directed by Juan Piquer Simon
(Grindhouse, 1982)

Pieces is a movie you just have to love. On the surface, it looks like a laughably bad horror film relying on fairly graphic blood-letting for its appeal, a movie that gives us absolutely no character we can possibly like, not even the bad guy, and a film whose killer is easily identifiable early on. It is all of these things. Then you get to the ending, and suddenly the ghastly ordeal of sitting through 90 minutes of Pieces pays off with not just one but two dramatic moments guaranteed to make you laugh hysterically; before your very eyes, a bad movie transforms itself into a cult classic. This is powerful stuff indeed.

The trouble really starts 40 years in the past when a little boy is quietly putting a puzzle together in his room, bothering no one at all. His mother comes in and goes ballistic, just because the puzzle happens to be one of a naked woman. Our future serial killer is rather upset about all this and decides to calm his mother down by chopping her up with an axe. You have to be impressed by the craftily evil potential of the kid, as he brilliantly sets himself up as horrible victim rather than sadistic mother-killer.

His potential lies dormant for 40 years, but eventually the nude woman puzzle lover in him reasserts itself. At his adult age, a cardboard puzzle just won't do. What he needs are real human pieces for his ultimate puzzle: a head, torso, arms, etc. Realizing that a college campus is a great place to meet girls, he sets out on a serial killing spree that leaves the local police department more and more dependent on an incredibly annoying student to crack the case. Young Kendall looks like a total dweeb to me, but the ladies seem to love him for some inexplicable reason. The police and college keep the murders hush hush somehow, although prudence would seem to dictate that you warn the public and have them on the lookout for a man carrying a chainsaw. I think the local police force could have used a little outside help on this one; the lead detective doesn't seem to do any real investigating, preferring to sit back and let young Kendall do his work for him. His assistant seems to exist just so the detective can keep asking him for a match for the unlit cigar he keeps in his mouth throughout the film.

There is a good bit of gore in Pieces; death by chainsaw can be pretty messy. For some reason, though, the excessive gore doesn't really have much shock value. A number of really weird plot points are thrown in at odd times, such as the kung fu fighter who shows up for no apparent reason and whose attack manages to leave his foe laughing.

As I've said already, though, the ending of this film is what makes Pieces memorable. The movie ends with an unexpected, delightful little surprise, and then, to my initial disappointment, it keeps going. I thought the moviemakers were making a terrible mistake by not ending the movie when they should have, but I was soon surprised and thrilled by an even more unexpected and hilarious finish. Lovers of campy gory horror will get a big kick out of Pieces; it is a shining example of how to make a good "bad movie."

review by
Daniel Jolley

9 October 2010

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