Directed by: Juan Piquer Simón
Written by: Dick Randall and Joe D’Amato
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George and Ian Sera
Reviewed by: Josh G.
You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre.
Oh, the nostalgia! The gruesome details, impressionable images and above all, a foreign product. Spanish whodunit slasher from the golden age of slashers, Pieces, is one of the most rewarding the subgenre has to offer. How this fell into the public domain is a mystery to me, but it has certainly traveled far since its Vestron Video release. One of the cheesiest, random royalties, dubbed for an even higher laugh factor, will forever stick with me because of its history in vicious nature. I remember seeing clips of other 80s cult classics, like the pig man with a chainsaw in Motel Hell, or the murderous tyke from Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, that definitely shaped what I expected the body count bunch to be like. Bloody, disturbing, and evil to the core. Though Pieces is somewhat light-hearted in its brain damaging execution, it warrants being a horror tale not suitable for those under eighteen. There was a closeup shot of a chainsaw that I had seen from a television spot (in the 90s no less) for Pieces that was followed by a topless woman being chased into a stall, later rendered useless as an unseen maniac shredded through the door she hid behind. I saw the gory details, and it was pretty graphic for that time of my life. It still is. Whenever I would watch a slasher film on the comedic side of the spectrum, I would reminisce in that moment where the brutal killer whirred his chain at the poor girl, wishing that the show would pick up on its dark roots. When I finally watched Pieces years later, it was no disappointment. For being a notoriously zany and wackily paced guilty pleasure, it holds up on what I always look for in a slasher - depraved conditions of a ruthless madman.
In 1942, a boy is piecing together a puzzle of a nude woman, only to be discovered by his father-hating mother who wishes to burn the sinful plaything. Angered, the young one takes a mental turn for the worst, brutally attacking his mother with an axe and chopping her up into little pieces. Tricking the authorities into believing that it was a grown murderer who committed the act, the boy is sent to live elsewhere. Forty years later at a university, murders start up again as a mystery killer in a black hat and pair of gloves cuts up pretty girls with his chainsaw, stealing specific body parts. Student Kendall (Ian Sera) gets tied into the case when he finds one of his classmates dead by the pool, and Detective Bracken (Christopher George) is sure that he will be able to puzzle together some answer to the killings before the body count rises again. With pro tennis player Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George) contributing her police duties undercover at the school, the law seems to have an upper hand in force when catching the killer. But red herrings are plentiful, and female co-ed blood rushes thick on the elevator...locker rooms...and even water beds.
This is one for the books. A lot of nudity (and I do mean a lot), sick dismemberment effects, and some of the most memorably bad lines of slasher history add up to Pieces’ long-lasting cult favoritism even after nearly thirty years. The dubbing makes each line more priceless than the next. The useless cops who can’t look at a crime scene without vomiting, and to top it all off, involving clueless Kendall in on all of the police details without him having any qualifications or going through any initiations. I want to classify Pieces as a horror comedy, but it takes itself very seriously, and goes so over-the-top in limb hacking that perhaps horror ‘fun’ is the best way to put it into a grouping. The writing is nothing like what you would encounter in real life, and the actions of the police are kind of wooden. I will say Lynda Day was a fantastic woman in her role, even when she screams out “bastard” four embarrassingly overactive times.
The scoring for the English version is half of the reason the movie is as dark as it is. A childlike melody but with a low electronic beat in the background. It actually fits the picture dead on. And for those in love with mystery slasher films, swallow on this: the herrings are thrown far out there so obviously that some even motion to hit people with weapons wearing an evil snarl on their face. Almost everybody is suspicious which forces you turn to the least likely candidates. I will guesstimate that half of the viewers will figure out the killer in no time by relating the opening 1942 Boston boy with the modern day setting, and the other half will be so preoccupied with laughing and being in disgust that they will forget about possible identities in no time at all. Leg warmers and dance music and moments that ‘do - not - click’. Only in the 80s.
Where Lynda Day may be performing this small bit of her career to her best (usually), even learning to play tennis for one short (but again, funny) scene of the entire film, her character is not the smartest. At a time when knowledge is known to her about girls being cut up left and right in the school, she still works up the guts to walk around the grounds in the middle of the night with nobody to protect her. She has a gun, but for Pete’s sake! You never know when a kung-fu professor who has been eating bad chop suey sleepwalks his black belt moves on your unsuspecting self. If you think I am joking...I dare you to watch this film. So our heroine is just as slow as our other staff and student members. Whatever. At least Kendall is responsible. Good old Kendall; the man-slut. Just because his sex buddy was chewed up by the saw at the pool side does NOT mean he is going to back down and ignore the next naked girl that comes along. If he wants to flirt with Lynda Day’s tennis detective as well, he is certainly allowed to do so.
Feeling like a dirty grindhouse flick, which is funny since ‘Grindhouse Releasing’ is a DVD company that treated this funky horror, I could best describe Pieces as ‘what you thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was going to be like’, sans the university and random moments of course. For the budget, it has extreme carnage, the best of which actually uses a dead (I hope) pig corpse for a real life onscreen skin tearing of the saw. And when you think you’ve seen the worst, the aftermath reveal of the dead body is even gorier than watching the butcher’s toy go in. I think this was definitely one of a few milestones for gore flicks in the early 80s as in comparison to today’s bloodiest highlights can still hold its own. One scene even borrows a little bit of the giallo fever trend that was dying out around this time, in an almost beautiful murder of a girl by a shiny knife in a water bed. I do not mean to sound like a sicko, but it is one of the best crafted movie attacks I have ever seen. Oh yes, yes, it is also pretty gory as well.
I have become just as confused as the people in this movie are irrational. What do I put this under? Popcorn Terrors? Mozzarella Madness? Unsung Treasures? Best Movie Ever? All of these can summarize Pieces very well (uh, possibly not the latter) but I think that this belongs in the ‘best bad movies ever’ bin. As a slasher that does not get enough recognition as North American ones like The Burning or Happy Birthday to Me, the determined Spanish stinker is just as good as it is horrible. For every mess up in production it has, there are two things that will justify its presence, just like the ending has two twists - one most people will scramble together, the other nobody will see coming. Stuck in the public domain, Grindhouse Releasing graciously compiled a two-disc special deluxe edition of the film in widescreen with its Spanish version included. Even interviews, poster galleries, an audio track with a theater’s audience reactions and more are included in what is the best Pieces could and should ever look or sound. So much blood! So much insanity! Among the best cheesy slasher films of all time. Buy it!
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