Body Parts review by Matt FuerstLet's take a trip in our Wayback Machine to 1991. C & C Music Factory was tearing up the Hip Hop scene and Paula Abdul released her second CD "Spellbound" ensuring that she was going to be one of the hottest artists through the 21st century. The United States is engaged in a war with some wacko named Sadaam Hussein. Luckily we will take care of that problem before it gets out of hand. Intel introduces the 486 processor, running at 20 MHz, while a kooky Fin posts a message to the Minix newsgroup saying that he has developed a Unix-like operating system called Linux. In films, Scorsese releases what many consider to be the pinnacle of his career in Goodfellas, only to lose both the Director and Film categories to Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves. No need to worry, since Scorsese will undoubtedly will get an Oscar for his next film. The #1 box office draw for the year is the technical marvel Terminator 2 ($204M). At the end, everyone sighs in relief knowing that the Terminator franchise is now complete and they wouldn't think of revisiting it, especially with some ridiculous forced character as an evil Terminator.
1991 is an interesting time for the Horror genre, as well. The #4 box office draw was Silence of the Lambs ($130M)and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare also ranked in the Top 50. This is a time before the mid-90's horror renaissance inspired by the Freddy-inspiration himself, Wes Craven of the Scream series, which plunged the mainstream horror world to new lows. No, in the distinct fission before Scream had horror being much more mainstream and serious (yes, the slasher genres are much more serious than say, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) with television shows such as Tales from the Crypt, The Hitcher and Friday the 13th: The TV Series being on regular broadcast Television. After the Scream revolution, we have been presented with lighter horror tales, aimed at the young teenage market like the Last Summer and Urban Legends in the theatres and Buffy and Sabrina on television.
With this timeframe in mind, it's not much of a surprise that a film like Body Parts takes itself as seriously as it does. While presenting it's horrific storyline, it always has it's eye on a bigger question that is looming over the proceedings: what makes the soul of a person? What defines free will?
Bill Chrushank (Jeff Fahey) is a professional shrink as well as a professor at a college, teaching his craft to the next generation of shrinks. He has the prototypical family life, the perfect wife, the 2 1/2 kids, and I think I even saw a goldfish in the background of some scenes. They are conspicuously missing the minivan, but I believe that is more than made up for by Bill's decision to wear a turtleneck in ever scene of the film. There's nothing that screams "broken family man" quite like a dude that refuses to admit he has a neck that might enjoy a little exposure to air and sunlight. While traveling to a pro-bono patient in the local jailhouse (Bill wonders aloud early on whether he can successfully change the felon, or if the evil is truly part of the man that cannot be changed) the next car over loses a tire and Bill luckily misses crashing into the car. Unfortunately, stupid Newton and his laws of motion and stupid Henry Ford and his design of automobile braking systems means that the 10 ton semi behind Bill isn't so swift in the 60 to 0 category, and Bill is crushed by the truck, crushed by his front windshield, crushed by the pavement and pretty much wishing he had stopped to smell the daisies that morning.
The bad news for the lovely Mrs. Karen Chrushank (Kim Delaney) is that big Bills right arm is still splattered on I-90 (Westbound, don't worry people heading East) but the good news it that they have a new right arm waiting to be donated. A signature later, Bill is getting rolled into surgery to have his new paw grafted on. Through the fog of anesthesia, Bill thinks he sees another person in the Operating Room, watches them lop the head off the apparent donator, and then proceed to divvy out his limbs.
3 months of recovery later, and Bill is as good as new, plus some scar tissue. Bill returns home, shows the new gun off to his kids and goes out and plays catch. Bill successfully boffs his wife, buys groceries and decides to become a hand model since he can work for two different markets depending on if he's showing lefty or right (just kidding on the last part). Bill returns to work, and in a visit to his prison bitch, find out that a tattoo on his new arm is a sign of pride amongst fellow death row members! Queue shocking music here! Bill decides to hit up his local cop buddy, who runs his prints and finds out Bill's righty used to be Murderin' Charley's righty.
We are then spun off into quite a bit of an overly long ponderous session by Bill debating his feelings on having the arm of a serial killer. Driven by his retarded need to bond (or maybe he's on the sausage hunt) Bill looks up Remo Lacey (Brad Dourif, who got Charley's lefty) and Mark Draper (Peter Murnik, who got Charley's legs). Philosophical discussions ensue about how they feel about having the limbs of a murderer. Pretty much everyone but Bill is alright with it, but hey, if I get a vote I'd say that it's the turtlenecks that are driving Bill batty. Me, whenever I wear one I itch the crap out of my neck. I'd say the annoyance is just occurring to Bill mentally, an itch he can't scratch, so to speak.
Things really heat up when it turns out that maybe all isn't what it seems, and maybe the spirit of Charley still lives on, and maybe the body parts all want to be reunited once again in one body. Or maybe even more of Charley is left than just the few body parts themselves?
Body Parts is a very competently put together film, that it is obvious a good bit of time was spent crafting the film. It is based on the French novel Choice Cuts, which director Eric Red (henceforth called Eric the Red in a bout of 3rd grade level ingenuity) and a group of writers adapted for the screen. The story itself fits quite nicely into a 3 act structure, with all the logical elements being at the correct places. However, there are some pacing problems within the acts. Act 1 covers Bill's normal life and rather rude separation with his arm. The 2nd act however, is where problems creep up. Bill pisses and moans about his arm for far too long. He visits each of the fellow transplant recipients, writes in his journal, visits them again, talks with cops about the murderer whose arm he received, feels different and wonders if he is going crazy, talks with his doctor, talks with the fellow recipients again. (Sorry for the run-on sentence, but I am doing it for artist reasons here, people!) Yeah, that's a lot of ground to cover, and the girth of it is unnecessary. I understand we need to set up that after the initial glee of not permanently having only one arm, he is disturbed by the arm. I really got that point by the 30 minute mark of the 2nd act. I was just waiting for the payoff shortly thereafter, that was long overdue. I have been intentionally vague on the content of the 3rd act, but it all wraps itself up far too quickly, the real gore and anxiety of the film hits it's crescendo in the 3rd act, but the film is complete about 10 minutes after it begins. With a film that runs a relatively skimpy 88 minutes (even for a horror film) there could have been some more padding here in the finale. More gore, more drawn out situations, more anxiety. It could have worked better.
Director Eric Red is best known for his writing projects, most specifically The Hitcher and cult favorite Near Dark. His directing skills are certainly up to par, and even dealing with a moderately big budget (a reported $10M for this project) he makes it look much more lavish. Some fun shots include the introduction to Bill's household and family life, as well as a disturbing arm-cam shot set up the length of Bills' new arm. Eric the Red uses sound very well also in the film, the most standout moment being during Bill's recovery period. While attempting to lift a 5 pound weight, we hear sinew and muscle expanding, stretching and contorting attempt to lift the weight. We don't know if the arm is going to snap free and fall off right there or successfully lift the weight.
Jeff Fahey is pretty likeable in his role as Bill Chrushank. While he does pull the "tortured soul" thing on for far too long, that isn't particularly his fault. Fahey does look particularly like my cousin Scott, luckily I am a professional so I can keep that out of my mind while keeping an eye on his performance (I'll leave it up to you to read the undertone and decide if that is a good or bad way). I feel pretty comfortable that very few people will have actually read this quite prolix review up to this point, so I have no shame nor concern in admitting I have a little crush on Kim Delaney, who plays Karen Chrushank. I think the nice hair in her role on NYPD Blue has a lot to do with it. Ms. Delaney does a good job here, even with a forced cry hospital scene that was a little tough to stomach. No hootie exposure though, damn. Back to the eBay Laserdisc section I go looking for the promise land.
I viewed Body Parts on the Laserdisc presentation, which uses the original theatrical presentation ratio of 1.85:1. Everything is formatted very well and presentation is crisp and clear. Sadly, the disc is lacking in extras, as they didn't even encode chapter stops onto the disc. Body Parts is currently unavailable on DVD, which I imagine will change someday, but I wouldn't expect a massive amount of extras when that day does arrive. It would be interesting to hear if there was some more material in available for the finale that may have been cut to meet an R rating for theatrical release. The inclusion of such footage would likely make this a significantly more fulfilling film.
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