Pieces (1982)

Director: Juan Piquer Simon

Or, The New England Chain Saw Massacre. Why not, since the film’s advertising made such a point of invoking Tobe Hooper’s somewhat better-known film… though it must be said there’s rather more actual chainsaw action in Pieces than in that film. By the same token, of course, TCM also makes a great deal more sense (which is, arguably, saying something). Pieces opens in 1942 with a boy killing his mother after she flips out when she catches him assembling a pornographic jigsaw puzzle. Flash forward 40 years: on a nice New England university campus, a maniac is loose killing female students and cutting them to pieces. But what exactly is he doing with the pieces that go astray? Well, someone’s fondness for jigsaws hasn’t gone away with age… The remarkable thing about Pieces is that it sets a tone of ludicrousness and excess in that pre-credits scene (cos taking an axe to your mum like that is totally rational and sensible, isn’t it), and actually builds on it. The sheer stupidity of the thing is quite breathtaking (is the “bad chop suey” kung fu attack one of the most random things ever?), culminating in an ending that—even if you know about it in advance, as I did—is genuinely astounding; it almost makes Lucio Fulci look like a model of clinical logic. And the gore is pretty plentiful, too, if you like that sort of thing (I’m not sure, though, if it says more about me or the film that the bit where I said “oh for fuck’s sake” out loud was the scene of the girl getting chainsawed in half; not because of that but because she had to be seen pissing her pants in terror beforehand. I thought that was unnecessary, as if the rest of the film’s copious violence weren’t). Actually, the interesting thing about Pieces is how it plays with the “final girl” convention, in that the “final girl” is actually a guy who sleeps around quite a lot. Which is an interesting reversal of the slasher film’s usual supposed sexual conservatism… at least, maybe, until the end, when the real “final girl” appears. A dreadful film in so many ways, probably best appreciated as unintentional comedy; weirdly entertaining either way.

Update 14/10/13: So god/dess help me, I actually paid money for this thing, and now I own the Arrow DVD of it. Bloody hell (as it were). This gave me the option of watching the film again tonight, and this time I watched it with the Spanish audio track (the Youtube video I saw a few months ago was the English dub). This actually proved quite interesting, cos not only did it somehow make the whole thing feel strangely worse, or at least trashier, some of the differences actually proved quite substantial; the “bad chop suey” scene is just a “misunderstanding” in Spanish. I’m not sure if that makes it funnier or not. But the music is completely different too—not just the score, but even that racket played over the tennis court PA—and I’m just wondering what the rationale behind that was. Flashed back and forth between the two language tracks and was surprised by how different the music in each was. Not sure which is better, though I suspect the Spanish version may be a bit less dated (or at least a bit less “early 80s”) than the other one. Amusing to see this again after watching Franco’s Female Vampire just the other day cos Jack Taylor is in both of them; he’s interviewed on the disc and interestingly opens up the possibility that the film actually may have been intended as a spoof (though as he observes, if it was the actors didn’t seem to realise at the time)…

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