My brother-in-law and I like so many of the same movie genres that I’m often surprised by how often our opinions differ on most films. To use his terminology, he’s a fan of movies heavy on “cheese”, where many “random” things happen, and there’s “fun gore”. Not being a fan of gore, period, I don’t foresee ever using that last phrase.
1982’s Turkey Shoot is a trifecta, fulfilling each of those three criteria. Set in a totalitarian future, a group of prisoners at a re-education camp are hunted for sport. Yep, this is yet another variation on The Most Dangerous Game, not too dissimilar to The Hunt, Ready or Not, The Running Man or what feels like a thousand other features.
This picture is usually labelled as “Ozploitation”, a curiously antipodean variant of the exploitation genre. The more exploitation movies I see, the more I realize this may not be the genre for me. The Australian ones seem to be particularly mean-spirited, which is a big turn-off in my book.
Allow me to illustrate with an example. One of the hunters has as his companion a “freak” from the circus. I’m guessing this thing is actually a mutant. It seems to be some sort of werewolf (maybe?) with lizard-like eyes and who wears a top hat. There’s your “random” for you, as well as some complimentary cheese.
This thing provides a couple of moments of what I guess some would describe as “fun gore”. It tears the toe off one of the prisoners and then eats it. His comeuppance comes from being cut in half at the waist by the blade of a runaway bulldozer. We get a lovely close-up of guts spilling out of this lower half.
This movie left a bad taste in my mouth right at the opening credits. These incorporate real footage of protestors, many of whom are being beaten by police officers. I am never comfortable with seeing real people hurt in anything being passed off as entertainment.
Once the movie proper begins, we see police apprehending Steve Railsback, whose crime is apparently broadcasting anti-government messages. Fleeing the cops, he seeks refuge in a shop where Olivia Hussey works. It is immediately obvious she is not the kind of the person to make waves, yet she is also arrested. The apprehending officer says that, if the fugitive went into that shop, then she must know the criminal. Guilt by association, however slight, I guess.
Isn’t it telling how only the worst regimes use the term “re-education”? And yet, it takes some equally nasty minds to devise the things that happen in the re-education camp of this movie. In addition to the casual brutality and constant threat of sexual assault one might expect in such an environment, there are some excessively cruel and weird punishments. I imagine that, as children, the writers probably pulled the wings off flies. Maybe they even pulled the legs off puppies.
Take for example the “Ball Game” used to execute an attempted escapee. There are two large, plastic spheres filled with gasoline, one tied to each ankle of the prisoner. Guards kick the balls around, from which the petrol leaks out onto the ground. Once the orbs are emptied, the guards ignite the trails of gasoline, immolating the condemned man.
I don’t feel like wasting any more energy writing about this. I think a decent movie could have been made out of Turkey Shoot, even if it still wouldn’t have been a very original one. It has been remade once already in this century, so that one might be an improvement. I don’t intend to find out. This movie is cruel and ugly, and I regret the time I wasted on it. I fear what it would be like if those who remade it felt they needed to make something even more appalling.
Dir: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Steve Railsback, Olivia Hussey
Watched on Severin blu-ray