Spare Parts certainly gets off to an attention-grabbing start. A young woman walks zombie-like through a junkyard and knocks on a shipping crate. A figure inside tosses her a pile of severed arms which she takes away. Director Andrew Thomas Hunt (Sweet Karma) and writers David Murdoch and Svet Rouskov (The Colony, Darken) certainly know how to start a film, but can they keep the audience hooked?
Amy (Michelle Argyris, Shadowhunters, General Hospital), her sister Emma (Emily Alatalo, The Scarehouse) along with Cassy (Kiriana Stanton, Recon) and her girlfriend Jill (Chelsea Muirhead, Slo Pitch) make up the band MS. 45. Their latest gig has just turned into a brawl after somebody tried getting handsy with them. They win the fight and catch the attention of Sam (Jason Rouse) who tells them he sees them going places.
They don’t go very far however before they blow a tire. They’re taken to a scrapyard where instead of gaining a tire they end up each missing an arm. In its place, there’s an attachment that can fit a variety of weapons. Which they’ll need as they fight for the pleasure of The Emperor (Julian Richings, Polar, Orphan Black).
This is only Hunt’s second film as a director but as one of the co-founders of Raven Banner, he’s had a hand in producing films as varied as For the Sake of Vicious, Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro, and SuperGrid. He’s also got ample backup from cinematographer Pasha Patriki who has shot nearly 100 films, as well as directing the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren film Black Water.
And that professionalism shows. Spare Parts is a great looking film that brings out all the potential of its scrap metal kingdom setting. Especially the arena where the fights take place, the Thunderdome of this backwoods Barter Town.
The fights themselves are brutal and well-choreographed. All manner of weapons from axes and chains to a homemade flamethrower and an Army of Darkness style chainsaw prosthetic come into play. There’s even an impromptu use of a motorcycle wheel to give the film one of its gory highlights. And in the same vein, Spare Parts’ limb removal scenes are sufficiently graphic and nightmarish to get the reaction they were intended to evoke. The film’s focus may be on its action scenes, but it doesn’t neglect its horror elements.
The script hits several familiar notes, such as one of them being pregnant causing tension within the band. And the rivalry and the strained relationship of the sisters. Murdoch and Rouskov exploit this one nicely by having Sam, who turns out to be The Emperor’s ambitious son, claim Emma as his. And she quickly learns to enjoy the privileges that brings. I particularly liked the way Spare Parts subverts another cliché, the boyfriend coming to the rescue.
The biggest fault I have with Spare Parts is the lack of a backstory for all of this. The Emperor says this is the hundredth year of the games. But how did they come about? How have they managed to hide all the people who have gone missing in order to feed the arena?
But there’s enough action to keep you from thinking too much about it. And even if you can guess who’ll make it into the final round, the blood-soaked climax is worth waiting around for. Not even a cliched final scene can ruin that. Spare Parts is the body horror mashup of Spartacus and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome that you didn’t know you needed to see.
Spare Parts made its premiere at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and at Arrow Video FrightFest. It’s also aired on Canada’s Super Channel. You can check for upcoming screenings on the film’s Facebook page. For more information you can also check Raven Banner’s website.