Saturday, July 26, 2008

Body Parts (1991)

Caution: Spoilers Galore!

Body Parts, directed by Eric Red (Bad Moon), looks promising from the very beginning. The opening titles feature a series of anatomy drawings (rendered in blood red, no less), set to to an award-winning, profoundly creepy arrangement by Loek Dikker. Mmmm... foreshadowing. Best of all, Jeff Fahey, the genre veteran with the piercing, blue eyes, appears in the list of players. Yes, it's Lawnmower Man! You may also remember him from such films as: Sketch Artist (with Sean Young and Drew Barrymore); and Sketch Artist 2 (with Courtney Cox, who fumbles in the role of a blind woman). Fahey. Need I say more?

Okay, since you asked so nicely...

Bill Crushank (Fahey) is an academic working on a prolific piece about "how demons are introduced to the self," and an expert in the field of criminal psychiatry. His charmed life with his beautiful wife, Karen (Kim Delaney), and their two mop-headed children is interrupted when he is involved in a horrific car wreck. Bill loses his arm as a result of the accident, but survives. The brilliant surgeon, Dr. Agatha Webb (Lindsay Duncan), approaches an overwrought Karen with the opportunity to replace her husband's severed arm with one that will come from a donor. Not a prosthetic, but an honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-bone arm. Karen's decision is a no-brainer, and the operation is soon underway.

In an OR that looks a bit like a military training facility (guns for everyone!), Bill finds himself lying on a table being prepared for surgery. Just before he is gassed into oblivion by the anaesthesiologist, he watches in horror as Dr. Webb, looking fresh in mint green, buzzes off the head of the "donor" with a bone saw. After a few lingering shots of the OR gadgetry (a medical fetishists dream), Bill finally loses consciousness. When he later awakens, he is looking more than a little worse for the wear, but the operation has been a success, and the rehabilitation phase of his stitch n' sew journey may now begin. He makes a remarkable recovery, and is sent home from the hospital to be with his family again.

Udo Kier's Kult Aktor Training Kamp

All better now, right? Wrong!

Bill begins to have bizarre, blood-stained visions, and makes unusually aggressive love to his wife. He's also not as steady with the razor as he once was, and he's got a super-short fuse when it comes to those little mop-headed, little bastards. To top it all off with a cherry, upon making a head-shrinking visit to a prison facility, he learns that his new arm was "donated" by a death row inmate; it says so on the tattoo which marks his inner-wrist.

Bill decides to bite the information worm. He has his buddies at the Police Department run his fingerprints, and discovers that the previous owner of his arm was most assuredly an associate of Satan. Understandably, Bill is distressed about the fact that he and Charlie Fletcher (John Walsh), murderer extraordinaire, have something so uniquely in common. He confesses to his wife that he thinks something has gone terribly wrong with the operation, but his surgeon later assures him:

"It's your arm now, not Charlie Fletcher's."

Bill decides to seek out some other recipients of Charlie's meat products to see if they have been picking up on the same weird vibes. Remo Lacey (Brad Dourif) is a slightly off-balance artist who has been suddenly and inexplicably inspired with dark, visceral images, which have catapulted his beleaguered career to the heights of a "searing, original talent." Remo is uninterested in Bill's concerns about the origin of their new body parts; he is preoccupied in the quest for his first million.

"Death... Transfiguration... Total re-birth!"

Back at home, things are getting much worse for Bill. He's fighting more and more with his wife, and finally blows his top and sucker-punches his young son clear across the room. While Karen is icing the kid's fat lip in the kitchen, Bill stands by himself, contemplating the monster he has become. To pick himself up emotionally after brutally nailing Little Billy (Nathaniel Moreau), he decides to check out Charlie Meat Recipient #2, Mark Draper (Peter Murnik), doing some fancy footwork on the basketball court with his new legs.

Bill is nonchalantly tailing Mark home from the game, when Mark's leg suddenly goes crazy and pounds on the gas. Narrowly averting a number of potentially-fatal crashes, Mark is finally able to pull his vehicle to the shoulder. Bill comes to check on Mark, who simply states that his foot "just stomped on the gas there, and I couldn't get it to hit the fuckin' brake." Bill can certainly empathize.

"My arm's been doing things on it's own, and something's wrong. Something's wrong with this operation, and I don't know what it is." He gives Mark his business card, and asks him to call if he decides that he wants to talk. Like Remo, Mark isn't interested in talking. He's just glad to have legs, and wants to get to steppin' with them. Bill is left utterly alone with his problem after he tries to strangle Karen in her sleep, and is thrown out of the house. He bids his children goodbye in a sugary Daddy's going crazy, but he still loves you speech, then steps up his efforts in the search for the bits and pieces of his flesh and blood brother, Charlie Fletcher.

He pays another visit to Dr. Webb, and pleads with her to remove the demon arm that she sewed on to him. Webb is unreceptive to his proposition, as the experimental surgery has placed her at the forefront of the scientific community.

"Can't you see this arm is killing me?!"

Bill is left with no other option but to go out drinking and philosiphizing with his brothers in arms (and legs), Remo and Mark. Everything looks better through beer goggles. Soon after the happy reunion (including a dynamite barroom punchfest with some of the local hicks), young Mark Draper's situation takes a tragic turn for the worse. He loses his legs, again, this time torn from his body by an unseen marauder.

Bill happens to be on the phone with Mark as this happens, and travels over to his apartment where he discovers the body. Bill must warn the others; Karen first, and then the weird artist, Remo. Unfortunately, while Bill is ensuring the safety of his wife and children, Remo is being chucked out a window, not to mention having his arm ripped off by, again, an unseen marauder. At this point, I am beginning to think it might be the same marauder that killed Mark. It could even be...

Charlie Fletcher, back to avenge his stolen apendages!!! He pulls up alongside the killer-catchin' mobile holding Bill and Detective Sawchuck (Zakes Mokae), and takes them on a crazy, handcuffed ride through the city at night. Yes, Charlie Fletcher is driving a car. It must have been some kind of screw-up at the MOT*/DMV. The killer-catchin' mobile finally frees itself of The Chuckwagon of Terror, leaving Bill and Sawchuck standing in the dust as they watch Fletcher speed away with some of his re-claimed limbs resting up on the dash. The Frankenstein-like Fletcher loses control of the vehicle, causing him to whine like a hamster before he crashes in a ball of fire.

Charlie pulls his prized killing limbs from the fiery disaster, and kneels before his doctor, arms full of his gory proposition. He wanted to be put back together again, and that bitch Dr. Webb was just crazy enough to do it for him.

From the drivers' seat of the killer-catchin' mobile, Bill pens what may be the final entry in his meticulously-kept journal. The life-and-limb battle (pun definitely intended) between Bill and Charlie Fletcher is on! He heads to Dr. Webb's laboratory, and beholds a most gruesome sight: all the pieces of Charlie Fletcher are prepped and ready to go. All that remains is the arm attached to Bill's shoulder, and the medical team is ready to take it from him now. Bill is filled with nothing but contempt for Webb's ghoulish work.

"Saving Charlie Fletcher's head,
so he can run around and kill people?
That's quite an achievement, doctor."

After a Charlie-delivered blow to the back of his head, Bill once again finds himself on Dr. Webb's operating table. Just before the bone saw tastes his flesh, he awakens from the anaesthetic and hulks-out in a fit of rage, busting through his restrains and lunging at Charlie like a panther! He snaps Charlie's neck, then puts high-powered rifle holes in all his bits and pieces, just to make it official. Dr. Death is also blown away in the excursion.

"It's my arm now, Chuck.
I won it, fair and square."

Based on the novel Choice Cuts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, Body Parts is a stick-to-your-ribs mixture of classic horror and science-fiction. It was nominated for Best Horror Film by the USA Academy of Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, and isn't nearly as bad as much of the press about it would indicate. There are a lot of bad reviews for this film floating about on the Intertubes, and I honestly don't think that all the harsh criticism is well-deserved. Say what you will about Jeff Fahey, but he is perfect in the justice-seeker under pressure role. Not afraid to emote from the very pit of his gut, he delivers some of the best facial expressions ever captured on film. Brad Dourif is another clear and obvious asset to the film, playing a half-cocked dickhead the way nobody else can.

While, at times, the scenes reeked heavily of fromage, the overall impact of the film was quite impressive. I have yet to watch this with anyone who isn't noticeably enthused by the time the final credits roll. The story had some definite weak spots, but the trick is to allow yourself to adapt to the fact that you are watching a Jeff Fahey movie, and everything should be fine after that. The special effects are decent; the explosions look like they cost a lot of money, and the gore was passable. I would have liked to see more of it, but that's somewhat of a tired refrain coming from me. Heap those guts on, don't be shy! I'm certainly not, when it comes to movie-magic entrails.

4/5 Kitty Skulls = Video cocaine!

* Ministry of Transportation. I'm a syrup-sucking Canadian, remember.


Karswell said...

It's interesting to hear you speak so highly of Jeff Fahey as I've always thought he's been consistantly underrated as well. He's always really good in everything he's in, Planet Terror most recently, and LOST (which I don't really watch, though I was surprised to recognize him when I glanced over at the TV one night while it was on.) Looking at Jeff's IMDb list it's possible his endless excursions into all of the bland 90's TV film / television is what has thrown him somewhat into the dreaded "know the face, not the name" territory for most of his career. But maybe he's a god in Candana, what do I know? I'm in America where maybe 10 people know who SLOAN is.

Body Parts is pretty decent though, haven't seen it in years but now I'm itchin' for a re-visit.

Kitty LeClaw said...

And you like FAHEY, too? Just when I think you couldn't possibly get any more excellent...

I agree with *everything* you've said about JF. Alas, I don't think he's reached god-like status in any country, anywhere in the world, which is a shame. Aside from his ever-so-slight tendency to overdramatize (Fahey? Overdramatize?), I think he's the Bees Elbows. The Bees Knees have already been reserved for you, Mr. Karswell.

Body Parts isn't exactly a masterpiece, but it's a solid, little horror film to be kept around for annual viewings.

Fred said...

I've always thought Fahey was cool since seeing him in Psycho 3 and Lawnmower Man. He and Billy Zane seem cut from the same cloth, and have for years kept working but never fully appreciated. And now both seem nearly past their prime and never really got the big roles and recognition they deserved.

Awesome post, indepth review! Thanks for taking the time to post it. I have never seen the movie but looking forward to doing so now.

Kitty LeClaw said...

Fred: Thanks for the kind words. I really do hope you enjoy Body Parts - I know I sure have, over the years. The musical score is soooooo excellent. I think you're in for a treat!

I had *completely* forgotten about Fahey being in Psycho III - thanks for reminding me! I haven't watched that movie since "the day." Definitely not since I watched him in BP!

kindertrauma said...

Kitty, Here's a story that's all true and all sad and involves a kitty. The first and only time I ever saw BODY PARTS it was on tape and my cat came up to me during it bleeding from his nose and mouth. I couldn't really take him to the hospital cuz it was night but I also could not get back to enjoying the movie either. I always associate this movie with that event that lead to little "Fraidy" being put to sleep because he was so sick. By the way, I was not a kid when this happened but I don't think I would tempt fate by watching this movie ever again. I just had to share that for some reason-I don't like the thought of kitties watching this movie I guess! I hope YOU did not get a bloody nose! By the way, I love the new banner.-unk
Too true about the Fahey in Psycho 3!

Kitty LeClaw said...

Unkle Lancifer: Awww! Poor "Fraidy!" That is a mighty sorrowful Traumafession, dearie. I think you are right to suspect that Jeff Fahey may have had something to do with it. He's a very powerful actor.

Love the name "Fraidy," btw. I've never been that clever in coming up with names for my pets. I had a cat named "Wieners" because he smelled like raw hot dogs when he came in from the cold. Also, I thought it would be really rad to see "Give Wieners 2 tablets, 3 times daily" printed on his medications.

Thanks for posting this comment. I'll ask Wieners to throw an eye to Fraidy in Kitty Valhalla.

Patrick said...

I used to get together with my cousin on Saturdays and we would hit the video store and rent the most vile horror flicks we could find. We called those days "A Matter of Splatter", and movies like Body Parts were always sure to deliver the goods, in overflowing red buckets full! It has been many years since I saw this, but I do recall thinking it was pretty gory back in those days! Great post, and thanks for sparking my interest to see this again!!

Kitty LeClaw said...

Patrick: "A Matter of Splatter" ... I love it!!! Glad I could help bring an old favourite out of the dusty memory chest and into the bloody, gutty light of day for you!

It would be nice if Fahey sent me a fruit basket or something...

Karswell said...

>It would be nice if Fahey sent me a fruit basket or something...

How about a cock basket from SPK? It'll be interesting to see if this comment gets blog owner approval and even posted.

Kitty LeClaw said...

A tisket, a tasket...

I could definitely go for some carnal knowledge wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow.