Severin Films gave an impressive Blu-Ray package to the exploitative Australian film Turkey Shoot, from director Brian Trenchard-Smith, a man with a reputation for designing and creating larger than life movies on tiny budgets, and one who is familiar with horror genre itself. His past works centering on the b-movie flair and yet still entertaining with such movies Night of the Demons 2 (1994) and Leprechaun 3 & 4, knows how to convey multiple writers’ story lines into the best feature possible. Herein, lies a problem this 80-minute horror and sci-fi movie, had five writers, three for the story and two as the screenwriters, Robert Williams, David Lawrence and the talented George Schenck of many television series, including NCIS. Meanwhile, screenwriters Joe George and Neill D. Hicks took the brunt of the workload, and one year later would re-team for The Final Terror (1983), bring in many story lines, and some do get lost in the movie. This movie exists many well under the scope for many horror fans, and appealing only to a very niche market, those that crave as completest of the international Ozploitiation and with a hint of WIP (women-in-prison) interest.
The dystopian society set in the very late 1990s, though the technology never really matches the conceptual future, the movie starts with stock footage of riots occurring, and the new high moralistic government doesn’t want anyone out-of-step with the idealistic social norms. Any individual deemed in defiance of both society and state acquires the label as a deviant and held in a rehabilitation fortress camp in hopes of learning and serving properly into world society. The camps serve to take individuals for the petty crimes to outrageous charges and turn them over to sadistic guards. Now, an interesting element which reflects to the real life modern day society of the camps in the movie, consider behavioral modification camps, those places exist nowadays for many teens, whose choices go against the grain or rub their parents’ morals incorrectly. The movie centers through a series of flashbacks of prisoners heading to the camp that includes a rebel rousing and master escapist Paul Anders (Steve Railsback of Lifeforce (1985)); Rita Daniels (Lynda Stoner) a suspected woman of loose morals and lastly a very innocent Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey). Olivia’s character Chris’ crime, arrested for asking the police a question about treatment of others, that questioning of authority goes against the state, hence seen as rebellion. She wonderfully portrays a woman, virginal in tone, with excluding shyness, and needs mentioning while on set felt miserable and stressed over the wildlife attacking her, adding wonderfully to trembling terrors. Although in the movie, the warden extremely sadistic, and the added measure of women-in-prison themes, but not into the realm of latent lesbianism, rather more to rape scenarios, that end badly for one, with his genitalia caught aggressive in a zipper. Michael Craig plays the Warden Charles Thatcher (and yes a political reference to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) in a perfectly villainous manner and assisted handily by Ritter (Roger Ward), as the camps Chief Guard. Ritter has a glint of delight in making others suffer for his enjoyment and nothing as cruel as a weenie roast for a prisoner caught in escape attempt.
As with most prison exploitative movies the prisoners play a game with the captors to control population and fund finances by orchestrating a hunting of humans games, the advantage to the captors with as they have weapons, vehicles and even aided by others. The theme of movies, like this continue to strive forward, and existed long before this film too, such as The Most Dangerous Game (1932); The Running Man (1987); Surviving the Game (1994) and very recently Preservation (2014), the game of hunting animals for some a tad boring. The training of hitting and hunting human life the ultimate big game victory, though sadly for this movie no mounted heads or even jars to show off the past victories. Aiding the hunters an escapee from a freaks circus, a wolf-like man Alph (Steve Rackman, icon of the wrestling community for Australian and later in life know as Donk from the Crocodile Dundee movies) who enjoys munching on toes. Needless to say, that once the hunt starts everything goes absolutely nuts, the barbaric mannerisms, rampaging killing and the usage of explosive arrow tip archery equipment, which were later used in Rambo: First Blood, Part II (1985) movies, interesting how the influences flow into other movies.
It is still amazing over 30-years and this movie still has interesting social commentary relevant today, and sadly it falls into an always growing trap, of conducting and training behaviors ideal for society, such as the conversion camps, costly to reprogram into a therapy of well adjusted, morally and focused on the sexual orientated sounded principles. An eerily prediction the movie had predicted for the future, aside from that the special effects lack heavily when severing limbs, extremely lame in the display, however, in one moment Hussey almost made a fatal error by misunderstanding the director’s command of “cut” – check out the commentary packages on the film for more information. The pacing and sluggish script of incoherent dialogue wears on most viewers, and the exploitative narrative doesn’t live to predecessors, the lack of sleaze and despair never stay long to soak up scenes. However, the death scenes definitely excite most horror fans with over the top fun and blood splatter delights.
Turkey Shoot has the necessary elements to have ridiculously fun movie, with little to complain overall and with Severin’s wonderful treatment many can embrace all the mayhem of over 70-minutes worth of commentary, some of it very shocking. The film earned a cult status relationship in UK, as well as breaking then box office records, and though it struggled in the US, the core of devotees of the genre excel it forward even with the ever changing titles of Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher, either case this flick is for the sick.