While flawed, Eric Red’s 1991 horror film Body Parts works for about two-thirds of its running time until it goes to pieces and collapses into a heap. It’s a variation on The Hands of Orlac and other potentially possessed parts flicks that makes for a fairly freakish time thanks to Jeff Fahey’s committed performance, Red’s mostly solid direction and an outstanding score by Loek Dikker that drives the film right from the main title sequence.
Like Oliver Stone’s even more flawed horror flick THE HAND, there’s some good stuff in here, some bad stuff and some flat out crazy stuff. But Red’s film is a lot more compelling and even more interesting on the visual side of things up until the aforementioned belly flop into silly quasi-Frankenstein’s monster/evil scientist with a bizarre agenda territory…
Fahey plays Bill Chrushank, a criminal psychologist who loses an arm in amazingly shot freak accident (an edited version is above), but gets a new one thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. The End. Roll credits! Well, not really, folks. Sure enough, Bill’s arm and then the man himself start acting strangely to the point of almost driving his family away from him after a few incidents that make him seem quite unbalanced. As poor Bill struggles to discover what’s up, he soon finds out his arm isn’t from your run of the mill donor at all, but a very crazed and supposedly deceased serial killer. Oops. Faster than you can say “malpractice suit!”, Bill finds himself tracking down a few other men who’ve happened to get transplants from the killer, but let’s just say someone else is also on the prowl and looking for the same men for his own reasons.
Red keeps it simple and snappy throughout and of the other transplant recipients, Brad Dourif’s performance as a former tortured artist who lost his mojo until his own arm transplant brought back his skills with gusto is pretty awesome (in that offbeat Dourif manner we all love so much). Still, the picture is all Fahey’s as he works his handsome looks and piercing eyes into all sorts of emotional moments. He’s one of those interesting actors you may have seen in all sorts of films and horror fans will recall his memorable turn in Anthony Perkins’ Psycho III (“Hey, watch the guitar!”). For all the gore and great practical effects work on display, the film is nothing when Bill isn’t having some sort of quiet or chaotic moment and Fahey commands the screen whenever he’s on it.
Where the film flops a bit is once the plot takes a turn into the mad scientist driveway and crashes into your suspension of disbelief. Granted, this is a riff on a few older films so it’s almost expected that things get a little amusing. However, there’s a very good chance you may find your eyes rolling back in your head when the scary goes straight into the absurd and you’re laughing instead of cringing in a corner. Now, some people I know who’ve see this film don’t mind the last third one bit, but I think it hurts the verisimilitude set up in the earlier parts of the story. Then again, phantom pain is one thing. Phantom part movement controlled from afar by the brain of a mad killer IS kind of insane. But at least Red makes it seem plausible until it works against the movie.
Nevertheless, this oddity is well worth tracking down just to see Fahey at work (and Dourif chew up the scenery while he’s on screen) and groove on the parts that fit before they fall away. I’m not sure if this is even out on video any longer, but I bet some poking around will uncover something hidden in the depths. Just keep an eye out for some heavily bandaged chap in a brace with wild eyes. He may have enough parts now, but who says he won’t want a few spares just in case of an(other) emergency?