It’s time for another Hunter’s Moon and so we take a look at hunting horror, specifically human’s hunting humans.
The true start of the humans hunting humans movies was the 1932 film The Most Dangerous Game, based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell. A crazy big game hunter hunts people for sport on an island. Simple concept, well-executed (har har), and with a great ending.
That famous film was pretty well-received for creating suspense and having good acting.
Obviously, that’s not a movie world I’m going to drag you into. There have been plenty of other hunted human movies. Various films of the Predator franchise, Race with the Devil, Southern Comfort, The Hitcher, Series 7: The Contenders, Deliverance, Battle Royale, The Naked Prey, Surviving the Game, The Woman Hunt…you get the idea. They run the gamut of quality, falling mostly on the crap end.
The movie we’re here to talk about, Turkey Shoot, is definitely on that crap end if for no other reason than being exactly what a 1982 futuristic horror film should be. This film is known for being gory, violent, and sadistic. It was called “garbage” and “unfit for human consumption”.
With that said, I enjoyed the film. For the most part. It’s bad enough to entertain in that certain way, if you let it. There’s no help for those of you who can’t allow yourself to love in spite of obvious flaws. You probably hate the world’s ugliest dog too.
Naturally, it’s not on an AFI list of films you have to see to sound pretentious while discussing the best films of all time. However, this film has some hackneyed social commentary, 1980s electronic riffs, and a game effort at horror movie gore. The kind of film that is made to retrospectively laugh with (and at, but definitely with).
The film is about a “future” society where deviants are sent to an island camp for reeducation at the Reeducation and Behavioral Modification Center.
Our hero, Paul (Steve Railsback who’s been in everything, including Lifeforce, Barb Wire, Disturbing Behavior, and once played Ed Gein), is a pirate radio dissident who the powers that be want to break. He joins up with Chris, an attractive brunette woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time (played by Olivia Hussey – Juliet in the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo & Juliet); Rita, an immodest blonde woman who will do what she must to get by; Dodge, a crazy, orange-haired, coke-bottle glasses-wearing weirdo who surely got lost leaving the Mad Max film set , and a classic prison troublemaker named Griff.
Deviants are people who don’t do what they’re told. According to Thatcher, the head dude at the RBMC, “Your reeducation depends on your unquestioning acceptance of any and every order given by the state.” Further, “Disobedience is treason. Treason is a crime. Crime will be punished.”
Promiscuity is A-OK, but pregnancy is punishable by abortion, sterilization, and castration. Homosexuality is punishable by death.
So, we have a government rounding up undesirables into camps. We have a small posse of elites blithely deciding the fate of said undesirables for their own amusement. Control of the media and control of the workforce through violence and indoctrination.
The motto of the times is “Freedom is obedience. Obedience is work. Work is life.”
It all sounds so comfortably familiar and relatable.
The Gang of Four rich folks (Thatcher, two men, and a femme fatale (Carmen Duncan) with exploding-tip arrows) each get a prisoner to hunt (Paul, Dodge, Chris, and Rita), plus Griff who is being punished with death. The prisoners run into the cane fields in their orange jumpsuits and matching Converse high tops. Things go poorly for the hunters, as you would expect.
Now, I know you’ve been waiting to hear about the sickening horrors that got everyone’s panties bunched back in 1982. What you’ll find is that there are none. Yes, there is movie violence, nudity, and gore. It is nothing you wouldn’t see in a Friday the 13th movie, but even more laughably fake looking.
Let’s run down the tally:
Nudity: 1 shower scene, with absolutely no salaciousness. Men and women in a communal shower, shot tastefully from above.
Rape: 2 incidents where rape is hinted at as a punishment, but never happens. 1 incident where it is explicitly explained, but we never see the act of sexual violence, just the before and after (it also happens to be woman on woman violence).
Burned alive: 2 people (discounting anyone that suffered in the final shootout). One bad guy during the hunt, one unfortunate prisoner as a punishment. Neither is shown in much detail.
Gun play: plenty, there is a massive battle between the prisoners and the guards at the end, complete with vehicle-mounted high-caliber rounds, rocket launchers, grenades, and the usual automatic weapons. The explosions look like low-level fireworks, nobody actually aims, and there is little blood. Jets bomb the island and some temporary-looking structures burn.
Miscellaneous fun: A man’s head explodes (clearly a mannequin), a man gets bisected by a plow, and a man has his hands removed with a machete. All involve very little blood and the removed hands are obviously fake but twitch wonderfully on the ground. I think you can buy similar rubber hand Halloween decorations at the grocery right now.
Did I mention that one of the rich men has some sort of hairy man-beast named Alph? Because that’s a thing. Alph isn’t really explained, but know that we can expect giant, orange-eyed man-beast valets in the future. That’s something to look forward to.
[I guess I should mention there was a redo in 2014, but it’s not actually worth mentioning.]
So, what did we learn other than the joys of watching those uppity elites get what’s coming to them?
This film was seen as gory, sickening, unfit trash in its day. Its violence and gore is laughable compared to modern films. We have become inured to it. These taboos have become normalized. Believe it or not, that’s not the death of society. Films are not real (except that one you heard about from a friend of a friend’s uncle who frequents the dark web, but not for anything untoward, he’s just looking for the Truth).
And so we arrive in our current climate. Fresh off the fever dream of an Australian film set in 1982 into a world where things have been normalized, freedom is obedience, and work is life.
The film ends with the following quote by H.G. Wells,
“Revolution begins with the misfits…”
I don’t think the filmmakers knew exactly what Wells meant, but that is fine by me.
Deviants unite (for wholesome fun, obedience, and long work hours)!
Thank you and good night.