Horror films and wrestling go together like Danny Trejo and machetes, so I was very excited to watch “Parts Unknown”, the latest film from director Richard Chandler and WIldEye Releasing. The film follows a group of professional wrestlers from a local indie scene, complete with all of the booze, drugs, violence and sex that goes with it. Before long, things take a turn for the supernatural and the wrestlers go on a spree of murder and carnage to satisfy a bloodthirsty demon. It’s part horror, part comedy, and one-hundred percent insanity.
The opening sequence of this film gave me flashbacks to “Green Room” in the way it sets up the extra-sensory feel of an underground professional wrestling event. It’s a feeling that unfortunately only lasts for the first scene with a feel fading glimpses throughout the rest of the movie. It’s actually very easy to forget that this movie is about wrestling because, aside from 2 big wrestling scenes and a handful of scenes talking about setting up fights, most of this movie exists in the drug-fueled culture surrounding indie wrestling. At times, I get the feeling that it’s trying to pull off something similar to what Aronofsky did with “Requiem for a Dream” but there’s no real sense of consequence for the characters. Yeah, people die. A lot of people die. Some of those people come back to life. Some don’t. But, regardless, there isn’t a whole lot of gravity in these events and they don’t seem to have much major impact on the direction of the plot. It feels like things just kind of happen, and then all of a sudden we’re onto the next scene.
A lot of this movie hinges on its use of music through the score. Ultimately, I would say that the music was effective in conveying the tone and feel that the film seemed to be going for. There’s a couple of sequences where the music really popped and had a life of its own, which was a lot of fun. Occasionally, the music opposed the events onscreen which felt jarring, but I think that the music was definitely a bright spot throughout. The cinematography was perfectly adequate. There’s nothing about it that ever wowed me, but I also never found it to be distracting in any way. There were a couple shots in a forest scene where the demon was introduced that I thought were quite good, however. Speaking of demons, this movie had some really fun effects. There’s more than a couple of deaths in the first act of the movie and, without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I thought that all of the practicals here were very well-done. I was expecting over-the-top blood splatters and slasher-esque gore, but these effects felt very grounded and calculated. There’s another sequence during the big wrestling match in the middle of the movie that has a few well-executed effects, including a pretty convincing shotgun wound, which is quite rare in the world of indie horror.
One aspect about this film that I’d be remiss to go without mentioning is this – it is a lot of fun. I don’t think the movie takes itself too seriously and the actors all seem like they’re having fun which gives the story a nice feeling. There’s a palpable energy from all of the performances, even if there’s a lot of stiffness in the acting. Yeah, sometimes things just happen without making a whole lot of sense, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch. There’s a unique attention to detail on the costumes that any fan of both wrestling and horror will appreciate and this film really oozes with passion (and I’m not just talking of the sexual variety, though, don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of that as well). The story is unfocused at times, but it never lost my interest. Every time I thought I was about to check-out of the story, something completely unexpected would happen that would pull me right back in, just like any good romp. That being said, there’s not a whole lot in the scare department. There’s a clear 80’s demonic influence at play with the story, but there’s no real frights or suspense sequences. In some ways, I think that’s a good thing because I can’t quite see any big scares feeling anything but out-of-place in this film.
This is a unique film to try and score. On a technical level, I think almost everything could have used some major improvement, but despite that, the movie seems to mostly accomplish what it set out to do. The story does drag, clock in at about an hour and fifty-five minutes (hour and a half seems to be the sweet spot for indie horror, and I think twenty-five minutes could easily be cut here), but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. It’s a sexy thrillride through the world of underground wrestling with a loop-de-loop of demonic activity and a corkscrew of girl-on-girl violence. Grab your eightballs of coke in the gift shop on your way out. I’d probably recommend this movie to anyone with a knack for the sadistic and gritty. I can’t help but shake the “Green Room” and “Requiem for a Dream” comparisons, but it definitely displays more dark humor and less narrative than either. If you’re looking for something to keep you up at night or that pulls you in with strong characters and a compelling story, however, this probably isn’t for you.