Dystopia! What a place to be. Well, except when people are mulched to feed an over populated society (Soylent Green) or killed at the age of 30 to control it (Logan’s Run); and in the case of Turkey Shoot (1982), hunted for sport by society’s elite. Come to think of it, Dystopia is kind of a bummer.

Released in its native Australia in October, Turkey Shoot wouldn’t see the light of day in the U.S. until September of ’83 under the title Escape 2000. Both titles work; the former playing into the more lurid elements, while the latter highlights the cut rate sci-fi angle. And it’s the swirling combination of the two that gives this sucker its punch. Turkey Shoot is A class exploitation with a down under smile.

Travel with me to the near future of 1995. (The “near future”, in filmmaking terms, means the viewer is treated to costumes out of an ABBA video, and the set is a remote island. The “distant future” costs a lot more money.) A totalitarian state has brought peace, but at a price. Anyone who does not conform or comply is sent to a ‘re-education’ camp. We see dissident DJ Paul (Steve Railsback – Lifeforce) snatched up by soldiers as he broadcasts the truth about the oppressors; next, storekeeper Chris (Olivia Hussey – Black Christmas), who is caught giving aid to someone escaping the soldiers’ clutches, and finally prostitute Rita (Lynda Stoner – Crawl), are all rounded up and thrown in a truck on route to Camp 47.

We’re then treated to group showers, public lashings, and general mistreatment of the prison populace, all under the watchful eyes of Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig – The Vault of Horror) and his main henchman, Ritter (Roger Ward – Mad Max). Before long, Paul and others make plans to escape – but not before Thatcher makes him, Chris, Rita, and Griff (Bill Young – The Matrix) an offer hard to refuse: survive in the jungle until sundown while being hunted and they’ll be set free. No weapons proffered, but a head start will be given. Seeing it as their only possible means of escape, the foursome head out first thing in the morning, to try and stay one step ahead of the hunters, and live through the Turkey Shoot.

Many sci-fi films in the ‘60s and ‘70s offered allegorical fantasies for the discerning crowd; those previously mentioned as well as others like Westworld, Planet of the Apes, and Silent Running all shining a light on societal ills, encroaching technology, and human relations. Turkey Shoot does not fall into this category. According to director Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead End Drive-In), the first 20 pages explaining the downfall and twisted rebirth of society had to be nixed due to an investor backing out at the last minute. I really don’t think it would have made a difference; the societal themes are never more than grazed upon, especially when the hunt begins. And yes, it does blow it’s didgeridoo to the tune of the well worn tale The Most Dangerous Game, but even by 1982, that wasn’t exactly a novel twist.

So without any social impact, what are we left with? A good, sleazy time, that’s what. Let’s start with the hunters: we have a prissy debutant who loves the ladies and displaces bomb charged arrows whenever she has a chance; a fop who has Ritter do all the heavy lifting for him, and my favorite – a hunter driving a bulldozer with a circus freak as his weapon. Oh, and the freak resembles Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf, with cannibalistic tendencies to boot. But wait! There’s more. Machete mayhem, exploding bodies, munchable toes…maybe losing the editorial insight helps the movie? Because I’m not sure how you tell an Orwellian fable with a straight face while someone gets bisected by farm equipment.

Trenchard-Smith had the budget ($3,200,000 US) to attract some well known talent in front of the camera, but it’s the villains who rise to the occasion. Railsback plays it way too earnest (unfortunately not at the slightly self aware Airplane! level), and Hussey mostly runs and whimpers. But Craig and Ward find the vibe immediately as Thatcher and Ritter, respectively, and keep the film firmly entrenched in exploitation, where it clearly wants to be.

Regardless of how much was cut from the script (by Jon George & Neill D. Hicks, the team who also wrote the underwhelming The Final Terror), Trenchard-Smith makes the most of what he’s left with; he stages action scenes very well, and the film is beautifully shot by John McLean (The Quest). Blah blah blah – is it horror? Close enough for our purposes, I say. There’s certainly enough grue on display to satisfy most; it definitely played in the same grindhouses, and Trenchard-Smith would flex his horror muscles later on with Leprechaun 3 & 4. The man has made some good trash – and no self respecting Dystopia should be without its share.

Turkey Shoot is available on Blu-ray from Severin Films.

Next: Drive-In Dust Offs: RAW MEAT aka DEATH LINE (1972)
  • Scott Drebit
    About the Author - Scott Drebit

    Scott Drebit lives and works in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is happily married (back off ladies) with 2 grown kids. He has had a life-long, torrid, love affair with Horror films. He grew up watching Horror on VHS, and still tries to rewind his Blu-rays. Some of his favourite horror films include Phantasm, Alien, Burnt Offerings, Phantasm, Zombie, Halloween, and Black Christmas. Oh, and Phantasm.