Unfortunately, when it comes to the Belgians, the scary movie motives are a little fuzzier. There are a few examples of the nation's creature feature ideals, but they really don't provide much insight. Man Bites Dog is just serial killer sameness tossed into the mock-doc format, while 2004's Calvaire is the rock and roll equivalent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, sort of. Belgium has explored the world of zombies (who hasn't, frankly) and married sex to the supernatural for their supposed shivers. Troma now treats us to Parts of the Family, and even with this combination crime thriller and living dead chiller, we still don't know exactly what petrifies the Western European. This muddled mess of a movie isn't offering any answers - or frights, for that matter.
Sadly, it was not meant to be. Even with Kaufman in a substantial role, and a few metric liters of blood, Parts of the Family turned out terrible...at least, in Troma's bottom line mind. So they decided to reconfigure the entire project to their liking, Out came the editing scissors, in went the voice over actors, and after all was said and done, a new version of Parts of the Family was ready for release. As part of this DVD presentation, we get both well-meaning movies - the bewildering Belgian bungle and the equally unappealing Troma attempt. While there are moments in both, neither adds up to a digital delight. Let's start with:
Parts of the Family (Standard Version) *1/2
Feeling like two completely different ideas hastily cobbled together without much rhyme or reason, the original version of Parts of the Family is a real piece of Belgian bullcrap. Director Leon Paul De Bruyn (whose name sounds like Babe the Blue Ox's gay lover) takes a typical hostage situation, plasters on a Lizzie Borden style slaughter subtext and then covers the whole thing in bandaged flesh eaters to really confuse the fright fan. In the grand scheme of screams there is not a more fudged up film than this attempted living dead chiller. Had our daring director found a way to make all his concepts coagulate, had he balanced the crime story with the slime story in a more effective manner, we'd have an interesting take on the entire cannibal corpse genre. Instead, De Bruyn fumbles each and every one of his chances, turning what could have been interesting and vile into something dull and dreary.
No gore movie should be this boring. After all, bloodletting is its own pornography, a chance for the horror aficionado to "get off" on the promise of glistening claret and plenty - PLENTY - of it. Parts of the Family does indeed offer up the splatter - guts are chewed, skin is severed from bone, and eyeballs are plucked and shucked like juicy Atlantic clams. But there is no electricity in the excess. Even the nastiest grue is provided in the same, slack-jawed manner as the rest of the movie's machinations. And then there are the zombies themselves. Taking the concept of the moldy old mummy literally, De Bruyn's dead are moss covered cartoon characters, teeth a mangled pointed mess and bodies swaddled in stinking, stained undergarments. They look like rejects from a bungled British interpretation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Cheops himself would never stop laughing if he could only see the sarcophagi shuffling around in his relative's best bindings.
Yet it's the overall tone that finally fails Parts of the Family. At 86 minutes, this movie is still too long, with more pointless scenes of people screaming and moaning than moments of necessary exposition. Flashbacks happen at the most inopportune times, and fail to enlighten us on anything other than Elle's way with garden tools. Troma titan Lloyd Kaufman makes an appearance as hostage negotiator Ressler, yet someone with vocal tones more sonorous than our nasal hero dubs all his off screen dialogue. It makes all the crime story exchanges that much more disquieting. The acting is uniformly poor, with Swedish sex bomb Cecilia Bergqvist showing off her "assets" more than her thespianism, and American Bob Dougherty bumbling his way through the role of the felonious Goodis. Everyone else was obviously hired for his or her ability to provide the proper amount of aural aggravation the movie requires. Shrill, stupid and sloppily put together, Parts of the Family is a failure. It's no wonder that, once they saw it, Kaufman's company balked. Just like they did with Tales from the Crapper, Troma decided to reedit and "reshoot" material for their version of the movie.
Parts of the Family (Tromatic Version) **
Troma's approach to "saving" a film, when you stop and take a good long look at it, is kind of odd. Instead of going in and re-editing a failure, tightening up the pace and providing some contextual material that might explain away some of the flaws, Lloyd and his lunatic legions just break out their copy of What's Up, Tiger Lily? and do a complete lampoon-based overdub of the film. They did it with Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters, and parts of Tales from the Crapper. Here however, there is a lot more of director Leon Paul De Bruyn's original offal than there really should be. After all, if you're trying to right a wrong, you don't keep the misdeed around as a reminder, right?
No matter how much they cajole, no matter how much fake flatus emanates from onscreen derrieres, or how many retard jokes they make, the original stench of Parts of the Family keeps pouring through. No amount of scantily clad Goth gals touching their tinglers can erase the ripe aroma of the stupid opening chase scene. A million shots of Ron Jeremy fondling some faux-fetching fem will never completely wipe away the stain of seeing pug-ugly Europeans gritting their ill-cared for teeth. And no matter how hard he tries, Lloyd cannot make up for now, what he failed to offer then, in his paltry portrayal of Ressler.
Indeed, the entire Parts of the Family redux is re-doo-doo. With Tales from the Crapper, Troma pulled out all the stops, doing everything it could to make the mess they had on their hands entertaining and titillating. Here, there is some sort of odd obligation to the original, since the individuals charged with changing this choad into something entertaining keep going back to the spoiled source for inspiration.
We still have those stupefying flashbacks, except this time they are inserted without any real logical or logistical thought. The zombie mummy dummies are not explained, nor are the reasons for their resurrection. Gore moments are removed (the head horror's acid meltdown is now complete missing) and lots of shots of Jamie Greco in drag are inserted to keep the homo fires burning. We get loads of attempted comedy - ESPN Classic's Randy and Jason Sklar (from Cheap Seats) do their best to enliven the festivities with their nonsensical news anchor banter, and the always fetching Debbie Rochon does get in a few good quips. But the vast majority of this remake is rotten, adding little to what is already a pretty vapid presentation.
What this means basically is that Parts of the Family was pretty much unsalvageable to start with. In reality, either movie director De Bruyn wanted to make may have worked. The zombie stuff could have been fun, and the hostage material could have sizzled if handled properly. But proving the old adage that chicken salad ain't dropping out of a hen's ass, both Parts of the DVD are sadly unsatisfying.