Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's Exactly What You Think It Is (But So Much More)

On the list of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, 1982’s Pieces often ranks fairly high. 
Rightfully so.
Quick Plot: In 1942, a sweater vest-clad boy puts together a nudie jigsaw puzzle to the horror of his mother. When she threatens to burn everything he owns, the kid takes the common route and axes her to death.

Sneeze, flash forward 40 years to the then-present day of extreme 1980sness where a young woman recklessly skateboards into a mirror.

Just go with it.
Later that day, a student innocently studies in a college campus park, only to get attacked by a man with a chainsaw. Even LATER that day, a blond slips a raccoon headed student named Kendall a come-shag-me-in-the-school-pool note, only to also get attacked by a man with a chainsaw. I guess that’s why nobody uses the completely public swimming pool on campus. Even to have sex.

Even this guy.
Because he was sort of in the right spot at the right time, the nerdy--yet inexplicable chick magnet--Kendall becomes an unofficial assistant to the detectives assigned to investigate the case. That’s right, just when I thought police officers couldn’t get more incompetent than The Human Centipede, Pieces introduces genre stalwart Christopher George as a cheery lieutenant who takes a shining to the obnoxious underclassman, utilizing the kid to help craft a criminal profile, hang around on stake outs, and, most hilariously, protect the OTHER undercover officer recently enlisted to fight crime.

See, in the 1980s, there was apparently no such thing as ACTUAL female undercover officers. Instead, the police force would recruit eager tennis champions to um...enter dangerous situations where serial killers are hunting young women? Really? Is this what’s happening onscreen right now?
I asked that question a lot while watching Pieces, which would conventionally be a bad thing for most viewers but for someone like me--and I assume, a good deal of you--is pretty amazing. This is the kind of movie that features not one, but TWO scenes involving ballet aerobics and even more notably, the greatest maybe-rape-attempt scene committed by a friendly kung fu professor ever.

Yes, kung fu professor. Who starts to kick and punch our heroine (remember her? the not actually undercover cop/not cop tennis star) on the street in the middle of the night, seemingly as if to, you know, violate her, but stops when confronted by Kendall--who himself was spending the evening having sex with the world’s worst reporter, who was apparently far too noisy in bed for the classy Kendall to go for round two with. Kendall and his KUNG FU PROFESSOR laugh off the misunderstanding? sexual violation? mugging? And that’s that.

Pieces is an awful movie, but gloriously so. You get the sense that actors didn’t know what they doing, but that the craft service table was so stocked with fresh-baked muffins that the cast gave it their all anyway, even if they had not the slightest idea what ‘it’ was supposed to be.
High Points
Cut and banned at its original time of release, Pieces is a puzzlebox full of fairly impressive practical effects

Low Points
So was the identity of the killer supposed to actually be a secret? I assumed it was just a lazily kept one, and this is easily confirmed by the actual reveal. Instead of a shocking ‘pull the mask off!’ moment, our killer just kind of tells a would-be victim about his past. It’s like the filmmakers reached a point where they got bored with the excitement of keeping a secret, or like little kids just couldn’t contain themselves anymore and ultimately just spilled it out in the most random and uneventful ways possible
Lessons Learned
Undercover policing is strictly volunteer

A pool skimmer is the most important weapon a serial killer can have in his or her arsenal
It’s much easier than you think to hide a chainsaw behind your back, yet much harder to put the breaks on when riding a skateboard

Never confuse a psychiatrist with a doctor of medicine. That’s really offensive and you should know better
Unlike Stepford wives, campus walls bleed when stabbed

The Winning Line (Delivery)
“Don’t tell me I’m the bearer of bad news I could KILL myself.”
No, I didn't forget to insert a period between 'news' and 'I.' The real question is: did the screenwriter, prompting the very literal and untrained actor to follow suit, or was this a choice? Either way, it is awesome.
Well OBVIOUSLY I'm recommending Pieces with the Doll's House blue cheese ribbon. Slasher fans can enjoy the gore, while so-bad-it's-amazing connoisseurs will savor each scene like a plate of nachos washed down with ranch dressing. There’s what I imagine is a glorious two-disc special edition out there in the world, so trash fans who find it cheap won’t regret a buy. And come on ladies, don’t even THINK of passing up a chance to spend 90 minutes with this love machine:


  1. How is it I have never heard of this movie before? Love your blog by the way.

  2. Wow! I have got to see this!! Nice review!

  3. Thanks Lady! I had often heard the title thrown in lists of bad slashers, but nothing ever made me really care to check it out. Trust me though: it's positively joyous!

  4. I have owned the unrated Vestron VHS for many a year, and I will not upgrade to another format.

    It never occurred to me that the teacher might be attempting kung fu rape. Maybe, as a woman, you assume an aggressive teacher in a dark alley will try to rape you. Well, that's my best attempt at a Freudian reading of your review. Either way, I think we can both agree that bad chop suey simply leads to trouble.

  5. I mean, she's walking around at night when a man STARTS ATTACKING HER WITH KUNG FU MOVES! I suppose he could've been gunning for her wallet, but when a man attacks a woman in a darkly lit space, I jump to the worst.

  6. I love Pieces to pieces. I highly recommend SLUGS (same director) if you haven't seen it.

  7. Funny, you're about the 9th person to recommend SLugs to me, but I had NO idea it was by the Pieces director! NOW I'll actually add it to my queue!

  8. The pictures alone are enough for me to want to eat this movie up!

  9. Ashlee, methinks you shall love it ...to PIECES!

  10. Yes agreed...Slugs is like a double dose of awesome pie. The dialogue is beyond amazing!

  11. And slugs are small, right? Like, February vertically challenged villains small...

  12. I could be wrong, but I always thought that the KUNG FU PROFESSOR simply stopped in the middle of his assault and keeled over without anyone touching him, just before Kendall arrived. That suggests to me that he really is acting in some sort of bad-chop-suey-induced freakout, not just using the bad chop suey as an excuse for willful wrongdoing.

  13. Hm. It's quite possible that happened, and if so, that somehow makes it even MORE amazing than my memory serves. I now wish all freakouts were bad-chop-suey-induced!