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Turkey Shoot (AKA Blood Camp Thatcher)

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Posted 20th April 2009 at 05:08 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

Turkey Shoot (Blood Camp Thatcher)





The Australians know how to make entertaining trash. Something in the national consciousness seems to infuse many of their mainstream movies, like the fantastic Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the glorious camp of Strictly Ballroom, with an off kilter goofiness that naturally lends itself to the seamy end of the cinematic world. When they make trash horror and sci-fi you end up with bizarre concoctions like Mad Max, Bad Boy Bubby or the paranoid-future vampire yarn, 'Thirst'. Another amazing thing about an Aussie horror film is that, because the acting community has always been traditionally small, you can guarantee seeing a Soap Star doing something out of character. I'll never forget the joy I felt when I realized that Ian Smith, the down under acting colossus behind Harold Bishop in 'Neighbours', was one of the bad guys in weird low rent gorefest, 'Body Melt'.

In 'Turkey Shoot' eagle eyed viewers will spot a few performers that later earned a crust in the greatest soap opera of all time, the sensational Women-In-Prison series, Prisoner Cell Block H, a show that never ceased to entertain me and my friends in our drug hazed, early 90s incarnations. Perfect late night smokers TV, Prisoner wowed our frazzled minds with plots so outlandish, sets so wobbly and acting so melodramatic that there were always howls of protest when the credits rolled.

Lovers of that show are going to enjoy this movie, which also features a prison, albeit one that houses the rebels and dissidents of a 1984-style dystopian future in which conformity, hard work and ceding your will to a common "good" has left those who think as individuals on the wrong side of the law. Subject matter that, in our increasingly surveillance filled world of CCTV, ID Cards and DNA testing, seems ever closer. Don't expect anything profound in this movie though. This particular set up seems designed to allow the producers to lock up a load of people who we can feel sympathy for. It wouldn't be much fun rooting for a ruthless gang of rapists and murderers would it?*

Turkey Shoot sees three new internees arrive at a work camp after being found guilty of crimes against the fascist state. Carmen Duncan, of "A Country Practice" fame, is Jennifer, incarcerated for being 'a whore'. Steve Railsback , who turned up uncredited in Devil's Rejects, is Paul Anders, a man who actively fights the system, broadcasting on underground radio networks and trying to stoke the fires of revolution. The final new victim is Chris Walters, a women who is a conformist. She runs a jewelry shop and was taken away by blackshirted police officers for intervening when they beat a men senseless in her shop. she is bewildered and scared, having no idea how she ended up in a prison camp. She is played with wide eyed fear by Olivia Hussey.

I have a cruel streak when it comes to actors when their careers slide. I always enjoy watching performers, especially good, professionals, as they continue to work in ever more trashy movies. Olivia Hussey was a real star when she broke through in Franco Zeffirelli's version of Romeo and Juliet before going on to star in successful films like Black Christmas and Death On The Nile. However, like Russ Tamblyn, who went from the dizzy heights of West Side Story to the dingy lows of Satan's Sadists, it's when her star faded slightly and she ended up in trash like this and the woeful Psycho 4, that things get more interesting. She performs well here, with a startled believability that shows the other performers in a bad light. She can still convince as an actress when working with the lowliest of material.

The film doesn't do anything crazy with the plot, the newbies arrive, meet the camps leader, the despicable Thatcher, and his cronies, before we are treated to some nasty beatings and tortures, just so we understand that the camp works by it's own sick minded rules and that this particular future belongs to a class of evil, jaded scumbags. We get to meet these scumbags soon after the film begins. Thatcher's boss, Secretary Mallory (Noel Ferrier - A Year of Living Dangerously) and two others have come to the remote facility for a little human hunting. It seems like the rulers of this cruel new order are rich, bloated and lacking in any morality. They have grown rich off the toil of others and the system has been geared to make the majority slave their lives away so they can rule in comfort. Anyone who steps out of line will be crushed. God...I hate those guys! I hope they all get what's coming to them!

The movie moves at a terrific pace, sketching characters in only the most two dimensional of terms. This is exploitation gold that tapped into the vogue for Nazi inspired torture camp movies and Women in Prison flicks, so we don't need to know anymore than who is the good guy and who is the bad. The rich folks have come for a hunt and so have we, so, after some more beatings and a wholly gratuitous Caged Heat-style nude shower scene, the rabbits are let out of the cage and the gore drenched pursuit commences....

Turkey Shoot is one of the trashiest, cheesiest films I've ever seen and I loved ever badly acted second. The gore effects, whether it be blowing up a man or cutting someone in half with a JCB, are all executed with the panache of a junior school pupil with a pot of red poster paint. The production budget does stretch to plenty of explosions though and the final battle goes off well, with a high body count and lots of gore. Everything about this movie is gloriously wrong as it sets about stripping the fairly serious political background to the story of any semblance of meaning, replacing it with bare breasts, daft gore and melodrama. For fans of high camp grindhouse dreck, Turkey Shoot is money well spent. Hardgore's DVD doesn't feature much beyond a trailer as extras but it doesn't present an uncut print with all the crap effects left in place and the picture quality makes a mockery of the scuzzy offering from Vipco, who released the film at the dawn of DVD as 'Blood Camp Thatcher'.



* This is why I think Hostel doesn't work as anything but a lurid geek show. Horror movies work because we fear for the protagonist. To paraphrase Dario Argento, it's always best to have a female victim, so the male audience will want to protect her. Would Halloween be as scary if Laurie Strode was replaced by a grizzled action hero?

In Hostel we are meant to care about to callous, arrogant sex tourists whose only mission is to travel to Eastern Europe in order to exploit unfortunate women forced by circumstance into the sex industry. Lordy! I hope nothing awful happens to them, they seem like such nice guys...
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