Cast: Christopher George, Linda Day, Paul Smith, Edmund Purdom
Director: Piquer Simon
Nutshell: Dire euro trash slasher cum lurid whodunit – gory, predictable and very dull but does have plenty of die hard fans.
“generic euro-slasher epic” Splatter Movies
“Repulsive…as degrading as it is absurd and humiliating to women” Creature Features
“Would Probably qualify for an “X” Video Movies Guide
“repulsive and nauseating – Viewed at your own risk” Maltin
“A laugh riot filled with continuity errors and ridiculous dialogues ” Psychotronic Video Guide
I remember well when Pieces hit theatres Stateside – this was during my totally moronic stage of indiscriminate devotion to slasher and gore films which were a dime a dozen in the early 80’s during the post Halloween and Friday the 13th horror boom. As a Friday night ritual, long suffering friend Hussein and I would scour the Boston Phoenix (The Globe didn’t list trashy films) for the latest hack-fest in town and normally there would be some blood bath of dubious origin featuring at our local Sacks.
I remember we had been experiencing a pretty poor run of luck lately and I had ended up either falling asleep or then actually leaving the theatre before the conclusion of the movie arrived. More often than not, the two of us would comprise half the audience anyway as titles like House on Sorority Row, Nightmares, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Silent Night Deadly Night, Blood Beach, Just Before Dawn etc. weren’t really packing in the crowds as had been hoped and the writing on the wall very clearly suggested that the horror boom had paled; all that bloodletting had led to a deep-set anaemia and fresh ideas had simply dried up.
All we were left with were clones of the few horror hits amidst the rubble. Horror was taken over by a conveyor belt, production line type of slasher film that relied almost entirely on their steadicam point of view shots for effect in the style of Halloween though worse still, a high proportion of slasher producers felt it was the gore and spectacular deaths that terrified audiences rather than plotting and tension. We thus had a flood of films that were no more than set pieces for elaborately and often outlandishly presented “creative death” scenes one after the other but none could come close to matching the edgy, tension filled brilliance of the films they all tried to emulate; John Carpenter’s Halloween, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, also to some extent The Omen (for creative deaths), and finally Friday the 13th which itself was an unimaginative yet enormously successful rip-off of John Carpenter’s classic slasher pic.
Pieces arrived with a strong Spanish connection even though it was largely shot in Boston featuring American actors. I remember checking out the posters of the movie and thinking in my typically cynical way that the film must be so dreadful that the producers had resorted to a horribly lurid poster and plastered onto it the dead giveaway “No One Under the Age of 17 will be permitted blah blah blah…” caption. Even the world’s biggest sucker for horror trash couldn’t be fooled this time and for perhaps the first and only time in my life, I managed to bypass a horror movie when it played at the local theatre. I felt I had done well by not investing my money and my time in this movie way back then and everything I have read about it subsequently seems to back up the decision to give it a miss.
However, I must confess that curiosity has continuously gnawed away at me for the missed opportunity for twenty years and when the movie finally got released on DVD as part of four film set entitled “Blood Bath”, I jumped at the chance, especially as the 4-set cost a mere $6.99. Strangely, for a film of fair notoriety, the title was never placed on the infamous British Video Nasties list that again suggested that the notoriety was misplaced and something that had been drummed up by the movies producers in a desperate for publicity of any shape or form. Watching Pieces twenty years after those days gone by I ended up patting myself on the back for getting it right way back then; the film is an outright dud with little if anything at all to redeem it.
The plot is typical euro-slasher fare beginning with a sexually precocious (though hardly abnormal) boy of about 10 putting together a jigsaw of a nude. When his mother catches sight of what he is up to she has an almighty fit, which results in the youngster axing his Mommy to “pieces”. He stashes the head away in the closet before climbing into another closet sobbing for his freshly hacked mother. The action switches from 1942 to the present (80’s) at a college campus in cold and grey Massachusetts where one by one shapely students start getting chain-sawed and hacked to oblivion by a heavy breathing, shadowy figure in black. Each time the typically hyper-ventilating killer returns to put together a couple more pieces in his nudie jigsaw puzzle and at the same time he adds some new body parts to his collection with the aim of completing both the jigsaw and his assembled human body at the same time – as soon as possible it seems as the body count proliferates on an almost daily basis with a series of nubile young women being assailed and having various limbs lopped off.
The local cops are at a total loss and resort to placing a mole on campus in the form of the blonde lady tennis instructor who has to play a dangerous game in order to survive on a campus where the bodies are piling up alarmingly fast. There are some very unpleasant and equally unconvincing gore effects along the way with knives penetrating heads and coming out through the mouth and so on – not a patch on Savini’s work in The Prowler though – just messy, tacky and rather amateurish effects. Other than some of the splatter there is nothing even mildly surprising or shocking about the film – on the contrary it is laboriously predictable and exceptionally dull with the final couple of “shocks” being truly laughably lame.
The acting is what one would expect form such shoddy, low budget euro-trash and there is not the slightest bit of style in evidence in any of the director Piquer Simon’s shot compositions or camera movements. There isn’t an iota of tension throughout proceedings and one basically waits for one horribly predictable death scene to follow another until the “shocking conclusion” which one has already guessed half hour into the movie, finally arrives. Paul Smith, best remembered as the sadistic rotund jailor from Midnight Express plays a menacing, chainsaw wielding gardener cum howlingly obvious red herring.
Pieces is unimaginative, without a shred of style, no below-the-surface humour or cult value – this is simply z grade horror of the most repellent kind – one big hunk of shite; woefully inept, totally unscary, surely one of the dullest horror movies of the (80’s) era, which really is saying something.