Body Parts review by The Grim Ringler

A friend and I were recently talking about some old standards in the film world that should maybe be left alone for a while - until at least someone can come up with a more original concept to use. The big one for the both of us was Frankenstein, a story that has been, with Dracula, done to death. But then I re-watched Body Parts, an early eighties horror film that was so clever, I didn’t really even realize it was a take on Frankenstein until the film was nearly over.

Bill Chrushank (Jeff Fahey) is a criminal psychologist who long ago burned out on what he was doing. What drives him now is the desire not to stop evil but to understand where it comes from, where in Man it lives, and perhaps to save someone from themselves. To save them from their own monsters. He will soon be able to find some of his own truths though. Everything changes for Bill and his family though when a car accident nearly takes his life but does take his arm. As his wife is still recovering from the revelation that her husband has lost his arm, his doctor comes to her with a proposition – she can give Bill an arm, can give him back the use of it, but it will be transplanted from a donor. The wife wants to ask Bill herself what he’d want but the doctor, insisting that time is of the essence, pressures her to say yes and when Bill awakes briefly, it is to the sight of an operating room and the parting out of the man that is to be his benefactor. Bill is horrified at his new arm at first, at the existence of this alien piece that is part of him now, but as he recovers the arm becomes his own and his wonder at this modern medical miracle is full. Just as he is settling into his former life though the past of the arm and its former owner comes to light. After a client recognizes a death row tattoo on his new arm, and the arm itself begins to act as if it has a mind of its own. Bill has a police colleague fingerprint his new hand and finds that the man that once owned his arm was a mass murdered that had been executed for his crimes. Bill also learns that he is not the only person to benefit from the death of this madman. There are two other recipients, a man who received an arm he now uses to paint dark, horrific pictures with, and a man who received both legs, which he uses to play basketball and drive – abilities he thought he’d lost when he lost the use of his previous legs. The other two men who have received new parts insist they have had no ill effects from their new additions but it doesn’t take long before they too are sensing that something isn’t right with their bodies. Before they can get to the bottom of what is going on the other two men are brutally murdered by someone who, upon murdering them, also stole their new body parts. And now it appears that Bill is the last name on this short list.

The hell of the thing with Body Parts, and what damns it in a lot of people’s eyes is that the climax almost ruins the film. Things become so strange and so deeply entrenched in science fiction that it perverts the psychological horror that had been building up and changes the film into a strange horror/action romp. I still liked the film and felt it still worked, but the climax takes the movie in a direction that isn’t as good as it was heading in. What had been a pretty creepy thriller devolves into the movie many thought it was bound to be and that’s a shame as if you can buy into it, it still works, but for many, the turn at the end will put them off and ruin the movie for them.

Fahey, an actor not terribly well loved for his acting but here he creates a noble man who is horrified by the nature of his gift and who isn’t sure he can live with the memory of what this arm participated in. Director Eric Red looks long and hard at the nature of evil and whether or not it lives in the flesh, and here indeed it does. Red asks – what if you were granted a miracle that had dark strings attached? But as the film unreels, the question becomes – what price will we pay for progress? The film turns from a psychological thriller to a Frankensteinian horror, mad scientist and all. The film is well filmed, well acted, and well told, but it’s a hell of a thing that things get so incredible and so far fetched. This is a B-movie through and through, and I won’t claim otherwise. But there are some very dark ideas here that are worth pondering. Gory, fast-paced, and better than it has a right to be perhaps, I’d recommend popping some corn, pouring a refreshment, putting your brain on ‘summer movie’ mode, and just going with the flow. Not high art, but a good little movie that is much better than you might think.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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