Pieces (1981)

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Back in the early 1980′s Italian cinema seemed content with capitalising on and plagiarising American movies, starting with Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (which claimed to be a sequel to Dawn of the Dead) and coming to a head through the work of Joe D’Amato, possibly the most hack director that country has ever offered the horror genre. Having already flirted with the slasher movie with the notorious Anthropophagous and Absurd, D’Amato took a back seat whilst Juan Piquer Simón filled in as director for his next attempt to cash in on the current trend, with his 1982 splatter yarn Pieces. Taking its cue from Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (by fellow Italian Romano Scavolini), Pieces focused on murderous children, mutilation and inconsistent plot twists in a way that only a filmmaker like D’Amato could produce.

Opening with a boy’s homicidal rage after his overbearing mother takes away his jigsaw puzzle, causing him to hack her to pieces with an axe, we flash forward forty years to a college campus where a series of brutal murders has both the student and staff on edge. The Pieces of the title refers to the twist ending, where the killer’s handiwork is revealed, a woman that has been sewn together from various body parts, showing that his jigsaw obsession is still with him. A detective, Christopher George (of City of the Living Dead fame), leads the investigation, which for some reason involves an undercover student and a famous tennis player helping him uncover the truth. Despite a completely ludicrous script and some dire acting, the film manages a shocking finale that almost makes up for the previous ninety minutes.

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The premise itself deserves some praise, as D’Amato (writing under one of his many pseudonyms, John Shadow) manages to add a few unique touches and moments of camp humour (albeit unintentional), and those elements that reduce it to shlock are the same as most Italian horrors from the era (bad dubbing, inconsistent plot, poor acting). Simón is certainly no Dario Argento, in fact he even falls short of Lucio Fulci, but there are plenty of gruesome set pieces to keep viewer’s entertained, such as the opening scene which sees the young boy mutilating his mother with an axe, only for the police to later find the bloodbath and believe him to be a victim. But, as with many films of the era, the artwork, title and promotional material gives an impression that Pieces is far more gruesome and sadistic than it really is.

Pieces was released during the slasher heyday and managed to find a cult following on VHS, mainly due to its graphic violence. The scenes in between are pretty amateur though, with an extremely annoying skateboard sequence and lots of pointless red herrings. Yet while this is a perfect example of how not to make a film there is something appealing about Pieces, perhaps it is the excessive gore or the male-cringing climax, but either way this is what could only be described as a guilty pleasure. Whilst it is extremely flawed, its sheer audacity refuses to allow it to become simply mediocre. Whilst its tagline, ‘You don’t need to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre,’ unfairly compares it to a seminal classic, Pieces at least offers the occasional inspired moment, lost among a string of clichés and fillers.

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Pieces (DVD)

Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Paul L. Smith, Gerard Tichy, Edmund Purdom
Rating: Unrated

List Price: $24.95 USD
New From: $20.96 In Stock
Used from: $19.98 In Stock
Release date October 28, 2008.
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13 Responses to “ Pieces (1981) ”

  1. Thanks Christian, you just hurt my manhood by posting that final image. Ouch, I always cringe when seeing that. I dig the flick, beyond the cheesiness you mention there is a disturbing sexual undertone that works on a similar level to SLEEPAWAY CAMP.

  2. Classic Slasher I Love PIECES

  3. BASTAAAAAAAAAAAAARD! BASTAAAAAAARD! BAAAAASTAAAAAAAAAAAARD!

  4. The best unintentional comedy ever made. I love Pieces.

  5. Love the retrospectives you run, but why dis Pieces? You also didn’t even mention Bluto or the chinese kung fu instructor who shows up for no reason.

  6. It’s not dissing Pieces. If you read it you will see that I state it has its good and bad points, as do most slashers. And if I write a full retrospective on it at some point I’ll include more details but this one was just a short review. But thanks for reading.

  7. Oh Lord have mercy. This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s the biggest piece of film trash but it holds a special place in my heart. It does have it’s bad points but you just have to overlook them and search for the ludicrous and ridiculous in the rest of the film and appreciate it at face value. Sure, it’s a waste of Christopher and Linday Day George, but it makes up for it in the gore and sleaze. Though the Grindhouse 2-disc special edition is awesome, I still hold on to my Vestron Video VHS. There are a lot of things that are obvious flaws (i.e., the push-button phone in the scene set in the 1940′s) but it holds up well on its own. And I love how Christian compares it to “Nightmare” – I would have never seen the connection! Thanks for this one. =)

  8. Got this in a cheap DVD collection set. The best one in the bunch though. I worked in a building above a dance school for a little while, you know those big rooms with the mirrors on the wall. This movie really made them creepy for me.

  9. one of my fave slashers ever, and buries that “piece” of trash Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original) in more ways then one.
    This is exactly what a chainsaw massacre picture should be like, and hold up to repeated viewings.
    Masterful.

  10. OMG luv this movie!!! Poor Kendall hahah there is a easter egg in the 2 disc dvd set a hidden never released trailer!

  11. BASSSSSSTTTARRRRDDDDDD!!!!!

  12. Wow nzhorrorfan not sure how much of a horror fan you really are if you think the original TCM is trash. Original TCM is easily in the top 5 horror films of all time. Pieces is fun and I love it to hell… but who are you kidding? TCM is a masterpiece.

  13. Ahh my favorite slasher of all time! Does anyone know if Pieces had a “big box” release? Finding a VHS of this movie is a biotch

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