Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The 1994 Project: Body Melt

1994 turns 18 this year and we're celebrating! I’ve routinely cited this as my favourite year of film – it’s my 1999 if you’re a fan of that other particularly vintage year of the 1990s – and, just to stretch the birthday analogy as far as it can possibly go, I thought I’d investigate the year even further. Invite back old favourites as well as hopefully discover a lot of new ones. Being comprehensive is sexy, isn't it?

I'm just going to put it out there that I have no idea what the hell was going on for most of Body Melt. This pseudo-sci-fi-horror-action-comedy ("splatstick") from former → ↑ → member, director Philip Brophy, is an altogether bizarre concoction that typifies the phrase "everything but the kitchen sink". Except you'll need a kitchen sink to clean up all the grotesque bodily fluids that ooze, pus, secrete and shoot out of the characters so let's include it in the bargain, shall we? Supposedly inspired by Peter Jackson's splatter flicks of the late 1980s and early 1990s (it's easy to see that link so we'll believe it as real and not just a retroactive excuse for being insane), Body Melt finds so many dastardly, ghastly ways to dispose of human bodies that I have to commend the creative team - it's both surprising, but also apt, to discover the film was nominated for three technical craft categories at the AFI Awards.

Still, what the bloody hell was that? What I can tell you is that there's a company that, for some reason or another, cons unsuspecting victims into trying a new health drink (or pills? it's never made clear), which then turns them into hallucinating zombie-like mad men that foam at the mouth and eventually die in gruesome manners. Some appear to have aliens growing inside them as a side effect (just like an impulsive urge to drink laundry detergent), whilst others grow abnormally large muscles. Like Fabio, but doubled. I dunno. It's weird. There's also a rural Australian take on the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and a scene with a placenta. Also, there's a cast full of Australian soap stars - something that the film's eventual DVD distributor used in their marketing - including Gerard Kennedy, Regina Gaigalas, Ian Smith, William McInnes, Lisa McCune and one of the Daddo brothers. The one from that amazing TV version of Cluedo that was on air in the early '90s! Yeah, him. Andrew Daddo. Wow. If I had to pick the best of the bunch, I'd go with Giagalas, but that's probably more to do with her character having the most to play with whereas everyone else is one-note victim or one-note detective.

Anyway, umm... there really isn't much to say about Body Melt other than confirming its reputation as one of the more bonkers entries in the Australian film canon. It came after the 1970s and '80s heyday of "ozploitation", and it lacks something truly exciting that takes it up a notch from obscure nutjob genre fare to actually exciting moviemaking. Don't get me wrong, there are sparks of something greater to be found within, and there are moments that impress, but those have more to do with the visuals and the design rather than anything related to the script or the actors. Sure, there's a gleeful gaiety that runs throughout the film, but its ability to pass that effect onto the viewer is only intermittent. It reminded me a lot of Iron Sky, which was released in cinemas two weeks ago. I'm glad I got to see this kooky, bizarre moment of Australian film, but it wasn't necessarily an incredibly rewardinding watch. There are clips as well as the entire film on YouTube if you wish you "experience" it for yourself. C-

Previously on The 1994 Project
Barcelona (C+), Blink (B-), Nell (B-), Reality Bites (B)

No comments: