Imagine if you took a strictly bargain-basement American slasher from the early eighties and mixed it with an equally budget-challenged Italian giallo from the early to mid-1970s; sauté this mixture lightly with some unintentionally (but stupidly ) hilarious dialogue, pretty decent gore effects, and a script that a ninth grader couldn’t possibly take seriously. Serve lukewarm with a bag of Cheetos and a Vodka martini with a Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboy for a chaser.
That would get you pretty close to Pieces, one of my personal favorite slasher films, if that’s what you wanna call it.
The plot is pretty bare-bones: disturbed kid back in the forties (hey, maybe some really rich people did have touch-tone phones in the forties; don’t judge!) has a fascination with nudie jigsaw puzzles. His extremely over-the-top mom catches him with one (at least his pants are up) and hits the ceiling; after a lengthy diatribe about “horrible boys” and their “nasty little things”, she sends said kid down to get a “plastic garbage bag” (which shows their obvious possession of a time machine; those didn’t get patented until the 1950s) so that they can gather up all of his “filth” and burn it. The boy heads downstairs, but instead of an anachronistic garbage container, he returns with the trusty household ax, and proceeds to massage mom’s scalp with it. After some offscreen hacking and slashing (with some expository shattering of a mirror; there is a reason I tell you this), our little nutjob hears a neighbor at the door, and quickly stages a scene of home invasion that the local cops that show up easily swallow hook, line, and sinker (apparently, in the forties it was OK for the police to break into your house if your neighbor was worried you didn’t answer the doorbell immediately).
Flash forward to modern times (well, to the ’80s, anyways): Another mirror is shattered under pretty freakish circumstances, and that heralds the “reawakening” of our budding lunatic’s sickness (seriously, I’ve seen this movie sixteen or seventeen times over the years, and it took another Fellow Fan to point this out to me; I am humbled and grateful; before that I just thought it was another random occurrence…the flick is full of them). However, this time, our now adult (and unseen) madman is targeting the women of a local college campus, taking a single piece of the body from each murder scene.
That’s all I’m gonna say about the plot (such as it is); this movie is just one you have to experience for yourself. Instead, I’ll talk about a few of my favorite things in the film, but I warn you; whereas I won’t explicitly tell you anything that is pertinent to the main story itself, I will be letting you in on a couple of surprises that would otherwise hit you like they hit me originally: straight the hell outta left field and without a lick of goddamn sense. You are warned.
The film actually boasts Christopher George (whom you may recognize from Grizzly, City of the Living Dead, or Mortuary, among countless other movies and TV shows) and his wife, Lynda Day as two of the detectives investigating the murders taking place at the university. These two pretty much comprise the only real “acting” you’re gonna see in this film, and it’s enough; it kind of serves as an anchor for the rest of the madness (although Day has a real doozy of a “bad acting” moment of her own, and is involved in one of the most ridiculously funny and racially insensitive of all unnecessary sequences in film history; you’ll know both when you see them). The film is a mishmash of impossible circumstances, unlikely relationships, and enough red herrings to supply a Scandinavian wedding reception. The camera work ranges from trying to look like an Argento film to simply trying not to drop the camera. The effects go from the in-your-face “holy fucking shit!” variety (an actual pig carcass is chainsawed at one point, standing in for a human body, with pretty impressive results) to the “oh, for chrissakes gimme a break!” category (where an arm is merely bumped with an idling chainsaw and is severed as if with a laser). Whichever of these levels you’re watching, however, is irrelevant as far as gore in general; the blood flows freely and with reckless abandon throughout the movie.
It’s impossible to do a real review of this flick; if you’ve seen it, whether you loved it or hated it, you know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t seen it, I would be an incredible asshole to ruin it for you. I’ll just give you a quickie checklist of things I learned from Pieces to watch for:
Nerdy guys are sex magnets, even to trained cops on assignment, who are also twice their age; they’re also smart enough that the cops recruit them to help with a murder investigation almost without consideration.
If you’re innocent of a crime, and found near a murder scene that you have a perfectly logical reason to be in the vicinity of, the very best course of action to prove your innocence is to viciously attack every police officer within reach.
Always be prepared for a martial arts assault. Always.
Standing over an obviously dead corpse can be extremely hazardous to you, physically.
Being a “hummus-actual” is a perfectly good reason to be a murder suspect (if he’d said that about a homosexual, I’d have called him a bigoted sumbitch).
“The most beautiful thing in the world is…smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed, at the same time.”
There; that’s enough to get you started. I guess it’s no secret that this film is absolutely terrible; I’d be a liar if I told you otherwise. However I persist that it’s one of those that any true Fellow Fan just can’t miss; to me, it is the bar by which every other “so bad it’s good” film is to be measured.
As I always say, perhaps you’ll agree, perhaps you won’t, but I guarantee you that if you have good friends and decent beer, this one will get a chuckle out of you.
That’s my two cents…pass me the martini and the PBR!