Bit Parts (DVD)
Directed by Dave Reda
Distributed by Cinema Epoch
One of the most difficult reviews to write is for a film that has a great idea and a lot of talent behind it but for whatever reason just doesn't provide a satisfying result. The enthusiasm is there, but something gets lost between paper and celluloid. Such is the case with Bit Parts, an indie horror film from San Jose native Dave Reda, who acts as producer, director, and actor on the project.
If you're familiar with the 1960 French film Eyes Without a Face, then you've heard this one before; but Bit Parts does its best to seem contemporary and fresh. Once brilliant, now ruined plastic surgeon Doctor Cranston (Page) feels guilt and remorse over the car accident that left his beloved daughter, Maggie (Angel), badly burned and disfigured. In an effort to rebuild Maggie's face, he lures beautiful young women to a warehouse under the pretense of being a Hollywood casting agent and then steals their best features from them. Eyes from one. A nose from another. Even boobies enter the equation. But Cranston meets his match when he goes after runaway Melissa Martin (Fix)'s luscious lips.
Needing to wait a few days for Maggie's eye surgery to heal before performing the lip transplant, Daddy Dearest is forced to keep Melissa chained up and close at hand, which enables her to work on befriending the young girl in hopes of enlisting her help with an escape. Meanwhile Melissa's older sister, Brenda (Gordon), has come to town looking for her. She conveniently hooks up right away with Bobby (Reda), the cab driver who took Maggie to meet with "Robert Evans" (one of Cranston's numerous recognizable pseudonyms) prior to her capture. Of course Bobby too is a struggling actor, and he and Brenda spar and spark with sexual tension while hunting down the missing woman. Throw in a private detective name Giallo, and I'm sure you can see where this is going.
As I alluded to at the start, Bit Parts has a lot of potential and even more heart, but it is severely lacking in the script and acting departments. Things happen much too predictably for the good guys no matter how likable the characters may be, and the bad guys are way over the top. While Gordon is a bright spot and there are a few moments when the actors manage to transcend the frequently atrocious dialogue, overall the inexperience of the cast shows through, which is to be expected from a first-time director who may have been spreading himself too thin by also playing such a major role in the film.
The script was written by another newcomer, Jon Rosenberg, and could have used a little tweaking as I felt its tone was too broadly comedic for the subject matter. A darker, more serious mood could have helped. But one thing Reda did absolutely right was hiring cinematographer Alice Brooks. She gave Bit Parts the look and atmosphere of a much better film with some A+ camera work and truly beautiful lighting effects.
Even though I can't be extremely positive about Bit Parts, I do recommend watching it with its commentary by Reda, Rosenberg, and Peter Redman, aka the aforementioned Giallo. Their passion and enjoyment are infectious and elevate the entertainment value of the DVD. They prove that they don't take themselves too seriously and shed some valuable light on the world of independent filmmaking. Sure, the film is derivative and more than a little clichéd, but everyone has to start somewhere. There are still a lot of horror movies on the horizon for the fall and winter of 2007 -- big budget and otherwise -- but we have a few weeks to kill before they hit the multiplexes. If you have a craving for a comedy/horror hybrid served up with a big dollop of cheese (and really, don't we all have the urge every now and then?), then Bit Parts could be just the ticket to fill that time and lift you out of the end-of-summer doldrums.
1 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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