By Natasha Samreny
“General, he was stronger than the others. That’s why he lasted so long. I don’t know why General, but he seems to be getting stronger all the time.”
The next time you want to scare yourself on Halloween without guaranteed nightmares, watch The Incredible Melting Man. It’s melty, scary and you get to watch his whole body decompose into slimy glisten.
There’s some great screaming in this one. I think the best scenes include two of these moments. When astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) first wakes after his catastrophic space shuttle incident near Saturn’s rings, he is alone in the hospital room. When the nurse returns with some blood for a transfusion, West has unwrapped his bandages revealing what now resembles a body of candlestick remains.
Melted face, ravaged skin—when West sees the mess, he screams. When the nurse sees West, she screams. Dropping his transfusion blood, she books it like Hell down the longest corridor in comedic history. Arms flailing and nurse cap perched unflinchingly on her head, her running shriek pulls us hilariously through and instantly into the new world of Melting Man with slow-mo simplicity.
Melting Man (let’s call him M.M.) is literally melting. He is radioactive and his brain is decomposing—craving human cells at an alarming rate. From the first nurse he sees to the last police men he meets, M.M. hunts and eats every person without prejudice. The only men who can stop him are Dr. Ted Nelson (veteran TV actor Burr DeBenning) and General Michael Perry (Myron Healey) and they want to keep this botched NASA recovery a secret.
Nelson gets the high profile gig of tracking this escaped space-hero-turned-monster with nothing but a Geiger counter and some walking shoes. This goes over very well with his newly pregnant wife Judy (Anny Sweeny), especially since she’s had two miscarriages already and he can’t call in back-up for this monster run. She’s not even supposed to know about M.M. His very existence is classified.
Ear, eyeball and hand parts fall from his carcass at each feeding site like overripe fruit. Sliding from his gummy core like killer trademarks (make-up by Oscar-winning Rick Baker), they narrate his cannibalistic escapades and carnal demise. M.M. exudes heat. He looks like one of those self-refilling fountains with water constantly trickling from the top of his head down his etched body, navigating carved channels into his putty skin, dripping off his fingertips and ears into cloudy collections.
Call me a wuss, but if I ever choose to watch a horror movie again, this would be my limit.
In classic 1970s/80s thriller movie style, this film does have some great lines. After Perry finishes all his instructions to Nelson via their nostalgic split-screen phone conversation, Nelson looks up from the dead receiver in astonishment and says to his wife, “The bastard hung up on me for the second time today”. This is perfectly one of those phrases you play the game of repeatedly trying to fit into every conversation with your buddies, whether or not it makes sense.
Tough call though. When M.M. stalks a fisherman for his first meal in the wild, his prey hears unnatural rustling through the tall grass and yells, “Who’s in there? … Hey, you’re gonna scare the fish!” Little does he know the fish aren’t the only ones being hunted. Hehehe.
Stagy script, obvious acting and lots of screaming—this movie’s strengths are the elements that demarcate it as classic horror filmage. The roving monster’s indefinite journey includes random small town victims, creepy blood-stained hand marks across a window, and of course the requisite half-naked screaming girl.
But the award for terrified-beyond-reason acting goes to the uncredited actress who plays the lover coming home with her boyfriend to a foreboding house at night near the end of M.M.’s meat spree. Her scared facial expressions have impressive range as do her screams. She goes from kissy-face happy through five degrees of emotion, to terrified-beyond-reason in a few cuts.
West’s physical acting reminds how tough character development can be with hardly any spoken lines. This is M.M.’s journey, lonely and driven by audio flashbacks of Houston control during his short stint on the unlucky space shuttle. He’s the only one of his team who survived. Nelson thinks it’s because West was stronger than the others, but to what end?
The DVD’s weaknesses include technical complaints a lot of these older comebacks include—no DVD menu set-up or special features. This means if you stop the film for a second or want to skip to another scene, you have to do it the old school way, by holding down the digital fast-forward or rewind button on your remote.
Furthermore, The Incredible Melting Man is a formula horror movie. There is no huge story arc. Unless it’s a special favorite, you probably won’t pull it out more than once a year for a scary movie marathon. But if you haven’t seen it and you have a taste for classic cheese, dip in!