BODY MELT (1993)

Randwick Ritz, Sydney:

Friday May 03

Tuesday May 07

Lido Cinemas, Melbourne:

Friday May 10

Tuesday May 14

Rating: MA15+
Duration: 81 minutes
Country: Australia
Language: English
Cast: Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith, Vince Gil
Director: Philip Brophy



Ever see the movie Body Melt? That was great! The best movie of its kind since Re-animator. I thought the movie was fantastic. I invited a whole bunch of friends over to watch it, and we were like “Wow, this movie is so cool.” - Quentin Tarantino in Fangoria

Tarantino has also called Body Melt his favourite Australian film of the 1990s, yet it has only screened once in Sydney during these past 30 years. In that time, Philip Brophy’s body horror spoof has sold to 19 countries, screened in 5 film festivals (including London and Sitges); been released 12 times on DVD and Blu-ray; streamed through SBS On-Demand and Foxtel; been restored twice in 2K (USA, Australia); and reviewed in countless cult and horror publications. Boasting Australian television soap performers such as Ian Smith, Gerard Kennedy, Lisa McCune, Vince Gil, Matthew Newton, Andrew Daddo and Brett Climo, Body Melt follows the exploits of a mad scientist and his vitamin pill experiments designed to create “The New You”. Audiences are left cringing and hooting with laughter at this scathing satirical take on fitness regimes, rampant consumerism and the horror genre. Experience this Aussie cult classic, restored in 2K, at Cinema Reborn’s first Friday Night Fright slot.

Introduced by Philip Brophy and Jane Mills at Ritz Cinemas and Philip Brophy at Lido Cinemas.

It deserves its status as one of the most unique and original horror films that Australia has ever produced.” – Bebe Jermyn

“Body Melt is basically something I use to torture people whose favourite movies are Good Will Hunting and Armageddon.” – Elijah C Skuggs

Ian Smith (Harold from Neighbours) steals the show as an evil Doctor so camp, he makes Dr Frank N’Furter (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) look straighter than a ruler!” – Skyclad

This is by far the WORST film ever made. It makes me a little embarrassed to be an Australian” – jacks_smirking_revenge

By Adrian Martin
Since the late 1970s, Philip Brophy (born 1959) has involved himself with many, overlapping art and media forms: music, graphic design, performance, sound design, writing, publishing, video and film. Emerging with the Melbourne collective Tsk Tsk Tsk (which developed a faithful cult following in the music and art scenes), Brophy began to sign his own work in the mid ‘80s. As a filmmaker, he developed his art and craft through Super-8 and video art pieces, then 16mm with the short essay-film, No Dance (1985) and the provocative mini-feature, Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat (1988). His many attempts to raise government funding for narrative features in Australia have resulted (so far) in only one 35mm project: Body Melt (1994) – a horror film that premiered to wild acclaim at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and then seemingly disappeared into disparate circuits of VHS and later digital releases around the world. But this frustration has never slowed him down: in the three decades since, he has written books (including 100 Modern Soundtracks and 100 Anime for BFI, and the not-exactly complimentary Priscilla, Queen of the Desert for Currency); made several digital video instalments of a wide-ranging art history project, Colour Me Dead; produced many musical recordings and performances; launched a vast website documenting his career across media (; and worked as a singularly creative sound designer on the films and videos of others.

Brophy’s interests (better to say, in his own preferred terminology, obsessions) have remained remarkably consistent for the past forty-five years, while evolving in their detail and depth. From his earliest, youthful manifesto, he has attacked the humanist, “psychological” bias in the vast majority of cultural production (even in music, he prefers instrumentals to vocals!); he has stood up for the intrinsic value of “trash and junk” genres; he has explored the materiality of media forms, and of the human form itself: the physical body.
Body Melt is a catastrophe narrative. One sunny day in suburbia, a hideously dying man crashes his car into Pebbles Court, Homesville. He’s been brought to the point of meltdown by an experimental drug marketed as ‘Vimuville’ vitamins, and he’s arrived, too late, to warn the Court’s inhabitants not to swallow the sample dropped in their mailboxes. So then the story scatters: a businessman (William McInnes), beset by increasing hallucinations, picks up a strange woman at the airport and takes her home; two rowdy “wog” teenagers (Nick Polites and Maurie Annese) get waylaid at a run-down farm of a seemingly inbred family; a yuppie family journeys to a sinister health resort; an expectant woman (Lisa McCune) at home begins to feel mighty queasy.

It’s a crucial aspect of the headlong momentum of the film that the scattered lines of its narrative catastrophe become blurred and elliptical. The teens, for instance, are left at the scary high-point of their tale. The pregnant woman’s husband (Brett Climo) is taken away by the police at a point in the film where you instinctively decide to forget all about him – until he explodes like a time bomb at the cop shop. This pervasive sense of a terrifying and magical narrative space that gets away from you, that is littered with booby traps, forgotten possibilities and surprises, is as central to Body Melt as it is to contemporary horror-fantasy cinema generally – a genre on which, in his critical writing, Brophy is a world-renowned (and encyclopedic) expert.

A fanatically precise fantasia about space and topography, and the way that people perceive these realms, informs every stylistic level of Body Melt. Early on, a shot sweeps us around the entirety of Pebbles Court, closing in on and then getting absorbed by the black interior of a letter box. Spaces and places, like the narrative with its off-shooting lines, constrict and then explode. Vimuville hastens these hallucinations, which the film humorously refers to as ‘mind-enhanced’ and ‘intra-phenomenological’. And Brophy’s sound design recreates this fantasia, powerfully reinforcing it on the aural plane, in soundscapes that blur the distinction between strictly musical accompaniment and a fictive swirl of burning, breathing, pulsing, stirring, melting, ringing action-sensations, soundscapes that swallow the ambient noises of a space (such as an airport) and transform them into psycho-acoustic chambers of deranged, subjective experience.

Brophy is among those practitioners of the film fantastique – like George Romero, Kathryn Bigelow or Larry Cohen – fond of a certain form of allegory that is specific to popular art. Narrative situations provide a prism whereby a series of variations on a central premise are illustrated, demonstrated, explored, contradicted, synthesised. In the popular-allegorical mode, characters are conceived of as variable bundles of traits, tics and appearances that are exemplary in relation to the chosen field of inquiry. In Brophy’s work, pop-allegory meets the speculative ruminations of the essay-film.

His key subject has long been the body and our experience of it: life seized as a calculus of bodily effects, stimuli, drives, mechanisms. Horror cinema offers an expressionist statement of what is, for him, a base, physical reality: bodies that devour and decay, consume and expel, peel and ravage. The dialogue reminds us (in its pop-allegorical mode) of such daily realities: a baby inside its mother is ‘the ultimate parasite’; everyone’s hooked on one drug or another.

Brophy’s cinema is properly anti-humanist, but there is a lively and engaging model of character, characterisation and performance evident in Body Melt. This comes in part from Brophy’s vigorous work with actors (such as 1960s TV icon Gerard Kennedy) who have no qualms about throwing around their bulk, altering their voice tone or contorting their facial features for an appropriately visceral, generic effect.

The people in Body Melt are, at once, extreme, primal apparitions – exploding wombs, cataclysmic orgasms, stressed-out, derailed express-trains of mind, skin and hyper-stimulated desire – and also the height of acculturation: wearing, absorbing and reflecting every consumer fad that shapes everyday behaviour, from Heavy Metal music and skateboard riding to aerobics and New Age diets.

The phenomenon of family – with all its impossible, in-built ties, binds, symmetries and asymmetries, attractions and repulsions – is for Brophy the ultimate mystery or puzzle, indivisibly social and human, natural and cultural. As in the work of David Cronenberg, Lynne Ramsay or David Lynch, family resemblance gives a special, cruel twist to the philosophical agony of living within a body, that ‘monstrous and obscene membrane’ (as René Crevel called it) which provides the fragile basis for our fraught, human community. Body Melt worries on this paradox in a memorable fashion – especially in the immortal moment when Pud (Vince Gil from Stone and Mad Max) reflects on his own, far-gone mutant clan: ‘Families sure are ... strange things’.

2K restoration from 35mm interpos by Roar Digital for Umbrella Entertainment. 5.1 DTS HD surround sound. Aspect Ratio 1.77:1

Director: Philip Brophy; Production Company: Dumb Films; Producers: Rod Bishop, Daniel Scharf; Script: Philip Brophy, Rod Bishop based on four short stories by Philip Brophy; Photography: Ray Argall; Editor: Bill Murphy; Production Design: Maria Kozic; Art Direction: Peta Lawson; Casting: Greg Apps; Sound Design: Craig Carter, Philip Brophy; Music: Philip Brophy; Costumes: Anna Borghesi; Special Makeup Effects Supervisor: Bob McCarron

Cast: Gerard Kennedy (Sam Phillips), Andrew Daddo (Johnno), Ian Smith (Dr Carrera), Vince Gil (Pud), Regina Gaigalas (Shaan), William McInnes (Paul Mathews), Suzi Dougherty (Kate). Nick Polites (Sal), Maurie Annese (Gino), Brett Climo (Brian Rand), Lisa McCune (Cheryl Rand)

Australia| 1993| 81 mins | 2K DCP | Colour | English | MA15+
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