Splatter horror comedies are few and far between from Dead Alive to Evil Dead. And so it’s cool to see Phillip Brophy’s Body Melt, a dark comedy that owes as much to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome as Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo trilogy, with its exploding body parts and deliciously bad taste. Straight from the opening, flashes of naked bodies through blue hues, and a more organic title sequence that blows past John Carpenter’s own flaming trash bag for The Thing, Body Melt delivers what it promises.
The Vimuville (“Visceral/Musical Vitalisation of Latent Libidinal Energy”) Corporation is secretly testing “vitamins” designed to stretch the limits of the human body in Homeville between four conveniently cul-de-saced homes. When an employee tries to save the residents, he’s secretly given an overdose that causes a rather messy (and tentacle-based) end.
But it’s only the start for the four subjects: a divorced husband who starts seeing visions of an increasingly battered woman; two horn-dog teenagers that happen upon an overalls-wearing mechanic named Pud and his “family” with a secret tie to Vimuville; a health-conscious family who get free tickets to a day spa at the Corporation and a couple expecting their first child that becomes deadly complicated.
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During all this, Detective Phillips and his younger partner Jonathan try to tie the car crash in Homesville with the new trend of “death by hyper-natural causes.” The very “vitamins” that are being tested are in fact unstable performance enhancers, causing the minds and bodies of everyone that takes them to mutate into some very explosive consequences. But that’s secondary to a pulsating soundtrack that today would be considered a mix of funk, house and the type of frenetic, screeching noise we associate with Neveldine/Taylor’s works—which relfects that Brody and co-writer Rod Bishop both were in the noise-punk outfit → ↑ → (pronounced Tsk Tsk Tsk). But this frantic nature comes across, especially through the smash cuts and jumps directly into piercing noise or racing POV shots through corridors.
There’s no instant pay-off to be found in Body Melt, which keeps its bloated freakish tongue firmly through the side of a cheek. The premise of ultra-conservative senses of fitness and well-being are mixed alongside 1980s drug culture nostalgia mistaking the rash of explosive deaths due to pill popping and loose sex. Like in any horror staple, the need to better yourself for purely physical reasons lead to your muscles bursting through your skin and your ribs being stolen by a hallucination that represents “all the women in your life.”
Instead, this is the type of horror and splatter that takes an awesome sense of humor to comprehend. Not only is this a look back to the 80s/90s culture of bodybuilding and fitness found throughout genre flicks like The Toxic Avenger and other Troma properties—Body Melt is a fantastic romp into a world of “sexy” (not really) hillbillies, chemistry and highway stars.
John Lichman writes on film/general oddities, records the Grassroots Podcast at The House Next Door and dances for nickels under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway every Tuesday at 11 am. He tweets here.
WATCH BODY MELT ON FANDOR.