Cinematic history is rife with examples of films that have (generally accidentally) achieved just the right combination of train-wreck and entertainment to become cult classics. One such example is Turkey Shoot (1982)… at least that’s what it was called if you saw the film in Australia. Viewers in the US would have been treated to Escape 2000, and those in the UK would have enjoyed it as Blood Camp Thatcher, the latter being an attempt to capitalise on the fact that one of the bad guys shared a name with the conservative leader. Either way, the film was a poorly constructed Australian exploitation picture, and a part of the genre that has affectionately and retrospectively come to be known as ozploitation.
The plot was simple. In a futuristic world, social deviants are sent to a prison island of sorts, where the uber-rich pay to hunt them down like animals. And that was pretty much it. Much nudity and violence ensues, and the film’s success hinges upon various acts of comic and ridiculous brutality. But you know what… it was a film… and one directed by Australian cinema’s most influential director of exploitation film, Brian Trenchard-Smith (he would eventually move to the US to direct telemovies and multiple entries in the Leprechaun series).
If there is one thing that can be said about the new remake of this film, directed by Jon Hewitt (the Trenchard-Smith of the video generation), it is that this is not the original. Hewitt’s film is a sparsely decorated accumulation of references and winks that might be mistaken for an impressive student project, were it not for the inexplicable presence of Dominic Purcell in the lead role. The plot seems far closer to The Running Man than the original film this time around, with Purcell playing a disgraced military man, forced to atone for his sins by appearing in a hit game show, in which he is forced to outrun a series of colourful and entertaining killers. Wait a minute… that’s not similar to The Running Man. That is The Running Man!
Purcell is asleep at the wheel throughout the film, presumably because he’s confident nobody will see it. Or was this performance deliberately requested in an attempt to replicate the mediocrity of the original? Quite possibly, but the effect is not the same. The script has a few moments of (I believe) unintended hilarity, and the occasional dropping of feigned American accents is always amusing. But generally, this feels like a contrived attempt to replicate the original’s badness in a new way. The only problem with such attempts at irony (Machete Kills springs to mind) is that their very intention undermines itself. One cannot deliberately AND accidentally make a film that is good because of badness. See. It just doesn’t work. What is most surprising, however, is the relative lack of gratuitous violence throughout the film. Not that I’m necessarily up for too much of that sort of thing, but this is the first exploitation film I’ve ever seen that could get a family friendly release (putting aside two “money shots” that I can think of). Go watch the original instead.
One thing worth noting… there is some disturbing news footage that appears at the start of the film. If this footage is real, it has no place within this film and should absolutely be removed before getting a general release.
The original Turkey Shoot:
A capsule review from the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival.