It’s not every day that you receive the opportunity to watch an obscure horror film from the 80s in a theater with a bunch genre fans like yourself, but that’s exactly what happened last weekend while at MondoCon 2015. Released in 1982 and sporting the tagline, “You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre,” director J. Piquer Simon’s PIECES is a strange little film. From what I could take from it, it’s essentially a ‘whodunit’ slasher flick that takes the best parts of HALLOWEEN and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and mashes them together in the most grindhouse-y way possible. Also, there’s nudity galore — clearly from the 80s (thus expect spoilers below, being that this film is 30+ years old and all).
If it seems like I didn’t really watch the film from my above description, it’s because it was actually difficult to understand the context of the film. See, this was no ordinary screening. Grindhouse Releasing alongside Death Waltz Records brought in musical guest Matt Hill — AKA Umberto — to perform his re-score of the film live for one last time in front of the MondoCon crowd. For the audience to fully experience Umberto’s score, though, the film was played on mute with no subtitles. Essentially, you had to use your own imagination to understand PIECES if you had never seen it before (which I hadn’t).
Matt walked out on to the stage in front of the cheering crowd in attendance at the Marchesa Hall & Theater and gave one of the most funny, (possibly deliberate) awkward speeches I’ve ever witnessed. After the laughter died down and his speech wrapped up, the lights dimmed and we were introduced to true grindhouse horror.
The film itself, while clearly strange and outdated, was quite enjoyable for me as a first-ever viewer. Of course, the music that Umberto was pumping out to the left of the stage was just incredible and kept my foot thumping throughout most of the film.
PIECES opens in the 1940s with a young boy putting together a jigsaw puzzle. His mother walks in and smiles as she watches her son. She walks up behind him and her jaw drops as she notices he’s putting together a puzzle of nude woman. She explodes and begins to tear apart his bedroom, finding porn absolutely everywhere. The boy leaves the room as she begins to go through his trunk on the floor. After finding more porn and becoming even more furious, she turns around to see her son holding an axe. The boy brings the axe down over and over, cracking his mother’s skull wide open. She falls dead, but the boy’s not done. He gets a hacksaw and begins to cut her apart, piece by piece. The police arrive after the neighbour reports that there’s no answer at the door. After staring at the massacre, they open the closet door to find the boy covered in blood from head-to-toe. Cut to present day.
PIECES is absolutely relentless and brutal, but there’s more to it than just that. We know that the killer in the present day is the boy grown up, but his identity is never revealed. This keeps the audience guessing the entire time as they try to figure out who this psychopath is.
The killer has graduated from axes and saws to a full-on chainsaw. While this adds to the goriness of the murders, it’s an odd weapon of choice considering how he’s killing women on a campus where there’s always people around. It’s not like he has the benefit of being in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas. In one scene, the killer butchers a woman near a pool who literally just left a library that was completely populated. Then again, I’m not sure why I continued to pause to question the film’s believability. After all, this is the same film that churns out a kung fu fight scene out of nowhere.
I kid you not… a freakin’ Bruce Lee impersonator appears out of nowhere just to fight PIECES’ protagonist. After fighting, they shake hands, smile and Bruce Lee, Jr. trots off on his merry way. As ridiculous as that scene was, I give it props because it’s been a long time since I laughed like that while watching a film at the theater.
So yes, while the film is chockfull of ridiculous moments, I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on it. Truth be told, it’s actually well-shot… especially the kill scenes. There was one kill scene in particular that featured a waterbed that was so superbly shot, I actually felt like I was watching a big-budget slasher flick for a moment. I truly believe that the audience this film is meant for — fans of slasher pics with a touch of mystery (think SCREAM, just outdated and not as good) — would absolutely enjoy PIECES.
Grindhouse Releasing and Death Waltz Records put on the event to celebrate two upcoming occasions: Umberto’s new LP and Grindhouse’s Blu-ray release of PIECES. As a whole, I think the screening was a success in that it got the audience excited for both releases. As interesting as it was to see PIECES on the big screen, the highlight of the show was clearly hearing Umberto’s music live and he absolutely destroyed all my expectations. I doubt I’ll ever watch PIECES again, but I’ll definitely put Umberto on my radar and I look forward to his future releases. I highly recommend you do the same.
While scanning the intertubes, I was able to find PIECES’ opening scene that I described above accompanied by Umberto’s music. I’ll include it below, but as I said earlier, please keep in mind that it’s extremely graphic.