There are few films out there that one can readily associate fondly with their childhood. More often than not, the movies we remember devouring during our youth rarely stand the test of time when viewed later in life; it forces one to ask the obvious question: What the hell was I thinking?
However, for every soiled memory exists a bona fide delight and for me one such affectionate recollection is 1982's Pieces (aka Mil gritos tiene la noche), an 85-minute exercise in sleaze, cheese and cinematic incompetence, all brewed to bloody imperfection despite the sincere intentions of its creators.
The film opens with a flashback to Boston, Massachusetts in 1942, as a mother chastises her son for piecing together a nudie puzzle in his bedroom. In a fit of rage, the young boy hacks the woman to smithereens with an axe before calmly finishing the game, amongst the bloody remains on the floor. Flash forward four decades to a series of brutal college campus murders that are sending investigators through the ringer; all the victims are young, beautiful, nubile women. Could there be a connection between the horrific events of both past and present? If so, who is responsible for the madness unfolding?
Pieces is a juicy slice of Grand Guignol splatter that came about at a time when most horror films produced in the United States would do anything (and I mean anything) to drive butts into seats for bigger box office returns. Despite the film's genre-ready attributes and American financial backing, Juan Piquer Simon's kill-a-thon was shot entirely in and around Madrid by a crew of local Spanish filmmakers and features a cast predominantly of European decent – something quite rare for this kind of exploitation fare.
Interestingly enough, it is precisely the unlikelihood of this international production partnership that makes Pieces such an enjoyably offbeat horror flick, and an indelible fixture of my teenage movie-watching years. Loaded with gratuitous nudity, explicit gore, bad jazzercise, fortuitous kung-fu, teenage drug use, decapitations, dismemberments and one of the most insane three-twist endings ever committed to celluloid, the film literally has everything a young adolescent horror fan could hope for… and then some. If there's one thing fans can't deny it's that the movie definitely delivers on its tagline: “You Don't Have To Go To Texas For A Chainsaw Massacre!” Nuff said.
However, embedded within the film's unfettered grue and gleeful exploitation exists a level of cinematic ineptitude and inadvertent hilarity that is hard to ignore. Dramatically clumsy, awkwardly dubbed, outrageously illogical and laughably acted, Pieces may possess the basic structure of an Italian Giallo thriller but it quickly becomes apparent that those operating behind the camera clearly have little-to-no impression of how to craft a convincing murder-mystery, let alone how to make the faux terror on screen appear plausible for any length of time. It also doesn't help that the identity of the film's maniac is telegraphed a good hour before their inevitable unveiling in the final reel. Oh, if only the filmmakers knew…
While at first glance it may appear as if I'm criticising Pieces in every which way, the above comments are in fact a testament to the film's undying appeal, both to me personally as well as to the wider horror community. Bad movie connoisseurs are just as passionate, if not more so, about their filmic loves as those who claim to only engage in esteemed critical releases, reaffirming the notion that there is indeed room in the world for all kinds of cinema, no matter how obscure. Thus, this endlessly entertaining, hopelessly bonkers bellyflop of a film will always hold a special place both in my heart and in my VCR for years to come.
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