BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Oct 31st, 2008 •

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I love October! It is the only month where I feel like everybody shares my obsession with horror movies. Blockbuster’s scary movie section is all checked out, and people pack into theaters to watch midnight showings of their favorite fright flicks from the past. If only it would stay like this all year round…

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a film that can get under my skin, and make me think long after the credits have rolled…that film is THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Other times I want to see a topless woman running through a locker room screaming her head off, while a mysterious figure chases her with a buzzing chainsaw, only to cut her up into small pieces confiscating parts he needs for his human jigsaw puzzle…this film is PIECES.

PIECES (1982) is, as its tagline proudly advertises, “Exactly what you think it is”. The film opens in 1942, where a young boy is putting together a puzzle of a naked woman. He is caught by his mother, and she goes crazy, throwing things around the house and attempting to burn all his belongings. Sound a little over-the-top? The child deals with this the only way he sees fit…he cuts her into pieces with an ax.

CUT TO: 40 years later. A serial killer stalks women in a Boston college campus, severing their bodies and stealing limbs. I know the plot doesn’t sound very impressive, and that’s because it ain’t, but I guarantee nobody likes this movie for the ingenious plot.

Some might throw this flick into the “so bad it’s good category”. The plot is absurd and at times makes no sense whatsoever. The violence and nudity are completely gratuitous, and the acting, as well as the dubbing, are poor. It’s also blatantly misogynistic to boot. (surprisingly, not in an offensive way. It comes off as more comical than mean-spirited). So I can understand why it would be placed into that category.

There is no denying that this is a “cult film”. It will surely generate more laughs than scares on account of it being utterly moronic. However I can’t fully agree with the notion that it’s a bad film. Try shutting the sound off and watching it like that. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by it’s craft. The cinematography is not lazy, like many exploitation films of the time. The lighting is effective and the camera is constantly moving on dollies. The gore is done via extremely cheap methods, but this works to its advantage. (they used a pig carcass for certain chainsaw deaths, as well as animal innards from the local butcher shop, which fill in as human blood and organs). The kills come off looking realistic and brutal.

So there are genuinely positive things to be said about PIECES, but the really great quality of the movie is that IT KNOWS WHAT IT IS, and it doesn’t try for a second to be anything else! Hence, the tagline. Not every film can be clever, or bring something new to the genre. Not every slasher has to be self referential or post-modern. PIECES is none of these things, and because of its simplicity, it is refreshing. It really takes you back to the good ol’ days when a chainsaw was just a freakin’ chainsaw!

The DVD is put out by Bob Morawski and Sage Stallone of Grindhouse Releasing. Ever since Tarantinto and Rodriguez made their “GRINDHOUSE” films, dvd companies have been using the term to sell their B-movies. So when you walk into a store you are probably looking at a whole bunch of DVD covers that throw the word around in order to make a buck. Grindhouse Releasing should not be confused with hopping on that bandwagon. They have been around since 1996 and have been (very slowly – their last release was seven years ago) re-mastering horror exploitation flicks and giving them the royal treatment on DVD. They are good at what they do. I wish they’d do more titles, but I won’t be greedy. PIECES floated around for a long time on VHS and bootleg DVD. It looked like crap, and was heavily cut. I have seen both versions of the film, and there is a world of difference.

The transfer is by far the best part of the presentation. They made a brand new 35 mm print from the original negative, and from that made a high def video master. Then they hired the colorist who had just come off re-mastering LAWRENCE OF ARABIA to really bring it to life! The result is bloody beautiful. I would have never guessed that the film was so good-looking. If that isn’t enough praise for Grindhouse Releasing, they also managed to make this a double disc set, including interviews with the director, Juan Piquer Simon, and star Paul L. Smith. They’ve also included extremely odd international poster art, and a chapter selection that highlights all the kill scenes in red for those looking to get a quick fix of the bloody stuff.

If you’ve gotten this far in the review, you pretty much know what you are in for. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, pick up the DVD. You won’t regret it. Although risky, I recommend watching it with a bunch of friends and some drinks. They will either laugh all night and thank you, or never call you again.

Have a happy Halloween, Films in Review readers! It passes us by so quickly, and it takes all the scary movies along with it.

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