Color, 1993, 82 mins.
Directed by Philip Brophy
Starring Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Ian Smith, Regina Gaigalas, Vincent Gil, Anthea Davis
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Umbrella (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Vanguard (US R1 NTSC), Goldvision (France R2 PAL), Marketing Film (Germany R2 PAL) / DD2.0

The IncubusIn the quiet Melbourne suburb of Pebbles Court, something odd seems to be afoot when a man who's just enjoyed a tryst with a sweat-covered woThe Incubusman in a tanning room is injected with a strange serum. He promptly starts to freak out after visiting a convenience store, yelling about hallucinations and organ failure before turning into an explosively sludgy mess. A pair of cops, Sam (Kennedy) and Johnno (Daddo), are called in to investigate as the mysterious pestilence starts to afflict other residents, who are apparently being used as guinea pigs without their consent in a sinister product testing process. All of this is tied to Viumuville, a pharmaceutical health product line and fitness center where people are encouraged to be at their physical peak. Unfortunately the families and average joes living in the area are destined for even worse things to come... and what about that weird cannibal mutant clan living nearby?

Though released in 1993, Body Melt feels for all the world like the sort of squishy satires seen a few years earlier with fare like Society, The Stuff, and Street Trash depicting the figurative violence of social classes as a literal case of the rich eating everyone else, or at least turning a blind eye when the working class starts imploding. Body Melt gives it all a weird Aussie TV vibe complete with oversaturated colors, throbbing techno music, and deliberate jabs at the artificiality of consumer culture and horror films themselves; it's easy to imagine director Philip Brophy (also a musician and writer, here adapting a quartet of his short stories) giggling as his cast of largely familiar local TV staples are turned into fleshy nightmares twisted and mutating all over the screen. The effects are the real star here, of course, with the second half of the film turning into a riot of grotesqueries including a pregnancy gone very wrong, killer genitalia, and the aforementioned inbred clan, who prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is just as much of a sick comedy as a splatter film.

Released just as the The Incubustheatrical market for horror fans was cratering in the '90s, Body Melt became something of a cult VHS staple thanks to its avalanche of exploitable elements like gore, grisly mThe Incubusake up, and nudity. Of course, a lot of its thunder was taken by the previous year's New Zealand splatter classic from Peter Jackson, Brain Dead, but if you take it on its own terms, this is plenty of fun with a ridiculously entertaining payoff in the final act that's worth waiting for.

The first DVD edition came out in 2003 from Vanguard, sporting a slightly cropped fullscreen transfer of the uncut version. It looked okay but unspectacular, which is about the same as the subsequent versions released in France and Germany. The Australian release is better since it's anamorphic, but the 1.85:1 framing is too tight at times; at least it has a cast and crew featurette you can't find anywhere else, so fans would be advised to hang on to that one if they have it.

The 2013 edition from Scorpion is easily the best transfer of the bunch, correctly framed at 1.66:1 with more detail and significantly healthier colors than its predecessors. This still looks like a cheap and gaudy movie for the most part, but it's much easier to enjoy the look of it here than before. The two-channel stereo track also sounds solid, with plenty of weird sound effects on the soundtrack to keep your ears occupied in between all the squishing and screaming. Not surprisingly, this is presented as part of the label's "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" line with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters starting things off with a bang as her face melts into a blobby mess during an exercise demonstration. After that she reassembles for a rundown on the cast and crew of the film, returning after the feature to express her stomach discomfort and allowing a familiar past "character" to step in and finish things off. The original trailer is also included along with bonus ones for The Monster Club, Grizzly, Day of the Animals, The Survivor, and Alley Cat.

Reviewed on April 26, 2013.