There are many different kinds of exploitation films, spanning across a wide range of genres. The list of titles and subcategories included is massive; nearly overwhelming to consider in its totality. Whether we’re talking about sexploitation, blaxploitation, or even sharksploitation – the sheer scale and variety of the movies that could potentially be considered for the designation are astronomical.
With a well-deserved reputation for being lurid, these films rely on pure shock value to draw a crowd. They prey on humanity’s baser instincts – our most carnal and reptilian of desires. I mean, deep down, who really looks away from the train wreck? Who actually averts their gaze when the blouse pops open or the pants fall down? Nobody, that’s who. Not a goddamned soul. That’s why people would flock to watch them when they were first released, and it’s why they continue to watch them now. As a species, it is simply who we are, whether we like to admit it or not.
The 1982 film Pieces is just one example of many that fit the above description perfectly. It’s a nasty little number, to be sure – packed to the brim with violence, nudity, and bad acting. As such, it is quintessential exploitation cinema. It is gratuitous for gratuity’s sake and seems to revel in a sort of gleeful self-awareness of what it is. It is a love note to the industry. A celebration of pure and unadulterated schlock.
Pieces: Dissecting a Splatter Film
Pieces is a Spanish/American slasher exploitation film. It was directed by Juan Piquer Simón, who also directed the cult classic horror film Slugs in 1988. It stars the husband-and-wife duo of Christopher George and Lynda Day George, as well as the acting talents of Edmund Purdom and Ian Sera. The film was written by Dick Randall and Roberto Loloya and was initially released to theaters in Spain on August 23, 1982.
The plot of the film follows the events that conspire around a Boston college campus in the early 1980s. To offer some background explanation, the film opens forty years prior to the date that the rest of the movie is set in. In the establishing shot, we are introduced to a young boy. He is playing with a pornographic jigsaw puzzle, which pictures a young, nude woman when it’s completed. His mother, who is clearly more than a little unhinged, walks into the room and is enraged to catch him partaking in this lewd activity. She begins to viciously berate the boy, comparing him unfavorably to his father and threatening to burn his things. The boy disappears off camera while she continues on this abusive tirade, before returning shortly afterward to brutally murder her with an ax.
Cut to the present day. At the local college, someone is committing a string of grisly slayings. This mysterious killer is targeting young women – and he is taking souveniers. It is up to the police and, for some strange reason, a student named Kendall, to stop the chainsaw-wielding maniac before he finds an opportunity to strike again.
What All the Buzz is About
The tagline for Pieces does an excellent job of summing up what you should expect when watching the film: “It’s exactly what you think it is!“.
Needless to say, there is a copious amount of gore throughout the movie, the effectiveness of which varies from kill to kill. Fun fact: they used real blood and entrails from dead animals for many of the practical effects, which they obtained from a slaughterhouse for the production. There is also a ton of unnecessary nudity – because of course there would be. While the film does lose points for being overtly misogynistic in a lot of its themes and delivery, it is sadly something that isn’t uncommon to genre films of that era. You take it as it is, for better or for worse. The story-line of the film in itself isn’t terrible. Granted that while it is rather cut and dry – and poorly acted out, for the most part – it does at least manage to keep the audience guessing until we are nearing the climax.
The other noteworthy aspect of the movie is that it is actually quite funny at times, albeit unintentionally. There are a lot of things that don’t make sense in Pieces. A lot of things. For example, there is a random kung-fu attack that takes place, seemingly out of nowhere, and for no discernible reason.
There is also the nagging mystery of the invisible chainsaw. Throughout the film, the killer uses a rather large chainsaw for the bulk of his crimes. A chainsaw – perhaps the noisiest and most attention-grabbing melee weapon that one could possibly use. These crimes are almost always committed in broad daylight, in often very public places. Despite this, his actions always seem to go unnoticed until after they are finished and he has already fled the scene. The entire film is like this, riddled with blatant and nonsensical inconsistencies that will leave the viewer puzzled and amused.
Justice, Bloody Justice
There is absolutely no doubt about it: Pieces is a trashy movie. It is sleazy, it is over-the-top, and it is completely unrepentant about being so. I almost certainly wouldn’t recommend it to any viewer who may have more delicate sensibilities. That being said, for those who do find a warped kind of enjoyment in such films – like me, for example – it is a wickedly fun ride throughout.
As previously stated, Pieces does not attempt to downplay what it is. I think that’s the main reason why the film has a very distinct, odd charm about it. A charm that has ultimately rewarded the picture with a devoted cult following since it first debuted in 1982. It encapsulates a time when grind-house cinema was all the rage. When the drive-in theaters were king and films like The Last House on the Left (1972), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Maniac (1980) were the order of the day.
In summary, I feel that Pieces (1982) is an essential part of exploitation and horror history, and as such, I bestow upon it a rating of 4 out of 5 Cthulhus. It may not be for everyone, but the people who do like it, like it a lot.(4 / 5)
If you enjoyed ‘Reviews in Retrospect: Pieces (1982)‘, then please feel free to browse our other movie reviews, here.