I’d always like to think that if I ever had to fight, like in a life or death situation, that my time spent in moshpits over the years would give me an edge in battle. But then again, I’m more of a pacifist who spends more time watching horror movies than pumping iron at the gym, so I probably won’t cause much damage before inevitably going down. I sure as hell won’t stand a fighting chance squaring off against the cast of Spare Parts, a Canadian thriller about a punk band forced to fight to the death in a gladiator-style arena. It’s directed by Andrew Thomas Hunt, co-founder of Raven Banner Entertainment. It’s his second time in the director’s chair since Sweet Karma in 2009, brandishing a screenplay written by Svet Rouskov (The Colony) and David Murdoch.
Riot grrrl band Ms. 45 (named after the rape-revenge film and/or the L7 song) are on tour, playing to small crowds in biker bars in backwater towns. Fronting the band on vocals is Amy (Michelle Argyris), her sister Emma (Emily Alatalo) on guitar, Cassy (Kiriana Stanton) is on the drums, and on bass, Cassy’s pregnant girlfriend Jill (Chelsea Muirhead). On top of playing their instruments with speed and precision, these girls know how to fight, which comes in handy when a gang of bikers try to grope them on stage mid-song. Their troubles don’t end once they leave the bar, because some maniac in a sports car rams their van off the road. Luckily, a police cruiser and a tow truck arrive within minutes of the crash. Their van is towed to a scrap yard and the band is told to wait for the mechanic in the main office. But when the room starts filling with exhaust fumes, they realize too that the doors are locked and the windows are sealed. Everything goes black.
“It’s best to turn your brain off and enjoy the action, because otherwise, you’ll just get frustrated. After all, you paid to see some freakin’ fighting!”
When our heroines wake up, their right arms have been removed at the elbow, and there are chains around their necks. They’re dragged out to a make-shift coliseum, and heavy steel weaponry is attached to their arms. Above them is the Emperor (Julian Richings, Hard Core Logo), announcing to a crowd of spectators that the “gods” demand blood, and that the bandmates must prove their worth in combat. After barely surviving the first round against a dozen junkies armed with knives, the girls begin training for their next fight with the guidance of retired champion Driller (Ryan Allen, Get Rich or Die Tryin’). They get surprisingly good at wielding their weapons, thanks in part to a bit of the ol’ Stockholm Syndrome, especially Emma, who gets special treatment from the Emperor’s son Sam (Jason Rouse), the same creep who scouted Ms. 45 at their show and wrecked their van.
With such a wild premise, a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy this movie. There are certain plot holes that seem minor at first, but became bigger and bigger the more I thought about them. Although the cast is mostly women, their dialogue is written and directed by men, meaning they come off as unusually aggressive pre-kidnapping, even for punks. However, the actresses’ disgusted reactions to the many creepy comments from the male characters did seem genuine. The chemistry between the four leading women was a bit shallow, which made me wonder who’s worse being stuck in a tour van with: A couple who are constantly sucking face or two siblings who are constantly resentful of each other?
It’s best to turn your brain off and enjoy the action, because otherwise, you’ll just get frustrated. After all, you paid to see some freakin’ fighting! The fight scenes are worth every penny, with lots of creative kills and some tasteful gore. It definitely helps that Emily Alatalo and Kiriana Stanton have worked as stunt performers in the past, because a lot of coordination went into the combat scenes and training montages.
The art department worked hard to make Spare Parts look and sound amazing. The design of the coliseum, made of crushed cars, is incredible. Worthy of the Mad Max universe. Add in the colorful neon lights, some cool post-apocalyptic warrior punk costumes, and you got a visually striking feast for the eyes. Composers Wade MacNeil (of Alexisonfire) and Andrew Gordon MacPherson, have put their name on yet another killer soundtrack, following The Ranger and Random Acts of Violence.
Spare Parts is a great midnight flick to watch with friends. It’s even better if they’re drunk and loudly talking over the movie as you watch, so you won’t have to listen to most of the dialogue. It could have used a lot less talk and lot more rock, but when it finally gets to the action, you’ll feel like a spectator cheering for your favorite gladiator. As for me, I’m more like the Emperor, giving Spare Parts one thumb up, satisfied with the amount of blood in the dirt.
“The fight scenes are worth every penny, with lots of creative kills and some tasteful gore.”
Spare Parts was screened in the virtual 2020 edition of Frightening Ass Film Festival on October 30th to 31st. Are you ready to watch some punks fight for their lives? Let us know over to Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook, and get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.