It’s 1942, and a young boy sits on the floor of his bedroom innocently putting together a puzzle featuring a picture of a fully nude woman. He’s assembling it with the detached focus of someone whose sole interest is the challenge of the puzzle itself and not the naked woman smiling up at him. But does his mother see that? No. She comes in and instead of appreciating his handiwork she tears him a new ass for playing with filth… swats him around, tosses the puzzle pieces, and demands he go get a plastic bag so she can burn all his shit to prevent him from becoming like his deadbeat father.
So the kid comes back with an ax and chops his mother into little pieces.
What follows are eighty minutes of blood, gore, violence, nudity, and… hilarious dialogue, fun performances, and a ridiculously entertaining script. Is it intentionally one of the most absurdly funny slashers ever made? No clue. But does it matter?
Mom gets chopped up in the beginning, and the rest of the film throws in girls getting beheaded, bearmed (?), stabbed on a waterbed, and gut sawed. Plus a head shot!
Axe damage. Chainsaw damage. Butcher knife damage. Ball damage. And plenty of scenes featuring bloody bodies in whole and in parts.
A full frontal nudie puzzle reappears throughout, but we also get various boobs of mostly top drawer quality, a guy’s bare butt as he fornicates in the garden, a shower and change after tennis practice featuring T&A&B, and a dimly lit wanker. Oh, there’s also a super sexy aerobics class.
So many lessons here that it’s difficult to pick just one, so we’ll go with this… if your campus is experiencing a rash of chainsaw murders, it’s probably not a good idea to get into an elevator with a man dressed all in black and holding a chainsaw. Just saying.
“The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on the waterbed.”
Forty years after the mom-meets-ax-blade opening, a rash of killings has begun on a college campus in Boston. A girl reading in the park in broad daylight has her head cut off by a dude with a chainsaw, and the attacks continue in swimming pools, bathrooms, and elevators across campus. Who could be doing these terrible things?!? Certainly not the big guy (Paul Smith) who’s always fondling chainsaws and giving disapproving looks to young lovers. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) is brought in to investigate and tells his partner to use the police department’s entire budget if necessary… and then basically puts a student named Kendall (Ian Sera) in charge. “I’d stake my life on it,” he says when asked if he can trust the kid he just met.
Back in 1982 the advertising campaign for Pieces included the tag line “It’s exactly what you think it is.” It was a fairly genius line, but it’s also not really accurate. The title, trailer (see below), and synopsis make the movie sound like any run of the mill slasher pic filled with blood, boobs, and misogynistic tendencies, but, and I’m as surprised as anyone, the movie is hilarious and filled with dialogue, scenes, and moments of accidental brilliance.
I say “accidental” because nothing else in director JP Simon’s career hints at this degree of intentional entertainment value. No, not even Slugs. The same goes for writers Dick Randall and John Shadow whose career highlights include films like The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion, respectively.
Pieces walks a fine line between two halves… the first is the expected slasher with all the usual trappings which Simon has crafted with exuberant competence. There’s a solid cast of suspects, attractive women disrobing frequently, and a gushing torrent of blood and gore in the form of dismembered body parts and effective prosthetic work. Two of the highlights include a beautifully shot waterbed murder featuring a knife that enters the back of a head and exits out the woman’s mouth and a chainsaw attack that sees the tool saw into a coed’s bare waist. The film definitely doesn’t shy away from the grue, and it earns its misogynistic badge with a shot of the chainsaw cutting through a stall door with in/out motions (as in penetration!) to highlight the link between the girl’s supposed whore-ishness and her impending demise.
But even as these gore-filled murders are happening the movie weaves an unexpected tone throughout that entertains on a completely different level. An often hilarious, absurd, and WTF-filled level.
After the first murder Lt. Bracken arrives and immediately suspects an inside job of some sort. Why? And what the hell? He sends an undercover cop named Mary (Linda Day) to campus as a new tennis coach, and we’re subjected to a solid two minutes of a match complete with audience reaction shots showing their heads moving back and forth in unison, and the two players have clearly never touched a tennis racquet before in their lives. And the number one suspect may or may not be the funniest red herring in film history as he glares, squints, and mimes punches towards everyone around him.
A handful of non sequiturs populate the film including scenes of a female skateboarder who we see riding through campus, greeting fellow students and smiling, intercut with workmen unloading a giant mirror from a truck and heading around the corner (like a classic comedy skit). She sees them too late and crashes into the mirror… never to be mentioned or referenced again. Bracken asks a professor if a chainsaw could have been the weapon used in a brutal murder… as they both stare down at a blood and flesh encrusted chainsaw sitting beside the dismembered body. And then there’s the Asian dude.
And the nuttiest final shot in slasher history.
Pieces is not a comedy, per se, but it is laugh out loud funny at times. It’s not a deconstruction of the genre like Scream or a pure attempt at making a slasher comedy like Student Bodies, but instead it’s a rare hybrid that finds humor everywhere but the central conceit. To be clear, it is the graphic, bloody, flesh filled horror film implied in the film’s title and marketing, but it’s also so much more. If you haven’t seen it before and can handle the skin and blood, give it a chance. It just may surprise you.
Pieces will be released on extras-filled DVD by Arrow Video on September 5th, and you can order your region-2 copy from AmazonUK
Hungry for more horror? Catch up on The Coroner’s Report here.