Horror Movie Review: Pieces (1982)

Pieces is a Slasher film that was directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simon, it released in 1982. Set at a college campus, the film follows a murderer brutally killing many of the students and using their body parts to make a human jigsaw puzzle. Like many films from that era, Pieces has become something of a cult classic. The question is, how well does it hold up in 2017?

In 1942, a 10-year-old named Timmy plays with a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman when his mother walks in and shouts at him for it. She destroys the puzzle and goes searching for any other pornographic material that he may have. However, she’s stopped when Timmy returns with an axe and murders her. He then decapitates her corpse with a hacksaw just before the police arrive. Damn, that boy sure loved his porn! Anyway, he hides and pretends that he’s the victim and merely a witness trapped in a crime scene. The police believe the boy and send him away to live with his Aunt.

Forty years later, a black-clad figure opens a box containing the bloodied clothing and a photograph of Timmy’s Mother. He also unboxes the bloodied jigsaw puzzle and starts to put it together.

The mysterious figure wastes little time to begin his reign of terror. A random student is studying in a park when out of nowhere she is decapitated by a darkened figure wielding a chainsaw. Lt. Bracken and his partner Sgt. Holden arrive to investigate the murder. They quickly notice that the head of the victim has been taken. After the detectives explain to the college’s Dean that there were no witnesses or suspect, the Dean asks the rather sinister Professor Brown, who teaches anatomy, to show the detectives around. Outside, the groundskeeper named Willard (Paul Smith) is seen trimming a hedge with a chainsaw, similar to the killer’s.

We’re then introduced to our main character, a ladies man called Kendall. He is slipped a note by a young girl that invites him to the campus pool after hours. The killer finds the note and beats Kendall there, he brings his chainsaw with him and brutally murders the girl. Willard stumbles into the area and implicates himself in downright laughable fashion. He gets blood on himself, touches the murder weapon, attempts to flee and assaults 3 police officers. However, he is later released due to a lack of evidence! Not only that but he is back working on the campus the very next day! The police were forgiving in the 80s….

The guy who plays Willard is hilarious. He’s clearly supposed to be some kind of “red herring” but he’s just such a caricature. Not only that but his build in no way matches the killer, it’s so obviously not him.

Lt. Bracken brings in an undercover cop named Mary Riggs, who was also a former tennis player. Bracken explains to Holden that Mary is going undercover to pose as a tennis instructor at the college, and Kendall is going to assist her whenever he can. Later, another victim of the attacker has her arms sawn off, her entire torso is the next piece of the puzzle. Afterwards, yet another victim is stalked and murdered. She is stabbed on a waterbed, which makes for a really awesome visual.

Later the next day, one of Mary’s tennis students heads into the locker room after the killer turns on music on the loudspeakers, and is pursued until she meets her demise by having her waist sawed horizontally. While Mary and Kendall focus on turning off the loudspeaker’s music, the killer steals the girl’s legs and escapes. This leads to Mary breaking down and screaming “bastard” at the thought of him killing another girl, her delivery is genuinely hysterical.

Want to know who the killer is? Check out Pieces to find out.

Pieces is one of those horror movies that I have so much to say about. However, it would likely take more words than anyone would be willing to read. In short, it is pure early 80s cheesy exploitative trash but in a good way!

The opening doesn’t hold any punches in letting you know exactly what you’re in for. The mystery that the film presents is intriguing but it is executed so poorly. It is so damn obvious who the killer is and Pieces gives you very few alternatives that would make any sense. As soon as you see this guy walk on screen you’ll know.

Not only that but it does nothing to explain why 40 years after the opening he decided to start his rampage. It doesn’t even explain why he is so messed up in the first place. The only thing you have to go on is that his mother took his porn puzzle and he snapped. You can theorize this or that but it gives you nothing. Just be satisfied in the notion that he’s simply a complete nutcase.

One thing you cannot accuse Pieces of is a lack of blood and gore. There are buckets and buckets of the stuff and for the most part it looks fantastic. In fact, apparently some of the effects used were real animal blood and organs. However,  some of the prosthetic effects look a little dated but that’s to be expected. The stabbing on the waterbed or the memorable visual that’s the bathroom blood fest, it’s really a sight to see.

I loved how nonchalant everybody including the police are to a chainsaw wielding maniac on the loose, it’s great. The only time anyone shows any real emotion is when Mary screams “bastard!” but the less I say about that the better. Overall, the performances from just about everyone in the film are quite wooden. They deliver monotone lines and fail to react appropriately to certain scenarios.

If you don’t enjoy seeing women used in horror movies just to get naked, make horrible choices and get murdered then look away now. Yes, it’s extremely exploitative but the film just wouldn’t be the same without it. One of the women actually runs from the killer with her shirt off, it’s very silly.

Pieces has a bunch of side-splitting WTF moments but none more so than one in particular. Mary is frightened by a random Asian guy who Fung Fu attacks her out of nowhere. She kicks him the in balls and pulls a gun but he explains that he was only messing around and runs off. Kendall drives up on a motorbike that sounds just like the chainsaw and explains that he knows the guy.  It’s ridiculously random and is never mentioned again.

Finally, the reveal and confrontation of the killer is really weak. However, the ending is truly awesome.

Overall, Pieces isn’t a smart film but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t trying to be. Instead, it strived to be an exploitation slasher flick that is synonymous with that era. In my mind, it fully succeeds at being highly entertaining and memorable.

Pieces
  • 7/10
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