Pieces (1982)

So I know I literally just wrote about how well crafted horror movies can be elevated past dumb schlock that appeals to the lowest common denominator audience, but sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and watch some dumb, raunchy horror. As someone who loves the slasher subgenre, more often than not, I’m watching sleazy trash flicks. And boy, did I just watch a sleazy trash flick.

mv5bzgjhotzmzgutmgi0os00m2uzlwjjzjitnzg4ndnhmwnimgy4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_Pieces is a Spanish slasher made to cash in on the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sure, it came out almost a decade after Texas Chainsaw, but between the marketing “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!” and the fact that this was released pretty close to the height of the slasher craze of the ’80s, all the ingredients were there to make a stand out exploitation flick.

Pieces (also known by it’s much better title, A Thousand Screams in the Night) is about a mysterious killer on a Boston university campus who has been brutally killing beautiful young women with a chainsaw and stealing various body parts from their corpses. A handful of cops have determined that the killer is either a member of student body or the faculty, and they need to figure out who’s behind the murders and the theft of dead body parts before whatever grim plan that has been put in motion can be completed.

Did that sound interesting? If it did don’t worry, because the way Pieces presents the plot is the least exciting way possible. This movie hits the ground running about as quickly as you can, with murder after bloody murder before grinding to a halt. With a complete lack of proper characters and a molecules-thin narrative, Pieces occasionally fails one of the golden rules I judge slashers on: The movie must be entertaining whenever the villain is not on screen. The victims are not a small group of college student friends who are hacked up one by one. They’re all random students across campus, usually with no relation to one another, and because of this, they’re not worth spending time writing out or developing. Even our main character, Kendall is completely underwritten. He doesn’t have any motivations or reason to be involved in the story, he can be replaced with any other character and the movie would still flow.

You’d think that because of this, Pieces is a slog to get through. Fortunate for you, my beautiful readers, Pieces clocks in at under 90 minutes and what dialogue and exposition there is on screen can be just beautiful. The script is absolutely absurd. The writer of Pieces feels like someone who has never had a conversation with another human being. At the very least, there was an extreme language barrier in the way. The awkward, stilted lines are elevated even further by some of the worst dubbing and ADR I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if the film was recorded in Spanish, so I have no idea why they overdubbed the existing audio, but I’m so glad they did. Even barring the dialogue, Pieces has a couple nonsensical scenes sprinkled throughout that bring it up to good-bad movie territory. If a cop-undercover-as-tennis-coach running into a Kung Fu professor on a jog who then promptly snaps and attempts to kill her before blaming his odd behavior on bad chop suey he ate earlier sounds like something out of a totally different movie, I’m happy to surprise you that what I just described is an actual scene in this movie. It just kind of happens, and then is never touched upon again.

Unfortunately, all of this is still somewhat marred by the complete lack of story and characters, and while I can see through that and find enjoyment over how badly executed this film is, it can see how a lot of people might just find Pieces boring or frustrating. This is definitely a bad-moviegoer’s kind of movie.

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Now let’s get to the good stuff. This is a grindhouse flick through and through. Pieces had a couple of the more brutal murders in a slasher flick I’ve seen, most notably seeing the aftermath of a woman getting sawed in half in a small elevator. Sure, the effects would be cheesy as hell to any seasoned horror fan but when paired with excessive nudity (gore’s close cousin in exploitation films), you’re in for a fun hour and a half. And don’t worry, if you were wondering about how realistic the violence is in Pieces, I’ll let you in on a little spoiler. There’s a scene where a woman is stabbed to death, and you can clearly see the rubber prop knife folding and bending when it makes contact with her skin. I don’t know how anyone missed that in editing but regardless, it’s still in the final cut. I’m going to keep this review pretty spoiler free but if it helps convince you to check Pieces out, the ending of this movie is completely bonkers. I’d say the last  thirty seconds of Pieces are akin to the very end of Sleepaway Camp in terms of how  jarring and unexpected it is. And they both include dicks!

I’d say Pieces is a cut above your average exploitation/ European knock-off horror film with enjoyably awful acting and “suspense”, solid practical effects and some scenes that come completely out of left field. Blood and boobs co-star alongside cardbord cut outs and wooden planks actors, which is never a bad thing either. So, if you’re looking for a cheesy, dopey horror flick where you can drink a beer or five and laugh and cheer throughout with your friends, Pieces is it.

-David

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