Features Film Reviews

Retrospectives #3: Body Melt (Australia,1993)

Words by: Jonathon Davidson
Image credit: SBS


Haha, oh man. This fucking movie.

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Body Melt has it all. Not-so subtle overtones of wicked Australian humour, a complete disregard for cultural sensitivities, new experimental vitamins, opening-scene-nudity, insane hallucination scenes, living placentas, outback Australian stereotypes, sarcastic jaded detectives and enough prosthetic gore, mucous and fluids to unsettle the most passionate 80’s horror fans.

So to celebrate Australia Day in true retrospectives style, I thought I’d bring this little known homegrown gem to your attention. Your weird uncle Pete who hangs out down in the shed for the Oz Day lunch probably knows about it already, though.

Body Melt is the Australian standalone sci-fi horror dark comedy directed by Philip Brophy and written by Bophy and Rod Bishop – both ex-members of Melbourne 70’s experimental music project, ‘Tsk Tsk Tsk’.

So what is Body Melt about?

Well, the first thing you actually see is a title card which reads:
DUMB FILMS Presents…
This is an excellent use of foreshadowing.

Body Melt is the story of a small photogenic suburb called Homesville that is thrown into a wide-scale experimental drug test. The experiment is overseen by pharmacologist Dr. Carrera and his femme fatale corporate sidekick Shaan, whom evade police investigation while they dose the unknowing residents of Pebbles Court with a range of ‘cognitive enhancer’ vitamin pills. The corporation for which they work – Vimuville – controls the vitamins in Homesville.

The new vitamins, however, are not safe for human consumption, and the film follows the following aftermath on the people of Pebbles Court.

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“13 male ribs. This has been my quest.”

As the first victim reports:
“The first phase is hallucinogenic, the second phase is glandular, the third phase is…”

Look, long story short – they cause the human body to break down and melt. By the time the residents of Pebbles Court have tried out the new vitamins being offered as free samples, only then do connections between the gross hallucinations and mutations occurring and the looming Vimuville corporation come to attention.

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But two young blokes who nick off on a road trip early in the movie find themselves needing a replaced windshield at an outback car stop. Whilst there, they meet a family of mutated inbreeds. This is a sort of strange sub plot that goes on in the film, and it reflects director Philip Brophy’s indecisiveness with a few different ideas he had floating around. Although, sitting down to a watch this thing in the first place, it’s not so jarringly ridiculous that you can’t watch it.

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And, to be fair, they do tie the two plots together at the end. What do the strange family of inbreeds have to do with the evil pharmaceutical corporation operating its experiments on Homesville, miles away? I’ll leave that to you to find out, but obviously you shouldn’t expect any kind of legitimately noteworthy plot device.

Meanwhile, some who have taken the pills experience repetitive hallucinations…

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A young about-to-be mother starts noticing strange things happening with her body…

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Some undergo total body meltdowns…

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And two cops try to piece it all together.

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The majority of film time follows the residents of Homesville, and two sarcastic Oz police detectives – Jono and Detective Philips – who eventually put the clues together and come to bust Dr. Carrera and Shaan and shut down Vimuville, but only too late.

The kicker? Vimuville make supplements for bodybuilders.

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Unfortunately for the residents of Homesville, pretty much everybody dies, except for an unaffected young girl from one of the families on Pebbles Court who sort of comes in at the last moment just to be the last one alive.

Yeah, it’s one of those movies.

Check it out on SBSOnDemand.