Monday, August 17, 2009

Pieces (1982)

Reviewed By: Billy

Pieces opens with what is possibly the most ridiculous slasher opening in history, as a badly (and I mean BADLY) dubbed Kathleen Turner-esque mom finds her son putting together a puzzle featuring the picture of a naked woman. She starts freaking out and calling him a “dirty-minded little brat” and smashes up the little boy’s room until he grabs an axe and chops up her face. This in turn causes the little boy, years later, to go on a killing spree that involves cutting up women and putting together their body parts like puzzle pieces.

OK…is it just me, or does it seem like the kid’s overreacting just a little bit? I mean, I remember the time my dad caught JM and I with “Playboy” magazines and made us get rid of them. I’m sure he called us “dirty-minded” at the time (and still does…frequently after reading this blog), but we never grabbed an axe for revenge (...yet). Anyway, I’d say this ranks the killer of Pieces way up there with Jeremy Melton in Valentine (who goes on a killing spree after being turned down at a middle school dance) as one of the big babies of slasher movies. Grow up, man…it was one puzzle!

That this scene is followed by an equally insane post-credits sequence in which a skateboarding girl smashes into an oversized mirror being carried by moving men – for absolutely no reason whatsoever – should be pretty much be all the red flags we need that Pieces is going to be an hour and a half of complete stupidity. I’m not even really sure how to categorize this movie; it’s kind of a slasher…and kind of a giallo…and kind of a made-for-TV police procedural. Hell, let’s just call it a “slialloral” and throw it in the same pile as Night School.

Anyway, Pieces stars Christopher George (of the absolutely atrocious Graduation Day) as the police lieutenant who’s investigating the murders of young women on a college campus. Though an American who’s quite capable of speaking his lines clearly, someone perhaps forgot to run sound on this one, as poor Chris badly dubs himself (!) in several scenes, giving him the appearance of a person who’s just been injected with huge amounts of Novocaine and is unable to fully move his mouth. Christopher George is absolutely perfect as the grizzled detective, though…you can literally smell the cigar smoke every time you look at this man.

One of the big pluses of Pieces is that the murders come fast and frequently; at twenty minutes in there’s already been three extremely bloody death scenes, my favorite of which involves a topless girl in a pool who looks like she’s about to laugh seconds before being beheaded with a chainsaw:

For some reason, police turn to college “heartthrob” Kendall James (Ian Sera) for help in the case. Kendall’s an incredibly dorky guy who we’re asked to believe is a ladies man around campus. I guess this is conceivable…if this were an all-girls school with absolutely no men for thousands of miles around. We’re also introduced to Mary Riggs, played by the awesome Lynda Day George (yes…she’s Christopher’s wife…). Now, as if we haven’t hit the ludicrous quotient already, we’re informed that Mary Riggs is a famous tennis star who is now working with the police department and is going undercover on campus to work the case. People, let me state this again: police are sending someone famous onto campus to work undercover! And not just anyone famous…but someone as conspicuous as a tennis star that kind of looks like a Muppet and tells everyone who will listen that she's working with police:

We do, thankfully, get a scene of Mary Riggs in action on the tennis court…and let me tell you, it’s impressive when someone can win a match literally without moving their feet!

Anyway, because police make the incredibly irresponsible decision to keep the murders quiet, more and more women just keep getting killed. One poor young lady is chased through a building that seems to have more doorways and halls than an entire city, only to finally have her arms sliced off in an elevator. Once again, director Juan Piquer Simon is not afraid to show the blood, and the effects are actually pretty effective and reminiscent of Tenebre in the sheer amount of red stuff gushing out of bodies. It is after this elevator murder, by the way, that Christopher orders his partner to run a full background check on the staff of the university. Umm…you didn’t do that already?

So...Mary Riggs proves herself to be almost as incompetent as the rest of the police department by taking walks alone at night through campus, and in one AMAZING scene she’s attacked by a “Kung Fu professor” at the university who starts karate chopping the poor woman for no apparent reason until Kendall James shows up and all three start laughing. I realize that what I’ve just written sounds impossible, but I assure you, it happens. This scene, possibly written by someone in the midst of a mental breakdown, elevates Pieces from completely stupid to ingeniously brainless…and for me, the movie can do no wrong from here on out.

Next up is another spectacular murder scene in which a reporter gets stabbed on a waterbed (which is inexplicably part of campus) and ends up with a knife right through her head. I’m telling you, these gore scenes are really wonderful. Also wonderful is the liberal use of red herrings, with all kinds of Eurotrashy college staff members showing up and giving creepy looks to the camera.

But it’s the final moments of the movie that prove to be the greatest. I refuse to give them away, but there are a few “shock” endings that are just too good to be true. And so with tons of gore, tons of nudity (female and some male), and maybe the most ridiculous script in slasher history, I loved Pieces. I’m telling you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie. And Lynda Day George – given the brilliant scene in which she starts screaming “BASTARD” to the high heavens after discovering a dead body – is now my favorite actress. This movie is a must-see for slasher fans. It’s a must-see for giallo fans. Hell…let’s just call it a must-see. It’s perfect.



  1. Great review, I too just recently watched this movie and loved it. Classic.


  2. YAY! PIECES! After I saw the skateboarding scene, I thought I had missed something, but no, it literally has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

    Great review. Had me laughing/smiling the whole time, just like the movie.

  3. Oh and Carl at I Like Horror Movies just reviewed this too, so check it out.

  4. good pick, fellas. Your taste remains impeccable, as always.

  5. Haha! This movie is insane. So many random scenes thrown in for no apparent reason. I love it all and your review was pretty awesome. Good times.

  6. Ohhhhhh Christ, I knew i was in for a good review when I was crying in the first two sentences. To answer your question, yes, yes I do feel like the kid was overreacting lol.. If anyone ever asked me "What movie would you say best describes Billy and Jeremy's tastes?" The answer is simple: Pieces.

  7. One of the all-time greats!! I was so stoked as a kid when this played in my local theater but sadly I never was able to sneak in to see it and had to settle for checking it out on video a few months later. It was definitely worth the wait, though - what a movie! Like the tagline says - "it's exactly what you think it is!"

  8. Yeah, I'm adding this to my queue now. I only read the first paragraph of your review, which is more than enough reason to watch it!

  9. Man, this movie is really making it's way along the Blogger Horror Community these days. I reviewed it a while back, and I don't think that I was too nice about it. Maybe I'm missing something. A few PIECES to the puzzle, perhaps. I'll have to revisit this one in the future.

    Great review, by the way.


  10. Pieces as seen when I was 16...awesome...Pieces as seen today...awesome!!

  11. PIECES never gets old. I've seen it dozens of times including a theatrical playing about two years ago during a 24 hour horror marathon and the crowd went berserk. And rightly so. Seriously, if you're going to call your movie PIECES it had better deliver, and it does... again and again and again. As for the skateboard/mirror scene it finally occured to me that it's the tipping point for our poor killer and seeing it sends him over the edge into madness. Not handled with much aplomb by JP Simon but who cares?! Great movie. Not to be missed for any fan of 80s horror.

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