Philip Brophy’s Body Melt, made in 1993, is a distinctly antipodean film: it not only copies scenes from classic horror movies such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Alien (1979), The Thing (1982) and Scanners (1981), it also copies the scenes badly. Such copying plays on and illuminates the ‘rules’ of horror as the toying with and preying upon the spectator’s expectation of fear. Brophy’s own theory of horror, written across a series of essays in academic and critical contexts between the 1980s and the 1990s, considers the peculiarity of the spectator’s body in the wake of the horror film. It relates that the seemingly autonomic or involuntary response of fear or suspense that horror movies induce in a viewer is troubled by the fact that both film and viewer knowingly intend this response to occur from the very beginning. His writing harnesses this fact to theorise the epistemological, moral, and political consequences of such a body. This essay will consider how his only feature Body Melt figures his theory in relation to the rules of horror on the terms of an inversion, which operates not simply through the bad copying but also between sound and image, and body and screen, illuminating the paradoxical subjectivity of the horror film spectator.
LAUREN BLISS | The Cinematic Body in View of the Antipodes: Philip Brophy’s Body Melt as the bad copy