Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review of Pieces!

Pieces (1983)
Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Edward Purdom, Ian Sera, Jack Taylor, Paul L. Smith
8 out of 10 Stars

     Now, I consider myself a serious film fan, in that I see movies as more than just entertainment, more than just time spent in front of a screen simply zoning out for two hours. Yet I still have this fascination with movies that are "so-bad-it's-good", and I'm not above saying that I get a kick out of films that are so inept that I end up enjoying it because of it's sheer stupidity. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simon, Pieces is probably the most infamous low-budget slasher flick to ever come out of the subgenre's gory glory days of the early-1980's. It is also the ultimate “so-bad-it’s-good” horror film!
The movie's pre-credit sequence takes place in 1942 Boston, where a young boy hacks his mother to death after she catches him, and then demeans him, for playing with a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman. After the credits, the story jumps ahead forty years, and we are at a university where a chainsaw-wielding maniac is dispatching female co-eds and taking severed parts with him. It seems the killer is making a human jigsaw puzzle using the parts of his numerous nubile victims. The cops, lead by Christopher George, are (naturally) clueless, so they decide to recruit a former tennis pro (played by George's wife, Linda Day) and a campus "Casanova" (played by Ian Sera) to go undercover to catch the sicko.

     If the premise alone sounds implausible and dumb, you have heard nothing yet! Pieces is a shamelessly repulsive, badly-written, badly-acted, clumsily-edited, politically-incorrect, degrading, dingy-looking movie. This movie is so bad, and so insulting, by all accounts it should be dumped in the garbage and set on fire. However, by some -I'd say hell spawn- miracle, Pieces manages to be highly enjoyable laugh-filled riot, in addition to actually living up to its massively gruesome hype.

     Pieces promises that "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!" and that “It's exactly what you think it is!". Well, I can say that, despite the cheap effects, this is one of the most unapologetically brutal pictures in horror history. Simon takes pleasure in giving the audience exactly what they’ve paid to see, giving us graphic, and sometimes slow-motion, displays of: hackings, knifings, severed limbs and torsos, entrails, and a never-ending flow of fake blood! Those rather silly taglines and the film's notoriety are definitely not without merit!

     It goes without saying that you don't walk into a movie called Pieces expecting to find a deep, psychological thriller. I didn't, and I knew what I was in for. This movie was made long before the days of The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. By the time those films were made, psychology was seen in the culture as a viable tool to catch a serial killer. Pieces was produced in a day and age when horror movies like these (as well as their hard-boiled cop characters) just snickered at such ideas. The serial killer was simply a shock tactic; a cheap way for filmmakers to put more blood and guts on the screen. But that's only the surface of its politically-incorrectness. All of the killer's victims are women, and are hacked in various stages of undress. This is one film that would justify the critics' view of the slasher genre as misogynistic. Also, the dean of the university refers to another character's homosexuality as an "affliction". And in one of the picture's many illogical moments, we get a few bad Asian stereotypes thrown in.

     But if Pieces is nothing but wanton extreme violence, produced in a time of ignorance, what could possibly make it worthwhile? The only thing more shocking than the gore in Pieces is that the film is so awfully constructed it's actually hysterical! When I say "many illogical moments", I mean it! There are a lot of scenes in the movie that leave you crying, "What the hell?!" and "Oh, come on!" while chuckling at the same time. What's really awful about the script is its complete and utter inability to build any real suspense and its laziness to develop Paul Smith or Jack Taylor as believable suspects. These two guys end up looking useless. The dialogue of the characters and the actors' delivery are so silly, if you close your eyes you'll think you're listening to an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?! But believe it or not, it's the bad script, bad dialogue, and bad acting/dubbing that serve as blessings in disguise. What these shortcomings do is provide Pieces with a lot of unintentional, yet much-needed, humor to offset the extremely graphic and unsettling violence, and in turn, they separate the film from similar, yet oppressively dour and completely irresponsible slasher flicks such as I Spit On Your Grave and Don't Answer the Phone.

     There’s no doubt that serious film fans and critics will continue to bemoan the existence of Pieces for years to come, but the film wasn’t made for them. Pieces is a movie made specifically for the gore hounds; one that actually delivers on the promise of its famous taglines. However, the sacrifices made in order to give the audience what they want results in an unintentionally comedic and therefore surprisingly enjoyable experience for those horror fans that have yet to discover this absurd slasher classic.

NOTE: Grindhouse Releasing brought Pieces to DVD this past October, so if you remember this movie, or curious to check it out, then by all means pick it up!

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