Review: ‘Body Melt’

First-time feature director Philip Brophy comes up with a schlocky, tongue-in-cheek gore pic in "Body Melt," a moderately enjoyable item for fans of the genre. This loopy tale, about a mad doctor whose invention -- a new kind of vitamin pill -- has horrific side effects, should have a decent life on video shelves, but theatrical chances are iffy.

First-time feature director Philip Brophy comes up with a schlocky, tongue-in-cheek gore pic in “Body Melt,” a moderately enjoyable item for fans of the genre. This loopy tale, about a mad doctor whose invention — a new kind of vitamin pill — has horrific side effects, should have a decent life on video shelves, but theatrical chances are iffy.

Brophy seems to be following in the footsteps of Kiwi Peter Jackson, director of “Brain Dead,” but he’s not yet in the same league: “Body Melt” is full of gruesome deaths but is also cluttered with too many characters and needs a surer touch to sock over this brand of cheerfully sick humor.

Plot, which is not always clear, turns on the invention, by doctor-scientist Carrera (Ian Smith), of vitamins that cause bodies to crack open, melt or explode. In the past, tests of the treatment have had disastrous results, and Carrera’s former partner (Vince Gil), who had experimented on himself, now lives on an isolated farm with his deformed, half-mad family, a creepy clan whose threatening attitude toward outsiders evokes memories of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Against Carrera’s wishes, the vitamins are now being marketed, in pill and powder form, by an ambitious woman (Regina Gaigalas), who runs a kinky health farm; free samples have been sent to a “typical” city suburb, with disastrous results.

Special effects makeup by Bob McCarron is revolting enough to please the fans , but more care with the convoluted screenplay would have made for a more commercial package. Still, there will be plenty of small-screen fans for this gorefest.

More might have been expected from Brophy, whose provocative short film “Salt Saliva Sperm and Sweat” made its mark a while back. Connoisseurs of bizarre credits will note that Brophy himself provided the testicles and production designer Maria Kozic the buttocks for a brief but graphic sex scene glimpsed on TV in a clinic sequence. Other tech credits are pro.

Body Melt

(Horror -- Australian -- Color)

Production

A Dumb Films presentation of a Body Melt production, in association with the Australian Film Commission, Film Victoria. (International sales: Beyond Films, Sydney.) Produced by Rod Bishop, Daniel Scharf. Directed by Philip Brophy. Screenplay, Brophy, Bishop.

Crew

Camera (color), Ray Argall; editor, Bill Murphy; music, Brophy; production design, Maria Kozic; costumes, Anna Borghesi; sound, Gary Wilkins; special effects makeup, Bob McCarron; associate producer, Lars Michalak; assistant director, Euan Keddie; casting, Greg Apps. Reviewed at Village-Roadshow screening room, Sydney, Oct. 19, 1993. (In London Film Festival.) Running time: 84 min.

With

Det. Sam Phillips ... Gerard Kennedy Johnno ... Andrew Daddo Dr. Carrera ... Ian Smith Pud ... Vince Gil Shaan ... Regina Gaigalas Gino ... Maurie Annese Sal ... Nick Polites Paul Matthews ... William McInnes Brian Rand ...Brett Climo Thompson Noble ... Adrian Wright Cheryl Rand ... Lisa McCune Kate ... Suzi Dougherty Angelica Noble ... Jillian Murray
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