Since this perspective on the 1982 slasher Pieces is mine, naturally it doesn’t matter what the quality is of the film. It is a total treasure simply because it comes from the 80s—there’s even a fricking Ronald Reagan photo hanging on a wall in one scene! Classic. Even the cover art brings me back to the heyday of the horror section in mom and pop video shops, when every non-mainstream horror movie promised depravity a teenage boy couldn’t fathom—but hoped to witness if he could get up the nerve to pop that videotape into his VCR.
A surefire ingredient for a depraved horror hit in the 80s was to open with a seemingly innocent child doing something grotesque and twisted that involves sex and violence. You know, so kids could really relate. And that’s what we get here. A little tyke is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked lady sporting a classic late 70s/early 80s afro—and I’m not talking about on her head. My, how times have shaved—I mean, changed.
The boy’s mother catches him, calls him all kinds of names for pervert (which of course means screaming, “You’re just like your father!”) and smashes a mirror in the room. Her cock-blocked son has an axe to grind—in his mother’s head! This scene looks excruciatingly real and painful. But the best part is when this smart little psycho-perv first sees the police and innocently sobs, “Where’s my mommy? I want my mommy!” And to think I couldn’t even act my way out of putting dog poop in my neighbor’s mailbox when I was a kid.
Fast forward forty years for one of the most bizarre, often comical college slashers ever. The very first scene following the intro features some girl on a skateboard who smashes into a big mirror that two movers are carrying. It seems completely random, but the crash of glass is followed by a flashback of the mom from the opener smashing the mirror in her son’s room, so all that can be determined is that the little boy, now a man 40-years-older, must be witnessing the accident, which triggers the memory of his childhood and sets off the new onslaught of campus murders.
The deaths are by far the main course here, strung together by a very thin plot. The grisly kills are beyond anything you’d see in most slashers of the day. The killer uses a chainsaw so big it would make Leatherface feel emasculated (you know, more than he already does from wearing the face of women). The film doesn’t waste time on chainsaw foreplay, with the female victims succumbing to incredibly swift encounters with it. No struggling cutting through bones. Limbs are severed with the utmost of ease. It’s like one big infomercial for a super saw. Simply wipe the blade clean when finished and store it in the FREE protective sheath!
Pieces sets the standard for the slasher shift from Halloween tension/atmosphere to Jason Takes Manhattan body count/gore. Our killer slices the thinking cap off a young female student studying right out on the campus lawn, snags a girl in a pool with a skimmer (it’s like scooping dead fish out of an aquarium), leaves a young sweetheart with no helping hand to push the buttons on an elevator, violently knifes a bimbo in a spectacular waterbed killing (if you pretend you didn’t notice the bending of the flimsy fake knife against the victim’s head), and literally scares the piss out of one victim.
Gore aside, one can’t help wondering if the filmmakers intended the ridiculously campy hilarity. First, there’s the gardener dude (who bares a striking resemblance to Brutus of Popeye fame); his face is frozen in a one-eyed, sidelong glance of suspicion no matter what is being said to him by other characters.
There’s also the stereotypical queer acting queer…a professor the girls refer to as the campus closet queen.
The film also casts Christopher George and Lynda Day George—the power couple of 80s b-horror movies—as somewhat of a comic duo this time around. Christopher, the cop on the case, is more concerned with sounding like and smoking cigars like George Burns, while Lynda, the undercover agent posing as a tennis instructor on campus, has a moment that is worthy of drag queen impersonation on par with the Bette Davis classic “But you are Blanche. You are!” Lynda finds a dead body and, with her forehead veins and eyes bulging, bellows the most guttural, mellow dramatic trio: “Bastard!…Baastaaard!!…BAAASTAAARD!!!”
The fun(ny) doesn’t end there. We have a jazzercise scene that puts the Prom Night disco dance scene to shame, as well as a tennis match in which we watch about a minute of the crowd’s heads moving left to right as they follow the ball (this HAD to be intentional humor, right?). There’s the campus “stud” that would be cast as the curly haired, eyeglass-wearing geek these days, although, his stud meter does rise when he appears in a very impressive wiener silhouette shot! To add to the charm of this 80s hack ‘n’ slash, it appears that at least a quarter of the cast is speaking a different language and their lines are dubbed into English. And then there’s the completely illogical final moment of the film that simply begs for an all out…um…balls to the wall sequel.
But really, the most cherished part of this film has to be the scenario when Lynda Day George, walking alone on campus at night, is unexpectedly attacked—by a sweat suit wearing Asian kung fu master! W…T…F? He goes all Bruce Lee on her ass without ever actually touching her…and then suddenly he’s on his back on the ground. The stud comes to the rescue on his motorcycle and introduces the ninja as his karate teacher, to which the karate teacher makes some comment about bad Chop Suey before sending the common everyday goodbye salutation we all use: “So rong!”
DOH! So wrong is right!