Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.
“Pieces” – It’s exactly what you think it is!
This is the tagline for director Juan Piquer Simon’s “Pieces,” and it says it all. Produced in 1983, when slasher movies were all the rage, “Pieces” doesn’t waste time on things like plot or continuity, yet will absolutely blow you away with its high level of violence and gore.
Following a brief flashback to the 1940s, in which a young boy named Timmy (Alejandro Hernández) bludgeons his overbearing mother to death with an ax, we jump ahead to modern times, where a killer is stalking the beautiful female students of a prestigious Boston-area college. The detectives assigned to the case, Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) and Sgt. Holden (Frank Braña), have very few clues to go on; most of the girls have been chopped up with a chainsaw, and in each instance, the killer has carried off a piece of his victim’s body.
With no sign that the murderer intends to let up, Lt. Bracken sends his colleague, undercover officer Mary Riggs (Lynda Day), in to pose as the school’s new tennis instructor, and even asks one of the students, Kendall James (Ian Sera), to keep an eye out for anything unusual. Over time, a few suspects do emerge, including the creepy-looking gardener Willard (Paul L. Smith) and anatomy professor Arthur Brown (Jack Taylor), both of whom seem to have something to hide, but is either one the actual killer, or is it someone else entirely?
There are times when “Pieces” will have you scratching your head, wondering what’s going on. Aside from the fact that Lt. Bracken, saying his resources are limited, all but deputizes an inexperienced college student (Kendall) to assist with the investigation, there’s a completely inexplicable moment when Mary Riggs, walking around the campus at night, is attacked by a random kung fu expert played by Bruce Le, one of the period’s many Bruce Lee impersonators (Along with “Pieces,” producer Dick Randall was also making kung fu movies in Europe, and supposedly demanded that this scene be included to help promote his other projects).
The film’s continuity also suffers on occasion. Take, for example, the discovery of the second victim, Jenny (Cristina Cottrelli), who was hacked apart when she went for a swim in the gymnasium’s pool. By chance, both Kendall and the spooky gardener Willard show up on the scene at the same time, and because Willard was standing next to the chainsaw, Kendall assumes he is the killer and rushes off to fetch the authorities. Before long, Sgt. Holden and a pair of security guards burst in, and after a brief melee, they take Willard into custody. But a few scenes later, Lt. Bracken is complaining that they have no idea who the killer is! Even if they couldn’t hold Willard due to a lack of evidence, his being there at the time of the discovery, not to mention the fact that he works almost daily with a damn chainsaw, should have at least made him a prime suspect.
That’s what “Pieces” does wrong. I can sum up what it does right in two words: kill scenes. The violence in “Pieces” is both sudden and brutal, and the blood flows as freely as in any other slasher movie from this era. Even the flashback scene at the beginning is bloody as hell (after hitting dear old mom over the head with an ax, little Timmy proceeds to cut her up with a saw, and makes a fairly big mess in the process). And this wouldn’t even rank as one of the movie’s top five goriest kills (the winner, in my book, is the murder of Suzie Bell, played by Leticia Marfil, who is dispatched while taking a shower. To be honest, I’m not sure which is more shocking: Suzie’s murder or the shot of her lifeless body when she’s found).
So, even if “Pieces” doesn’t challenge your mind, it will certainly do a number on your stomach, and if you know that going in, you’re bound to have a great time watching it.
— Dr. Shock
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