• Body Melt (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray/DVD Review



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 25th, 2018.
    Director: Philip Brophy
    Cast: Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith, Regina Gaigalas, Vincent Gil, Neil Foley
    Year: 1993
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    Body Melt – Movie Review:

    Body Melt is gross, but it’s gross in a really fun way. The film begins with a brief scene where 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 he 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 hanging about are excused by the police and head off towards to health club outside of town. Here they are supposed to meet a woman. Along the way, they end up lost and in need of a windshield replacement. They 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. 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 of course… 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 director Philip Brophy and company pore on the gore. Just like in Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive some of the effects are comical but they go just far enough to still manage to be disgusting – some of them impressively so. 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 begins to produce so much mucus that it essentially devours his head, and then there’s the pregnant lady. You get the idea.

    But besides the gore does the film really offer anything?

    Well, yeah. You’ve got to love 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. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, right? 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 impressive 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. There’s a lot of manic energy here, and the film mixes humor and horror brilliantly in spots.

    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 (and some welcome and apt social commentary come in to keep things interesting).

    Body Melt – Blu-ray Review:

    Body Melt arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome “newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 16mm original camera negative” on a 50GB disc framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Compared to the previous Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment, which looked quite good, this is a surprisingly big upgrade. Colors look much better here – not just brighter and bolder but more defined. Black levels are spot on and those darker scenes now have better shadow detail and no crush at all. Skin tones look nicer and detail and texture are both noticeably improved over what we’ve seen in the past. There’s good depth to the image throughout and virtually no print damage aside from maybe a small white speck here and there. The image retains the grainy look inherent in its origins without ever looking overly polished, retaining a beautifully filmic look throughout. No complaints here at all – Body Melt looks fantastic here.

    As to the audio options, we’re given a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with optional subtitles offered up in English SDH only. Audio quality here is just fine, with some good use of the surrounds made in a few spots and properly balanced levels noticeable throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and there’s solid clarity here.

    Extras, many of which are carried over from the Umbrella release, kick off with an audio commentary featuring director Philip Brophy who is joined by producers Daniel Scharf and Rod Bishop recorded in October of 2016. This track, as you’d hope, has a good sense of humor to it. They start off by discussing the origins of the film, what inspired the script, how the producers went about bankrolling the film, Brophy’s influences when it came to making the picture, casting the picture, some of the effects work that is featured in the movie, the importance of ‘salt, saliva, sperm and sweat’ and how this film has gone on to develop a genuine legacy. They also talk about the suburban locations, the different characters that populate the film, the intriguing story behind ‘the letter box’ in the movie, marketing the film (“this is not an arthouse movie but it was being produced and funded within the channels that predominantly funded arthouse movies”), and how the movie contrasted with the conservative views of the major distributors in Australia at the time this picture was released theatrically.

    A second commentary finds Brophy flying solo in a track that focuses on the sound design and film score that he worked on for the picture. He then basically gives us a very scene specific talk that talks up everything from the ‘cheap TV sounds’ of the opening scene to the music used in the film and how it was reconfigured for the 5.1 mix contained on this Blu-ray release. It’s a very technical talk – Brophy admits this early on – but if you have an interest in sound design it’s quite interesting. Brophy notes that ‘the film soundtrack is treated like a pacifier’ in that it guides the audience in certain directions and keeps them calm, and then talks about the importance of Dolby Surround in regards to the film’s theatrical showings. He talks about how the mix on this release more accurately represents the film’s intended sound design compared to the old DVD release, the ‘special effects type sounds’ that are used in some of the films’ gorier scenes by way of a sampler, how he recorded these sounds himself, why the music sounds the way it does and how it reflects the characters and a lot more. Great stuff.

    The disc also contains a vintage seventeen-minute behind the scenes featurette that essentially a fly on the wall look at the making of the movie before then tying in some interviews with the cast and crew members. Here we get a look at what it was like on set and here from those who made the film about their thoughts on the project, the characters in the movie, how some of the effects were pulled off, what went into creating some of the picture’s prosthetics and a fair bit more.

    Also on hand is a thirty-four minute piece from 1992 called Making Bodies Melt. This featurette is loaded with cast and crew interviews and features yet more behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. Brophy is on hand here to talk about how the movie came to be while we get a lot of great footage showing the makeup and effects technicians at work, some talk about the influence of ‘Australian soap’ and ‘Neighbours’ on the movie, the best way to make a ‘copy’ of your actor using plastic and wax, the cops that are featured in the picture, how and why the movie goes for the gross out the way it does and loads more. This is quite an interesting piece – the behind the scenes and makeup footage is fantastic.

    Vinegar Syndrome also include some new extra features on this release, starting with Melting Away: The Deconstruction Of Body Melt which is an extensive thirty-eight-minute interview with director Philip Brophy and writer/producer Rod Bishop. They talk quite candidly about how they met and why they started working together, sharing stories from early projects before then getting into the details of Body Melt. They then talk about where the ideas came from, how they raised the money to get the movie made, various influences that worked their way into the film, the importance of the contributions of the cast and crew that they worked with on the picture and quite a bit more. Up next is Body Building: The Making Of Body Melt, a new eight-minute interview with producer Daniel Scharf. This covers some of the same ground as the first piece but obviously from Scharf’s perspective. He offers up more details about getting the project bankrolled and how the film was cast but also talks about the film scene in Australia at the time the movie was made as well as his thoughts on the finished product. The third and final new featurette is Adrenal Glands, an eleven-minute interview with actor Neil Foley. He speaks, with a good sense of humor, about how he landed his role in the film, his thoughts on working under Brody as a director, how he got along with some of his co-stars and his thoughts on the quality of the effects work showcased in the picture.

    Rounding out the extras is a huge behind-the-scenes stills and prop gallery, a complete storyboard gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. The disc also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration and including the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray disc.

    Body Melt – The Final Word:

    Body Melt is a gooey, gory good time. It’s quirky, weird, gross and pretty funny highlighted by some impressive effects work delivered at a pretty berserk pace. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release is the one to beat, presenting the film in a flawless transfer and very solid audio alongside all of the extras from the past Blu-ray release and a few new ones thrown into the mix. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Body Melt Blu-ray scree caps!