FEARNET Movie Review - Pieces


So let's say it's 1984 and you're a 13-year-old horror freak who is perusing the shelves at good ol' Video Village. Hey look, there's a nasty red box called Pieces. I wonder if it's about what I THINK it's about. Oh, ha. The tag-line is "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!" That's pretty subtle. And if that's not clear enough, the back of the old VHS box says, get this, "It's EXACTLY what you think it is!" Hoo boy is this gonna be wild. And it absolutely is.

The 1982 horror flick Pieces (aka Mil gritos tiene las noche) hails from Spain, is consistently, hilariously awful, and simply MUST be viewed (at least once) by anyone who calls him/herself a true-blue horror loon. It's sort of a mixture between the earliest slasher knock-offs and an enthusiastic love letter to Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And in case I haven't made it clear yet, this is a truly bad movie. Wonderfully, watchably bad. It's about nothing more than a mad lunatic who stalks and kills a LOT of co-eds at a rather bland college. Chainsaws and packets of teeming fake bleed are tossed around every seven minutes, but when the flick isn't focusing on its moronic mayhem, it's treating us to a half-hearted police procedural that's funnier by accident than most comedies are on purpose.

Old-school genre faces like Christopher George and wife Lynda Day (along with veteran British actor Edmond Purdom!) ramble through the non-gory moments, one as a boring cop and the other as a cop who is also a professional tennis player who agrees to go undercover on campus to help track down the loony. Then there's a 35-year-old goofball who's supposed to be a young student, only this kid has access to (literally) everything the cops could need. The Dean's office, the PA system, the police station ... and he's SO annoying. Luckily he gets his but good. Much of the non-splatter sections are very amusing, thanks mainly to the blocky dialog and the sloppy dubbing, but just wait until Paul "Bluto" Smith wanders onto the screen. He walks around the periphery of Pieces with this weird, tilted GLOWER on his face, and it never goes anywhere. The rotund weirdo is always walking into freshly-splattered bloodbaths, and the character makes for the most hilariously unconvincing 'red herring' you'll ever see. And I haven't even mentioned all the female nakedness, the wacky music, or the stylin' threads.

Ah, but really: There's only one reason you'd track down the brand new Pieces special edition from Grindhouse Releasing, and sit down with a grungy little relic so wacky that Eli Roth calls it "a masterpiece of early '80s sleaze." And that's for the gore. Pieces is in no way a scary flick, but if you're charting the course of the 1980s low-budget splatter flicks, then there's no denying that Pieces has its place. Some of the effects are pretty solid, others are downright laughable -- but you don't often find a slasher flick that leaps into the gore-pool with such giddy enthusiasm. Director Juan Piquer Simon (he also did Slugs!) goes a little too far in the sleazoid department once in a while (do we really need to see a shot of a girl's crotch as she wets herself in terror?), but I suppose that just adds to the tacky charm of the flick.

Summing up: Terrible movie. And a definite must-see. Plus the DVD is surprisingly rich and moist:

Disc 1 delivers the flick in the nicest transfer it's probably ever seen, and you can choose between the English dub we remember from childhood, or we can go with the original Spanish track (subtitles included, of course). Or you could opt to watch the movie with "The Vine Theater Experience," which was recorded in Hollywood back in 2002. Yes, people went out to go see Pieces at the movies in 2002. And they hooted at the gory bits. Also on disc one: the original theatrical trailer, and the original opening sequence of the film, which is presented in Spanish and doesn't vary all that greatly from the non-original opening sequence.

Over on disc 2 (yes, disc 2) we have an hour-long interview with director Juan Piquer Simon, which is pretty darn interesting (save for a few dry spots). The interviewer (Manolo Valencia) is prepared; he asks the filmmaker about the Pieces production, critical reactions, feminist controveries, and all sorts of solid stuff. Then we have another hour with character actor Paul Smith, who is (as I mentioned) hilarious in Pieces, but you might also remember the guy from Popeye, Crimewave, Dune, Midnight Express, and Red Sonja. Again, this interview segment may have benefited from a little snipping, but not only is Smith a good storyteller, but interviewer Alma Har'el keeps the movie talk flowing smoothly. Plus the actor (currently retired and living in Israel) covers not just Pieces, but several of his movies.

Also included are a bunch of galleries with production stills, publicity items, video boxes, and on-set stills. Then we have some text on the cast and crew members, plus a whole bunch of trailers for other Grindhouse Releasing titles.