Advertised in some corners of the world with the brazenly unsubtle tagline “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre”, Pieces is a impressively ludicrous punt at the Giallo genre by a joint spanish/american production that is so fantastically stupid, it’s what you might get if Dario Argento was briefly possessed by the spirit of Benny Hill and decided to make a movie anyway.
Taking all the usual ingredients of the genre – mysterious, black-gloved killer; psycho-sexual motives; nubile girls virtually lining up to be mutilated; juicy gore as lavish spectacle – and mixing them in a grinder with cartoonishly inept direction, laughable dubbing and a streak of sleazy meanness a mile long, Pieces plays more like a parody of the genre it’s actually trying to cash in on. Usually, this would spell disaster – and in a way it does – but director Juan Piquer Simón’s laughably misogynistic trash classic ends up being weird hilarious in spite of itself. It’s time to go to Pieces.
A serial killer is stalking the grounds of the local campus and is taking random parts of the girls he chainsaws to death as a response to being triggered by the fact thatcas a child he murdered his own abusive mother with an axe after she caught him with a pornographic Jigsaw puzzle. So far, so WTF, but while the stressed Detective Bracken (The gravel voiced Christopher George from Grizzly and City Of The Living Dead) thinks he may have nipped the killings in the bud by arresting Willard, a gargantuan, chainsaw polishing gardener played by Popeye and Dune’s Paul L. Smith, the brutal killing continue as various young women turn up dead in various states of undress and missing bits of their anatomy. Making matters worse, the Dean seems to have gone to the Mayor Vaughn From Jaws School Of Panicked Cover Ups and is terrified that news of numerous mutilated females will negatively effect the school and so lessons such as night time dance classes continue to go ahead as planned.
However, unlikely salvation may be at had in the form of budding student and prolific shagger of female classmates, Kendle, who, despite being an obvious suspect, is welcomed aboard the case by a grateful Bracken who feels so overwhelmed by the mounting carnage, expecting a teenager to crack the case for him seems completely reasonable. He has a second ace-in-the-hole in the form of tennis player turned cop (?) Mary Riggs who goes undercover as a tennis coach (obvs) to keep an eye on things, but who the hell could this limb collecting marauder be? The effeminate teacher who seems to be an amalgamation of both Principle Skinner and Ned Flanders from The Simpsons? The leering, hulking gardener who seems to be on campus at all hours of the day? The overly careful dean who has it all to lose? The identity of the killer actually isn’t that hard to guess, but a last second shock may be the most gonzo, out-there twist you’ve ever seen.
So, in the interests of complete transparency, its painfully obvious that Pieces is a fucking dumpster fire of an exploitation flick that strives to be as offensive as it can in its treatment of women and yet, because it’s trying so hard to as nasty as possible, its laughably exaggerated misogyny ends up becoming weirdly amusing in a roundabout way. Barely any of the female victims feel the bite of the killer’s chainsaw without the movie bending over backwards to have them be in some sort of suggestive position first, be it full on nudity or a completely gratuitous aerobics session that’s sees the maximum amount of jiggling allowed before the fake blood gushes like a goddamn fountain. In fact, almost all the young women in the film are portrayed as penis hungry vixens who spout shit like “There’s nothing more beautiful than smoking pot and fucking on a water bed at the same time.” while having sex drives that make your average slasher movie camp counsellor seem like Mormons in comparison.
Matters are made even more questionable by the fact that our hero, a massively punchable teen who is brought on as a consultant purely because he’d banged half the victims at some point and is championed by his nerdy friends for his bed-hopping prowess. By this measure alone, surely this must rank as some of the worst police work in cinema history, but the movie goes all in with the fact that it genuinely thinks that we want to see this obnoxious himbo be hailed as some kind of hero. However, as distasteful as that may seem, it does weirdly work as an inadvertent, overblown statement of the weirdly warped sexual politics that Giallo films so regularly contain and I personally simply can’t not treat Pieces as some sort of accidental spoof.
So much of the movie simply refuses to make logical sense: Why is Paul L. Smith’s glaring gardener wandering around campus with shears at all hours of the night? Why is no one questioning the fact that there is a man stalking the premises dressed entirely in black holding a chainsaw tucked behind his back? Why is there a water bed located in a classroom exactly? What the fuck is going on with the scene where Mary is randomly attacked by the school’s kung-fu professor (?!) who then passes out from eating “bad sushi”?
Yes, to those unfamiliar with the genre as a whole, it’s easy to see Pieces as a nasty, dirty little piece of work that casts its female cast as victims who’s promiscuous behavior seemly hints that they’re “asking” for their terrible fates – and you’d be right – but to the more weathered gore fan, the movie is a ridiculous, gruesome, pantomime that earnestly expects you to take dialogue like “But I don’t know the killer. Or do I?” seriously as it proudly flings around gallons of grue.
However, the movie’s final, crowning moment occurs at the very end where the killer’s hoarding of body parts is revealed to be part of a plan to stitch them all together to form a Frankenstein-esque shrine to his murdered mother and it’s discovered (nude, naturally) when it falls out onto the unbearable Kendle who is traumatised by the fruits of his police work. However, it doesn’t stop there, because with not the slightest of hint or prelude, the corpse suddenly comes alive (no explanation forthcoming) and grabs our irritating lead by the package and proceeds to crush his sexual organs to mush while he screams our way to the credits. It makes no sense, it hasn’t even been remotely set up and yet it’ll have you laughing your arse off at the sheer ineptitude of having a zombie suddenly gate crash a murder mystery in the dying seconds.
Sheer, idiotic genius.
So if you’re looking a good Giallo released in 1982 that features a plethora of female victims and insane, psycho-sexual drama, Dario Argento’s Tenebre is right there for the taking. However, if you’re jonesing for something a lot more stupid, then Pieces will no doubt have you in bits.