P: Pieces (1982)

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If you know me at all, you know that I hate slasher movies. Hate them with the heat of a thousand suns. Hate them with a passion I usually reserve for licorice candy and overlong meetings. I hate hate hate them. Yet here I am watching Pieces, which is the platonic ideal of everything I hate about them. Not for nothing is its tag line “It’s exactly what you think it is!”

Why am I doing this? Because it’s Hubrisween.

The opening is, I admit, pretty effective. “Thirty years ago” a boy is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman when he’s discovered by his abusive mother. She starts screeching at him that she’s going to burn all his things, resulting in an axe to her head and the boy sawing her body apart. When the cops finally come, he hides in a closet and says the bad man did it.

If you need any early indicators as to attention to detail in Pieces – though this prologue takes place circa 1952, the mother is yelling at her homicidal child to get a “plastic bag” to burn his porn stash in, and they have a touch tone phone.

In the present of 1982, on your typical fake college campus, a girl riding a skateboard crashes through a huge mirror, and this all it takes for our now grown axe-wielding kid to start putting together his blood-stained jigsaw puzzle and assembling a woman of his own from the chainsawed-off body parts of nubile young co-eds in various stages of undress (that this is the trigger is never expressly alluded to in the movie).

Director Juan Piquer Simón delivers a movie that is almost more giallo than slasher – the preponderance of red herrings (you just know Paul Smith is not the killer, no matter how ham-handedly the movie tries to make you think he is), the utter uselessness of the cops (Christopher George and Lynda Day George), and because of that uselessness, the solution to the killings lies with an outside investigator, in this case student Kendall (Ian Sera). The only thing that keeps it from being a giallo is it lacks that genre’s devotion to artistry, to finding beauty in the worst places. What it does have is nothing that will quell accusations of misogyny in either genre – the murder scenes are drawn out, graphic, and exclusively female. Possibly the most remarkable thing about Pieces is the ending, when Simón reasons that most slasher movies have a shock ending that comes out of left field… “but what if mine came all the way from the parking lot?” It’s that outre.

“I’m not THAT worthless!”

How bad are the cops? The decision is made to keep the murders quiet to avoid a panic, which allows the killer to act with impunity, multiplying his potential number of unguarded, unaware victims. How you manage to cover up a girl getting decapitated with a chainsaw in broad daylight is quite beyond me, though. The fact that Christopher George is the detective in charge caused me to assume this movie was Italian, not Spanish, for many years.

As Joe Bob Briggs pointed out in his Last Drive-In marathon, Pieces is a picture of what Simón thinks college in America is like: non-stop sex, right down to a water bed in the training room (was this ever a thing? I mean, just look at me, I’ve never seen the inside of a training room). Well, at least it gives Lynda a chance to really go for that Oscar nom:

And, oh please, let’s not forget this (and somebody owes Goblin some money):

But, alas, one bit of glorious over-acting and a surprise cameo by Bruce Le does not move me to suddenly overcome my hatred of these things. The best I can say is that it’s undeniably trash, but at least it’s fairly well-made trash.

It was exactly what I thought it was.


1 Comment

  1. For some reason, The Stranglers’ song “Peaches” pops into my head whenever I read or see anything about this film, but that’s the brain acting funky. “Walking down the beaches looking at the PIECES” seems to both fit well and be somewhat disgusting simultaneously. Okay, and a bit hilarious if one is in the right mood.

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