PIECES (1982) : CSI? CSAin’t!
It could have gone so differently. Halloween (1979) and Friday the 13th (1980) had set the slasher table; Evil Dead (1981) had whetted tastes for manic (maniac?) creativity; A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was yet to serve up its genre digestif. In 1982, the time was right for a bloodsoaked splatterfest replete with murderous children, dismembered coeds, lumbering suspects, and a professor of Kung-Fu. And then Pieces happened.
Pieces was created by Spanish gore-teur Juan Piquer Simón, a one-man production-and-effects house responsible for such works as Supersonic Man (1979) and Slugs: The Movie (1988). But don’t let its classy Spanish title (Mil Gritos tiene la Noche – 1000 Shouts has the Night) fool you: Pieces is not some slick giallo creepshow but rather the worst kind of exploitative grindhouse dreck. Arteries spray, breasts jiggle, body parts fly – this is the best movie Troma never made, even if its production values would aspire to amateurish lows Lloyd Kaufman could not imagine.
The movie opens in “Boston, 1942” with a child assembling a pornographic jigsaw puzzle. Caught in flagrante by Mom, the child takes the only reasonable action: Murder mom with an axe.
Coincidentally and conveniently a social worker (or Junior Leaguer, or concerned neighbor, or…well, we really don’t know who this person is…) is visiting, and she understands that someone not answering their door is certainly a sign of foul play. She engages the local fuzz and brings two Johnny Laws to the home. A charnelhouse awaits and Murder Kid astutely hides in the closet, posing as a victim of obvious violence. This sets up the real theme of Pieces: lousy policework. The child is shuttled away with the yet-unidentified stranger to live with his aunt without a single cop inquiry about what happened. Ahem.
Cut to forty years later, we are on a college campus, murder is afoot. A trenchcoated, fedora’d killer is systematically collecting body parts from usually-naked coeds. We know that this is our child broken bad, assembling his own jigsaw with heads, torso, arms, legs. But who is he? Is it the leering anatomy professor? The hulking grunting groundskeeper (who handily is only ever seen wielding a chainsaw)? The fey and strangely accented School Chancellor? Hunky student Kendall (assuming a Members Only jacket and bad ‘fro is your idea of hunky)? So many suspects, so little time. And so little interest in it, really. It is the least worthwhile of procedurals, one where the most relevant question a detective can think to ask is, “Could this have been done with a chainsaw, like the one over there?” “This” is a bloody dismembered corpse, the chainsaw in question is sitting IN A PUDDLE OF BLOOD about six feet away. In what alcoholics might refer to as a “Moment of Clarity,” the professor of whom the inquiry is made states, “I’m not a pathologist but even a layman could see it was done with (the chainsaw).” Uh, thanks, Doc.
Why is there a pool in the library? Why is an appropriate police response to place a former tennis pro undercover? Why is said police-pro menaced (and then not) by a “Kung Fu Professor” under the influence of “bad chop suey?” Why is tennis practice attended by a gallery of onlookers and the match’s end signaled by blaring military marches? Why is there a waterbed in the dance studio? Sure, we know that it’s Chekov’s waterbed when a besweatered coed states early, “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and f*cking on a waterbed,” but does that really explain anything? She doesn’t even smoke pot and f*ck on the waterbed, for chrissakes! We are through the Looking Glass, people!
The movie is not without its charms – the close-up of a chainsaw slowly mangling a torso is a highlight, seriously! – but only if one enjoys one’s charms from the basest and campiest places. If you like your acting terrible, your plotting nonsensical, your policework shoddy, then do I have the movie for you! Pieces is for the most committed of schlockhounds only and if you have lasted this far into its review, you are one for sure. Revel in it.
JOHN CLARK is a local non-celebrity who enjoys spending time with his wife and chihuahua. He was recently insulted that his entire life is nothing but movies and football to which he replies, “No shit.” Follow him on Twitter if you love a good retweet: @egjc_wa