'Spare Parts' is a middling grindhouse inspiration that forgoes crucial development in place of rocker-girl action thrills, but even those highs are few and far between.
- 🎸 I'm into the overall idea.
- 🎸 Some wild gore.
- 🎸 Rockin' soundtrack.
- 🎸 A script that feels scribbled on a napkin.
- 🎸 Majorly bottoms out any potential.
- 🎸 Never fulfills its promises.
I very much want to stress how Spare Parts should be my proverbial “shit.” Does a fired-up punk band enter into junkyard gladiatorial combat? You bet your ass I’m (Joan) jetting to the front of the line based on the synopsis alone—only to be let down by an exploitation dullard that attempts to get by on being Thunderdome without the backstory, development, or collective intrigue. “What if Thunderdome, but Frankenstein's Army, and lady musicians,” ponders writers David Murdoch and Svet Rouskov. It’s still an outstanding “What If” since director Andrew Thomas Hunt adheres to no more than a quarter of the conceptual promise since engagement in ideas barely stretches beyond a Blu-ray slipcover.
The quartet of Ms. 45 concludes another biker bar concert with lead singer Amy (Michelle Argyris) pummeling a rowdy crowd member, and they hit the road once more. Guitarist Emma (Emily Alatalo) drives their tour van down lonely rural backroads until their tires blow out thanks to a homemade spike strip. One thing leads to another, the local sheriff can’t be trusted, and the girls of Ms. 45—including pregnant Jill (Chelsea Muirhead) and girlfriend Cassy (Kiriana Stanton)—are thrust into a violent competition by The Emperor (Julian Richings) because the soil needs blood. Oh, did I mention how the Ms. 45 gang now models steel weapons like hammers and blades fastened to amputated arm stubs?
Again, Spare Parts should be this Halestorm lover’s jam. Cutthroat tattooed rockstar babes wield surgical enhancements of death attached to their forearm stumps—unleash the amplified fury! If you’re picking up the repugnant grindhouse vibes Hunt so desperately tries to replicate, you’re in the right tonal ballpark. Unfortunately, those exploitative and ludicrous intentions are a fantasy in their own right that rarely nurtures authentically seedy or extreme outbursts. Spare Parts foregoes basic building blocks of cinematic structure because someone discovered a rad automotive graveyard that would make for a neato vehicular arena. Simply uttering words like “grindhouse” aloud does not assure them true.
There have been titles that’ve indulged my more sadistic and sleazy horror tendencies, but Spare Parts hasn’t the sensationalism or rebelliousness to overshadow its shallowness. Maybe that’s because Julian Richings rambles about honoring these unidentified gods as the false idol of an undisclosed community who abducts sacrificial competitors, yet there's so little worldbuilding. Perhaps that’s in acknowledgment of the multiple action sequences that pull the camera away from any flamethrower-roasty heat guns, in favor of throwing strobes in your face like that helps. These are small-potatoes gripes outside the ultimate letdown of feeling trapped in a most generic dystopian bloodbath as notes of Stockholm Syndrome and immediate betrayals can’t generate a single character worth investment. You know, "Lesbian Drummer," "Softy Bassist," and "The Pissed Sisters."
Are there some rad de-facing effects or practical beheadings? Spare Parts does squeeze a few squirts of gonzo gore from its unexpectedly dry premise. After all, executions are the primary draw—not Julian Richings getting a handy on camera, but whoops, here we are! Which I mention because the script includes the oddest “grindhouse” asides while forgetting even the simplest foundational blocks like accounting for female badassery beyond leather hot-pants outfits and, well, swinging weapons. There’s nothing for the focal actresses to do beyond succumb to the unknowns of their characters’ situations and whack tire pillars with their new killer hands; two bandmates barely register beyond smashing foes to pulpy bits. I’m the first to praise ravenous midnighters that only care to bludgeon, bash, and decimate bodies on camera in the name of gnarly unclean fun, but Spare Parts feels cobbled from leftovers from better movies like Death Race or Mad Max—the list goes on.
Spare Parts might charm some through its rock-heavy indie spirits but is a wholly unspectacular miss in terms of non-stop slaughterhouse excitement or almost Wrong Turn adjacent settlements. I commend Andrew Thomas Hunt for attempting something punk as heck, but execution slumps under the weight of inescapable mundanity without energetic genre staying power. The violence is there, but narrative cognition is asleep at the wheel despite a soundtrack that’s blasting non-stop crunchy power chord riffs. Some films are no more than their loglines, and it pains me to place Spare Parts into this category.
Spare Parts is available on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray June 1, 2021.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for such outlets as What To Watch, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Shudder, Ebert Voices, and countless other publications. He is a member of the Hollywood Critics Association and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.
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