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You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!

  • Apr 2, 2012
*** out of ****

The posters and advertisements for Juan Piquer Simon's "Pieces" claim that you don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre; and so you don't. Most of the film takes place at a New England college campus; where a chainsaw-wielding psychopath is joyously slicing and dicing his way through pretty men and women, although preferably and mostly the latter. What you get is a cross-breed of slasher and detective narrative clich├ęs; something that's not so much a story but more like an experience. But then again, anyone watching this film will most likely leave all complaints at the door, ready to just go along for the ride; because that's really all this movie is. It's a sleazy, morally and artistically irredeemable celebration of exploitation and schlock. It's cheesy, unnecessary, vile, and gross; but when you frequent the Grindhouse side of cinema, those are merely charms and simple pleasures. To others, they'd be good reason to stay far away.

Beloved by some, and surely despised by a good many; "Pieces" has been re-issued and restored by Grindhouse Releasing, and if you happen to get the chance, it can be found on DVD (courtesy of both Grindhouse and Box Office Spectaculars). All-in-all, I'm pretty glad they brought this long-lost exploitation/sleaze classic back from the dead. It belongs in the collection of most avid horror fans, and it deserves to be seen; perhaps there's still an audience out there that we're not aware of, because they have yet to discover this violent, gruesome gem. It's not the most populace pleasing film out there, but it's unique and easy-going enough. I was very entertained by it, and while it's not my favorite Grindhouse film, it's still pretty solid for what it is. Keyword: what it is.

So yeah, the madness all begins back in 1941 when a young child is piecing together a puzzle that his mother finds crude and inappropriate; thus causing her to throw a big fit, threatening to burn anything else in the kid's room that she deems unsuitable for his age group. Angered, he chops her up with an axe. The police arrive shortly thereafter and discover the horrific remains of the incident. Fast-forward about forty years later, and we've got the college campus; with a killer on the loose, hacking his way through the students, not much unlike what the kid did to his poor (and unnecessarily frustrated at the time) mother. There's a plethora of characters, although they're all so unnecessary; any one of them could be the killer, but the film throws so many red herrings and false alarms in our face that we stop caring about the little implications of the story. All you need to know is that the identity of the killer is terribly (or rather, terrifically) obvious from the start.

"Pieces" would not be an entertaining film if it weren't so goddamn bad. It's a movie of corny dialogue, terrible dubbing, mediocre performances and even worse emotional reactions, poor plotting, and uninvolving character development. So basically, it's a critic's worst nightmare. However, if you can distance yourself from the said flaws, it's the kind of crappy movie that's so bad it's kind of good, or even great. It does indeed only get one thing right (the gore effects, which are outstanding), but if you're as twisted as me, that's essentially enough to satisfy. You get what you want out of the thing.

My favorite aspect of the film was the murder sequences. High on gore and low on logic; there are some fantastic kills to be found here, if you find yourself able to survive through the thick much that is the story and the dialogue first. A nude beauty meets her end by the swimming pool, a young woman sun tanning gets way more than a tan, a kindly lady gets slaughtered in an elevator, and yes, some girl even gets the bottom half of her body sawed off; creating one of the most famous - or infamous - stills from the entire movie. Such scenes (and more) are absolute gold, the key to the film's almost accidental success. In fact, the mad concoction of blood, gore, and boobs makes the film what it is; one big guilty pleasure. A lot of the scenes are so down-right ridiculous that they're memorable; in particular, there's a great one where an Asian dude lunges from the darkness of the night and does some random Kung Fu, in the presence of one of the lead female characters. Such a scene is painfully funny, and so randomly and immediately endearing that I can't help but praise its oddity.

Bottom line: bad movie, but a good, good time. Kick back, relax, drink the beer, and you'll probably enjoy this one as much as I did. Like a lot of exploitation flicks from the 70's and 80's time period, there aren't any brains in this slasher flick - nor is there any suspense - but there's a lot of blood and guts, and that's where it counts. It's sick, warped, and grotesque; but also kind of memorable. I'm glad that films like this exist to prove that sometimes, there's little to no shame in liking something that's ultimately just really, really bad. If I had any sense, I'd hate this movie; but instead, I'm giving it three stars because the fact of the matter is that I had a good time watching it, and yeah, I'd buy it and watch it again. I don't expect it gets old very fast.

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April 05, 2012
sounds pretty awesome.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Director: Joe Russo
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Release Date: September 23, 1983
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Joe Russo
Runtime: 1hr 12min
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