June 18, 2018 Parts Unknown (Movie Review)
Premiering on June 9, 2018, Parts Unknown is the brainchild of Writer, Producer and Director Rick Chandler (Scrooge in the Hood 2011, Grindsploitation 2: The Lost Reels 2016). Made via his production company, Boston Film Family LLC, with a curious title, it sounds like it could be about a journey gone wrong, like something akin to 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Or it could be closer to 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which some people get carved up because they got too curious for their own good. It is not exactly a thousand miles away from those films, but the ‘Parts Unknown’ title comes from another source; pro-wrestling.
Back in the day, if a wrestling promotion could not come up with a hometown for a new grappler, they would say they were from ‘parts unknown.’ Its most famous denizen was likely the late Ultimate Warrior- the crazy, juiced-up rival to Hulk Hogan, who would often refer to his alien abode in his promos. It gave him something to do when he was not threatening Andre the Giant or Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.
So, what is the film about and what does it have to do with pro-wrestling? It is about the Von Strasser family. They used to be well-known indie wrestlers, but their violent tendencies and drug habits kept them from making it big. Their promoter is planning a big show, but the Von Strassers have their own plans. Younger sister Kitty (Sarah Michelle: Gilgamesh 2014) has a bone to pick with her friend Lacey (Lizzie Havoc: The Method 2017). While elder brother Herman (William DeCoff: Ted 2012, Stronger 2017) has made a deal with an entity called The Holiness (Christina Costello: Deep in the Darkness 2014) to satisfy its bloodlust. Whatever happens next is going to make the Von Strasser motto more literal; “All Beauty Must Die.”
It would not be the first time someone combined horror and simulated sports. Two-thousand fourteen’s Pro-Wrestlers vs Zombies pitted Rowdy Roddy Piper (They Live 1988) against zombies (hence the name.) In fact, Parts Unknown is not even the first one with ‘Parts Unknown’ in the title. It bumps heads with 2015’s From Parts Unknown: Fight Like A Girl. However, in that film, the female wrestler was the hero fighting the undead. What happens when the shoe is on the other foot, and the grapplers are the villains?
First off, despite the comparison earlier, Parts Unknown is not going for the gritty realism of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If the ’70s ‘Feature Presentation’ intro does not tip the audience off, the ’80s kitsch title card will (especially for fans of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.) It also clues those going in blind on the wrestling connection by having a match between Hermann and an unlucky jobber (Brian ‘Zane’ Schiedel: Wrestling with Wregret serie.) It gives them a taste of things to come, with grisly violence, dingy environments, and dodgy ADR.
That is not to mention the dodgy acting. The performances on offer are a mix of duffers and over-the-top camp, feeling more like WWE promos. They fit in with the grim-yet-silly story, and the cheesy atmosphere the film was going for. DeCoff’s Hermann is an angry psycho, and Michelle’s Krissy swings her mood like a windchime in a hurricane. Meanwhile, Havoc’s Lacey is surprisingly nuanced and engaging by comparison. She does a fair job at being a relatively sane anchor, even if she is unlikely to have any Tonys thrown at her.
The gore effects come off rather well too, with some convincing blood shots and stunt work. It helps that the camerawork covers their joins with the right placement or edits most of the time. Unfortunately this cannot be said for the film overall. The camera work is largely fair, if unremarkable, at best. It suffers from some odd edits. For example, there is a scene where one of the Von Strasser’s victims returns home. The scene suggests she is having a scary realization of her true fate. The cuts suggest she is going nuts in her living room and her bathroom at the same time.
That and she wrote something creepy on her bathroom mirror before leaving for work that day. Maybe she did, and she had problems before she came across the Von Strassers, but the film does not delve into that.
Then again, it’s digging technique needs work. Some characters dump their backstories through exposition onto the audience instead of building it up. The confusion also continues. One confirmed kill on screen means ‘bodies are piling up.’ Characters learn what happened to others off-screen. Kitty attempts a roll-up pin in a post-match brawl after a First Blood match. The script was on stronger feet covering the wrestling. It becomes a mess once the occult stuff starts building up until it dominates the last hour of the film.
Overall, what promised to be dumb-but-fun schlock became plain schlock. Parts Unknown starts off as a silly, grimdark way to see some blood and nudity. But then it falls into bad Spawn comic territory and does not return. It is not the worst thing in the world, but when it comes to occult drama, wrestling flicks, or even blood & boobs, there are better offerings out there. As such, CrypticRock gives this film 2 out of 5 stars.