Body Parts (1991) Review

The art of succesful poster creation.  Tell them everything, without telling them anything.

The art of succesful poster creation. Tell them everything, without telling them anything.

Once in a blue moon, when discussing movies with friends or cohorts, I resort to an old saying in order to do a particular film justice.  I tell them that they just need to watch the film, and that saying anything would be giving them too much information and be a spoiler to the experience.  Body Parts is definitely one of those films, and the poster and title say more than enough to entice a viewer into watching it.  For those who need it spelled out however, I will give you a super abbreviated, bare bones synopsis of the plot.

Bill Chrushank (Jeff Fahey), a criminal psychologist, loses his arm in a brutal car accident.  He undergoes experimental surgery which grants him a new, fully operable, human appendage.  Little did he know that the former owner of the arm was a vicious and psychopathic serial killer.

For the record, Fahey is up there with big Bruce Campbell for "Actors who should have blown up in popularity."

For the record, Fahey is up there with big Bruce Campbell for "Actors who should have blown up in popularity."

Seeing as how a plot like this doesn’t lend itself to being a typical horror movie which can bank on creature effects or scares to keep it afloat, the acting must step in to give the characters on all sides of this medical miracle tale a fair amount of depth and weight.  Jeff Fahey plays our lead Bill Chrushank, and it is through his eyes, emotions, and ordeals that we see much of the movie develop.  As stated in the caption above, I still scratch my head in total wonderment over how Fahey didn’t turn into a fairly big star during the 90’s.  He had the look, a presence and suaveness to him, and piercing eyes which give him a unique glare and seriousness.  His work in Body Parts may be his best ever, as it allows him to shine in impressive ways, both psychically and emotionally.  A young and talented Kim Delaney plays his wife Karen, and even though her role isn’t as massive as Fahey’s, she is believable and has good on screen chemistry with him making their marriage sub-plot seem all the more interesting.  Brad Dourif also comes in for a supporting role, and does what Brad Dourif always does, be the “out there” guy in the film who can add humor and psychosis while being really likable and leaving a great impression on his character and the audience.  Paul Ben-Victor also has a bit part, but it’s one that is pivotal in the early stages of film, and much like Dourif, he comes in, does his job superbly, and then steps out.  I would be remiss in I didn’t mention the soothing and credible acting of Lindsay Duncan, a fairly accomplished Scottish actress who plays Chrushanks brilliant doctor who performs the experimental surgery.

THE Brad Dourif.

THE Brad Dourif.

Eric Red serves as both co-writer of the screenplay (this film was loosely based off a novel entitled “Choice Cuts”) and our director, and a splendid one at that.  You may know Red’s name from the recently released 100 Feet starring Famke Janssen.  Eric uses a technique that I have been noticing more and more in “horror” films, where the movie starts off somewhat bright and naturally lit, but as the character we follow gets sucked more and more into his story, we see the lightning becoming more dim, more heavily filtered with more aggressive lighting, creating something of a nightmare state in a visual sense.  Red also utilizes some slow motion, even going as far as to stop the movie entirely for one split second during the car crash in the first few minutes.  It’s really good stuff all around, stylized enough to give the film, and the director, a distinct flavor and savvy visual presentation, while not bogging it down and making it feel indulgent and overly flashy.  Red also knows how to film action, as evidenced best by the crash early on in the flick.  His lens is educated and careful, but he also knows when to infuse some “movie lover” cleverness in to make things pop or emphasize a particular event.  Again, I’m tiptoeing around here trying not to give away anything about the latter part of the film, but just trust me on this one.  You will see things in this film that aren’t in any other movie I have ever seen.

Well...it is called Body Parts.  What did you expect?

Well...it is called Body Parts. What did you expect?

The Special effects we are treated to are all of the highest caliber.  From the surgery scene, to the wicked car crash, to thbe ody parts in preservation, it is all very realistic feeling, and devoid of the laughable quality that even the best horror movies can’t help but include.  If I hadn’t made it clear before now, this is a pretty serious flick in tone, which isn’t to say that you won’t have fun viewing it.  Just don’t expect to be giggling along with it.  If I had to put it into words, the story is tidy, but ultimately grim, and the effects work certainly reflect that notion.  The car crash (I know I’m harping on this car crash a lot, but damn it is one of my favorites ever, along the one in Final Destination 2) is really brutal and not the long, drawn out spectacle that we are used to seeing today.  The blood and…body parts that are on display are also eerily well done, to the point where if I had seen them in real life, I may not be able to tell if they were fake or not (see picture above).  For the people out there who are looking for confirmation of some violence and/or gore, I can confirm that for you right now.  But as to who and how and when, that is for you to find out on your own.

Surgery is not a pretty business.

Surgery is not a pretty business.

Body Parts is a film that benefits from it anonymity.  I went into it almost completely blind, and came out much better for not having any knowledge of the inner workings of it’s mechanics.  It is slightly slower than modern day, epilepsy inducing cinema, but I guarantee the last third of the film, including the “pay-off”, is masterfully done and well worth the build-up, mild confusion (which IS resolved thoroughly), and the patience one must exhibit for the first 50 minutes or so while things get underway and set up.  And that might be the highest compliment I can pay Eric Red and his cohorts.  I can honestly say that through out the movie, I was never quite sure what direction this movie might take.  It wasn’t that I was being left in the dark by shoddy film making, but the way it unfolds makes you wonder what is next, while your mind races to try and figure out how something so seemingly beneficial and miraculous could possibly go awry.  Body Parts is equal parts psychological and physical thriller, mystery, and action film, tinged ever so slightly with the backdrop of  “body horror,” and it you have patience to let this one envelop you, it may just become a sleeper hit you’ll be glad to awake.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Take two of these and call me in the morning.

Take two of these and call me in the morning.

—————-
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About Alex Seda

"I watched him for fifteen years, sitting in a room, staring at a wall, not seeing the wall, looking past the wall - looking at this night, inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger him off. Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. Now you can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it." ~Dr. Loomis email alex
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