In the 80’s and 90s Australian TV cranked out some of the most intense public service announcements released anywhere on the globe. The aim? To scare the living shit out of any potential drug users and drunk drivers. Philip Brophy’s 1993 horror film Body Melt takes a page out of the anti-drug PSA’s book and savages the vitamin industry with gloopy glee.
After a shady sweaty sexy opening which feels lifted from a VHS porno, Body Melt plots a course of twisted bodily breakdown through a quiet suburb. Pebble’s Court is an idyllic place to live: big bungalows, gardens of lush green grass, middle class nuclear families who all know each other. Fitness obsessives have jumped on board with the vitamin fad. There’s a Blue Velvet element to the dreamy splendour of this picturesque cul-de-sac (populated by some recognisable faces from popular soap opera Neighbours), and the savagery with which it is invaded. Unbeknownst to the people of Pebble’s Court, they are being used as the lab rats for a new vitamin, with potentially horrifying side-effects.
Thankfully for the audience, there’s no “potentially” about it. If the PSA’s scared the shit out of a generation of Ozzy teens, Body Melt is here to gross them the fuck out. It’s tough to find fault with the gore-levels or sheer nastiness of the deaths, but as a film in general; it has a short attention span and a bunch of interesting ideas that don’t really go anywhere. It exists solely as an effects showcase.
It’s a smorgasbord of effects-driven death scenes, each more disgusting than the last. Skin rips, eyes bulge, gunge flows freely, and a pregnant woman’s stomach erupts in smoke as her placenta dives out with appetite. It’s a grotesque mix of sheer bad taste and well realised low budget effects. The quality of those effects is easily understandable when you check the credits and see that FX maestro Bob McCarron is the ringleader of this sordid affair. McCarron is best known for his work on other beloved Australian cult classics like Brain Dead, Dark Age, and Mad Max 2; his talent for operating within a budget no doubt made him the sought after technician he is, and in films like Body Melt he really shows his worth. He is perhaps, apart from Screaming Mad George (Society), the champion of stomach-churning effects.
It wasn’t a video nasty but if ever a film deserved the accolade, its Body Melt, purely for the amount of gloop, never mind inbred outback yokels, the butchering of a kangaroo, a shocking child death, a carnivorous placenta, or an exploding penis. With its cast of Neighbours alumni (Ian Smith who famously played Harold Bishop stars here as a villainous Doctor!), Body Melt is a gleefully chaotic attack on suburban Australia and a great midnight movie.
Dir. Philip Brophy
Cast. Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith, Regina Gaigalas, Mathew Newton, Adrian Wright, Bill Young