My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
This week focuses on two films directed by Eric Red.
BODY PARTS (1991)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Eric Red was so sharp back in 80s and early 90s, not just as a screenwriter but director as well. He’s still recognized for his writing, especially genre classics like THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK, but not enough attention is paid to his work behind the camera.
BODY PARTS deserves a re-assessment. Programmed recently by the Criterion Channel, I went into the film with moderate expectations which were quickly blown away. Red takes a wild genre concept and molds it into a mostly grounded, sparingly far-fetched thriller. The first half moves along at a masterful steady, suspenseful pace. The last part of the picture explodes with violence and loses some of what made the movie so strong to start. But even in its wildest moments (such as the unforgettable car chase with the handcuffs), BODY PARTS remains effective and thrilling.
It’s no surprise there are touches of Hitchcock throughout since the source material has family ties to VERTIGO but this is in no way an homage or derivative work. Just as he did with COHEN AND TATE, Red creates a wholly original genre piece which is genuinely creepy (not an easy tone to pull off). I’ve only seen these two films he directed and sadly there are only a few more but I would argue that Red’s skills as a director are due for a re-evaluation.
Watched on Criterion Channel
BAD MOON (1996)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
BAD MOON is the weakest of Eric Red’s work I’ve seen so far but compared to other genre work from the time and especially now it’s still a worthwhile watch for many reasons.
The practical werewolf effects hold up surprisingly well nearly thirty years after its release. But other than the monster, BAD MOON makes some questionable technical decisions. For instance, it has some of the worst night lighting I’ve ever seen. You’d think Red would play more with darkness but instead his nocturnal scenes are as bright and artificial as I’ve ever seen. It cuts through the suspense that he built so well in BODY PARTS and that oozes from his writing in films like THE HITCHER. Visually, this entry in his filmography is underwhelming.
Otherwise, it’s a tightly wound thriller with decent enough performances from the human cast to get by, while highlighted by the dog who plays Thor. It sounds funny to say but Primo, the German Shepherd, really carries the picture. As the former dog dad of a Boykin Spaniel who did a good deal of acting during his life, I was very appreciative and impressed.
Watched on Tubi