick.

Coming a few years after such body horror delights as Society and Street Trash and following a similar satirical tone, Body Melt is an overlooked and underappreciated classic. Sure, it’s patchy, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

BODY MELT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: PHILIP BROPHY / SCREENPLAY: ROD BISHOP, PHILIP BROPHY / STARRING: GERARD KENNEDY, ANDREW DADDO, IAN SMITH, MATTHEW NEWTON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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