|Review||Pieces||Director||Juan Piquer Simón|
|Writers||Dick Randall and Roberto Loyola|
|Cast||Christopher George, Linda Day George, Frank Brana, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Paul L. Smith and Jack Taylor|
“Bastard! BastARD! BASTARD!!!!” – Mary Riggs
Boston 1942. A mother watches her boy about to complete a jigsaw puzzle and gradually realizes that it’s in fact a picture of a naked woman. She freaks out and directs all kinds of obscenities at the boy and orders him to get a trashcan. The boy leaves but soon returns with an axe and hacks his mother to pieces. Local police arrive but the boy had the good sense of hiding in the closet to be found there. He says that a maniac came in and of course everybody believes him.
Boston 1982. (Actually Madrid in Spain). A chainsaw wielding maniac is wreaking havoc at a Boston college campus. One girl is killed for her head. Another is killed for her torso. The third one for her hands etc. and everyone is stumped as to who’s guilty. Lt. Bracken (George) and Sgt. Holden (Brana) are on the case. They enlist the aid of police woman Mary Riggs (Day George) who poses at the campus as a tennis coach. They also rely heavily on assistance from a student named Kendall (Sera). Among the obvious suspects are The Dean (Purdom), groundskeeper Willard (Smith) who’s frequently seen holding a chainsaw and Professor Brown (Taylor) who says lines like “I guess I’m so used to bodies…dead ones…that I’m callous”.
“Pieces” is an unapologetically sleazy and gory slasher film without any socially redeeming qualities to hide behind. It’s misogynistic, overall in bad taste and, in the end, completely gonzo so there’s no way of taking it seriously. It’s there for the bloody set-pieces and the gratuitous nudity and so it goes all out in delivering those.
I’m absolutely a fan of this film. It’s directed by B-movie specialist Juan Piquer Simón who had a decent career without, it seems, ever making a very good movie (but among those are guilty pleasures like “Supersonic Man” and “Slugs”) and he embraces the slasher genre and delivers in spades the gore and nastiness. “Pieces” was a Spanish production so Spanish locales are disguised as American and it was recorded without live sound and designed for post-dubbing (with an international cast). As a result of this “Pieces” (and many other Spanish and Italian low budget horror films) comes across as very artificial, cheap and weird sounding. But it’s a style that suits the material and actually enhances its “fun” value as there’s tons of fun to be had in watching all the gory killings on display. While they’re all on the fantastical level they are very well realised by an above average make-up department and this is most definitely not for the squeamish. Also these Spanish and Italian crews put much more effort into the visuals and “Pieces” has a number of very stylish shots and compositions that put a shiny gloss to the finished product.
But the acting, dubbing and quality of writing are constant reminders that you’re watching a trashy film that in no way cares about logic or the basic understanding of normal human behaviour. To say there are gaps in logic here is stating the obvious. To say that characters behave in a weird way is a severe understatement. The conversations between people have to be heard to be believed. Reactions of would-be victims are banal…(Yes dear – just sit and scream and wait while the slow moving figure approaches you with the chainsaw)…to say the least.
Combine these good elements with the bad ones and somehow a solid recipe for the likes of “Pieces” emerges. It appeals to horror fans (who are always more willing than others to forgive some things), to gore fans (obviously), to lovers of bad and absurd cinema and most likely will appease thriller aficionados in the mood for something different. In any case; “Pieces” is a cult classic that continues to win over a new audience and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
Now here’s a thing I never thought I’d recommend; Watch “Pieces” in the Spanish dubbed version! For one thing the English dub is among the worst ones I’ve heard and although Christopher George and Linda Day George provided their own voices they come off extremely bad. But the biggest attraction is an original music score by Librado Pastor that sets the mood brilliantly with a haunting piano laden main theme and quality suspense cues throughout the film. The US theatrical version used library music by CAM that’s less effective. The Spanish dub flows better and has a bit better written dialogue to follow but the ultimate cheese factor and camp appeal is reached with the English dub.