Director Philip Brophy / 1993 / Australia

When Philip Brophy describes his first feature as "the suburbs on weird drugs", he's not just milking a cute turn of phrase - it's the plot in five words! When an ambitious doctor tests his new body enhancement drugs on the unsuspecting residents of a soulless outer-Melbourne suburban estate, all hell breaks loose, oozes out and melts down. All the first victim can relay is "the first phase is hallucinogenic...the second phase is glandular...the third is..."

Inspired as much by "aerobics classes, new housing estates, health farms and newlyweds" as by the films of Sam Raimi, Larry Cohen and David Cronenberg, Brophy has his cast play it straight and restrains the gore to just the vital scenes, which are executed with great finesse (and gallons of slime) by special effects whiz Bob McCarron.

It's clear that his real area of interest is a development on the 1988 MIFF award winning short Salt, Saliva, Sperm And Sweat. Where that film was fascinated with the body and its functions, Body Melt is more interested in its mal-functions, especially those that result from our efforts to improve our bods, something Brophy sees as a totally bizarre, modem phenomenon.

Too easily perceived as a horror or splatter pic, Brophy's first feature is really a mutated take on the police procedural with horror overtones and a trash culture junkie's sense of humour. From mad scientists to inbred backwater yokels and bumbling, always behind the pace cops, Brophy and producer/co-writer Rod Bishop's tongue-in-cheek script mines the staples of B-movie lore to new, comic and deliciously Australian effect. Like Ramsay Street gone awry, Body Melt brings the world of horror into our own suburban backyards for the first time. Watch out.

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