Philip Brophy's Body Melt was originally released on DVD by Vanguard back in 2003. Long out of print and tough to find, the movie lives again thanks to this new re-release by Scorpion Releasing who have added the title to their Katarina's Nightmare Theater line. For those who haven't seen the movie, the easiest comparison to make is probably to Peter "King Of The Hobbits" Jackson's lawnmower/zombie opus, Braindead (or Dead Alive if you prefer) as the two films do share some similar ideas and neither are afraid to go for the gross out.
After a brief clip of an overly toned woman shooting up with some green Re-Animator style fluid, we cut to a malformed man at a convenience store trying to get some detergent. He leaves, Palmolive in hand, and as he's driving away, chugs down the soapy suds as his neck bleeds and his face basically starts to melt. He crashes his car at the end of Pebbles Court, a small street in a subdivision of Melbourne called Homesville.
The cops are called in on the scene and proceed to interview the local yokels to find out if any of them really know what the heck is going on with this bizarre scene. The two young men are excused by the police and head off towards to health club outside of town where they're supposed to meet a woman. Along the way, they end up lost and in need of a windshield replacement and stop off at a service center not unlike the infamous one we've all seen in Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And just like that service station, this one is also populated by inbred freaks with a taste for flesh. Needless to say, the two boys don't make it out of there alive.
As the film goes on we find that the local doctor is in cahoots with the woman we saw at the beginning of the film and together they've been experimenting on the local citizens, essentially using them as human Guinea Pigs for their new body enhancing drug, Vimuville. Once the police figure this out, they've got to race to track down the doctor and put a stop to what's going on at that health club, but it may already be too late.
Body Melt isn't overly original. It's not especially well acted. Some of the humor in the film doesn't work as well as maybe it should have. But once you get about half way into it, none of that really matters because Brophy and company pore on the gore. Just like in Dead Alive, some of the effects are comical but they go just far enough to still manage to be disgusting. Quite a few set pieces come to mind - a woman removing a man's rib from his breathing chest while he lies motionless in bed; a kid hoped up on Vimuville face plants while doing some stunts on a half-pipe with his roller blades on; a man beings to produce so much mucus that it essentially devours his head. You get the idea.
But besides the gore does the film really offer anything?
Well, sort of. The anti-corporation slant that the film takes is admirable, painting the pharmaceutical company as greedy and evil and not giving a damn about the effects that their products have on their customers. There would seem to be some truth to this angle in today's world where patents and profits are more important than helping people. And while some of the humor isn't going to make you bust a gut (an appropriate clichï¿½ to use, given the films nature!), a few of the gags do work really well and are rather clever. The director also manages to sneak a few clever camera movements into the film as well. Don't go in expecting Leone-esque moments of symbolic grandeur, because kids, it ain't here, but there are still some nice visual touches in the film if you look for them.
Overall though, the gore is the real star of the show and the film delivers it well. Body Melt doesn't take itself too seriously and you shouldn't either - it is what it is - a FUN, cheaply made schlock fest with plenty of entertainment for those who enjoy that type of thing.
The previous R1 release was presented in 1.33.1 fullframe and it looked okay but the framing on Scorpion's new 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks better. The image is also cleaner and crisper and shows considerably better detail and improved color reproduction. Black levels are strong and there are no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. There's no room for complaint here, the movie has been cleaned up and presented in nice shape but not overdone to take away from the film's low budget roots.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is also of good quality. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no issues to report with any hiss or distortion. Just as important as the dialogue, however, are the sound effects, which are appropriately gooey and gory sounding here, they really add to the experience.
As this is part of the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, we get an optional intro and outro with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters. Done tongue in cheek style like the other entries in the line, we get an amusing enough skit before Waters runs off some trivia and information about the picture. Additionally we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing titles, menus and chapter stops.
Body Melt is a fun gorefest with some excellent set pieces that'll keep you both disgusted and amused. This new DVD release from Scorpion has a little bit more to offer than the Vanguard release in terms of extras, but more importantly it also offers up a noticeably improved transfer. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.