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‘Body Parts’

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 05, 1991


Eric Red
Jeff Fahey;
Kim Delaney;
Brad Douriff;
Lindsay Duncan
Under 17 restricted

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Like "Dead Ringers," "Body Parts" kicks off with slow, arty "medical" credits, but director Eric Red is no David Cronenberg. If he were, this inverted Frankenstein fable might have been better developed, and it certainly would have been a lot scarier. Instead it's a basic "secret government medical experiment gone awry" story with twists borrowed from films as disparate as "Dr. Strangelove" and "Frankenhooker."

Since the previews and television spots don't mask the plot, we won't either: A frustrated criminal psychologist (Jeff Fahey) loses his arm in a freeway pileup and wakes up in the hospital with a new one attached. Little does the doc know that the arm very recently belonged to a mass murderer whose execution may have been taking place during the operation. Still, it doesn't take long for the doc to find out that the arm has a mind of its own, this knowledge attained via his turbulent mood swings, a few negative reflexive reactions and, finally, a series of violent "fleshbacks" that he then discovers transferred onto twisted canvases by another arm recipient, a frustrated artist (Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky and a veteran of too many bad horror films).

Soon, Fahey and Dourif find the leg man, and there is a reunion (of sorts) when they gather in a bar to moan and groan ("Where does evil reside?") before getting into the inevitable brawl with a nosy drunk, a scene with bizarre potential that's barely touched upon. Instead, Red opts for the obvious, and you can see where this film is "headed" long before it gets to the top-secret lab where a denouement of sorts will occur (i.e., the special effects gross-out that the genre's fans have patiently waited for). Call it the "Revenge of the Reluctant Organ Donor."

Those still awake after all too much hushed talk and psychobabble are likely to be disappointed by this finale, but it's symptomatic of the film in general. "Body Parts" plays as if much of its script was abandoned to meet its obviously modest budget considerations, and except for an unlikely street chase sequence, the film feels as cheap as it looks. There's an interesting premise here -- not really a new one, of course -- but it's never developed. It's all arms and legs, with little punch or kick. What "Body Parts" sorely lacks is a heart and a brain.

"Body Parts" is rated R and contains scenes of graphic gore and some salty language.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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