Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pieces (1982)

"Pieces" is an interesting movie to talk about. When you get down to it, it's not a very good movie. The characters are poorly written, some scenes are awkwardly staged, the direction is occasionally suspect and the movie is unintentionally laughable at times. At the same time, I love it's rancid, illogical heart. It's also undeniably fun, stupid to the point of being almost charming, is shockingly inspired and loaded with every fans of scuzzy exploitation want. Plus, it proves the taglines to be right: "It's exactly what you think it is!" and "You don't need to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre!"

"Son, are you making a puzzle of a naked woman?"
"Okay dear!"

"Pieces" is the heartwarming tale of a mother who finds her son making a puzzle of a naked woman, and the son who just felt that he had to kill her with an ax and hack her up with a hacksaw. Years later, these events have lead him to go on a killing spree which involves campus women, a large knife and most notably a chainsaw. Not only that, but a chainsaw that he can hide behind his back and not have the victim notice it. As the bodies pile on and the police investigate, it seems that anyone could be the killer. So, who is it? The Dean (Edmund Purdon)? Lt. Bracken (Christopher George)? Campus kid Kendall (Ian Sera)? Or could it be campus hedge trimmer Willard (Paul Smith, who is best known for playing Bluto in Robert Altman's "Popeye")?

"Dude, like...why are ya lookin' at me like that?!"

In spite of it's many flaws, "Pieces" actually has some things going for it. For one thing, the mystery aspect is handled pretty well, as is the slasher element. Part of what makes this so fascinating is that it also serves as something of a giallo film. The killer has all the hallmarks of the kind of killer these movies offered back in the day-the black gloves and trench coat, the identity clouded by shadows, and even a stabbing on a waterbed that recalls that genre at it's most violent. Speaking of which, fans of gore and sleaze are going to have a field day with this. The splatter is nasty and unflinching, and also uses actual pig's blood instead of the usual kayro syrup. Also look for tons of female nudity, as well as some brief male frontal if you are in to that sort of thing.

Then there's the complete randomness of the whole experience. Events sometimes occur without explanation or sense. For example
  • A woman on roller sketes running into a mirror
  • A woman who is decapitated in the park in broad daylight
  • Mary Riggs (played by Christopher George's wife Linda Day) running into a karate professor who attacks her, falls to the ground, gets up and says "Must have been something I ate! Bad chop suey!" To be fair, moments like that do show that the people behind the movie probably didn't take this too seriously.
  • This

The fact that it's so of it's time helps too. If someone tried to do something like this today (I'm looking at you, "Porkchop"), it wouldn't be as enjoyable as it is. This sucker is a nice little time capsule of the kind of thing that was shown in Grindhouse and Drive-In theaters back in the day, and the kind of sleaze that once filled video rental shelves. You can't really recreate that.

At the end of the day, those who don't like unintentional comedy and buckets of filth and sleaze will probably avoid this. Everyone else: You'll probably find a place in your heart for it like I do.

Rating: 8/10

This film was co-written and produced by Dick Randall, who produced a ton of exploitation movies from 1961-1991. His other credits include "The Girl in Room 2A", "Black Deep Throat", "Master With Cracked Fingers", "Escape From Women's Prison", "French Sex Murders", "Slaughter High" and "Don't Open Till Christmas"

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