The front of the DVD keepcase for Philip Brophy's Body Melt proudly touts "from the special effects lab of Dead Alive and Matrix Reloaded" and the easiest comparison to make is probably to Peter "King Of The Hobbits" Jackson's lawnmower/zombie opus, 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 yocals 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. I like the anti-corporation slant that the film takes, painting the pharmaceutical company as greedy and evil and not giving a damn about the effects that their products have on their customers. And while some of the humor isn't going to make you bust a gut (an appropriate cliché 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, myself included.
The movie is shown 1.33.1 fullframe which, as far as I can tell, is how all other video releases have been shown. I'm not positive if it was shot fullframe or not but if it wasn't, there doesn't appear to be much picture information missing from the presentation. Clarity and color depth is pretty solid on this transfer and despite some mild edge enhancement and a few instances where there is a bit of nasty print damage evident, this disc looks pretty good.
Vanguards release has been remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is presented in its native English language track with no other alternate language options or subtitles. Overall the clarity is above average and, accents aside, it's not hard at all to understand the dialogue or discern the sound effects. Though, as mentioned, it is a 5.1 track, most of the action takes place at the front of the sound stage and the rears are really only used to add a little bit of ambience in a few scenes.
Save for basic scene selection, this DVD is completely barebones, which is a shame as the German DVD had some bios, a trailer, a music video and a slideshow and the French DVD (re-titled Body Trash) at least had a trailer on it.
Body Melt is a fun gorefest with some excellent set pieces that'll keep you both disgusted and amused. The DVD release, while short on extras, looks and sounds good and the movie is lots of fun for horror fans.
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.