Friday, April 3, 2009

Pieces (Juan Piquer Simón, 1982)

The word "Euro" is shorthand for Europe (a large landmass just north of Algeria) and the word "sleaze" is derived from a Polish colloquialism that means "inexpensive." Put them together and what you'll most likely get is an intoxicating mishmash of violence and titillation. Inundating the psyches of audience members who have forgotten, or, in some rare cases, never experienced at all, what it's like to be sleazy and European simultaneously, this potent elixir is a controversial reminder of how closely aligned the world's of erotica and horror can be at times. Saturated with enough Euro-sleaze to keep the economies of five moderately sized industrialized nations up and running for over a thousand years (provided that these nations can run solely on the rejuvenating nectar that only the finest Euro-sleaze can furnish), Pieces is a detestably awe-inspiring example of how to make a purposeful film about campus dismemberment not only entertaining, but also hilarious at the same time. Awash with accidental mirthfulness, chainsaw gore, scantily clad co-eds, refrigerated severed heads, an aerobics sequence (rife with thigh-high leg warmers), random kung-fu instructors, multiple scenes of garden hose quality blood loss, the silhouette a semi-flaccid cock shimmering in the moonlight, and a punctured waterbed, the film, by director Juan Piquer Simón, is a stalking delight from the head ventilating start to the crotch ruining finish.
The expertly crafted endeavour is basically about everyone's innate desire the put back together the pieces of one's damaged childhood by utilizing the non-holistic method known as "cadaver accumulation" (the incessant collecting of body parts in order to satisfy a misguided yearning).
Commencing with the sight of a young boy axing his mother in the head after she takes exception with his playing with a pornographic jigsaw puzzle, the film jumps forward forty years and lands us squarely on the palatial grounds of some Boston college.
Its palatial temperament is sullied somewhat when a lithesome coed studying on the grass of a grassy patch of grass (the creamy backs of her alabaster calves roasting in the sun) finds her head removed without her expressed written consent by the rotating blade of a yellow chainsaw. This unlawful (at least I think it was unlawful) act of decapitation attracts the attention of the local branch of the department in charge of enforcing the law and junk, as it is just the first of many gruesome murders to besmirch this formerly serene learning facility.
Sending over their most unskilled detectives, Det. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) and Det. Sgt. Holden (Frank Braña), the police find themselves up against a chainsaw-wielding madman who preys primarily on attractive females.
Flummoxed by the killer and his not-so-subtle brand of dispatching his victims (he uses a loud, engine powered cutting device used mainly for clearing brush and impressing chicks named Wanda), the wily investigators employ the help of a student/ladies man/suspect named Kendall (Ian Sera) and enlist the services of a policewoman, Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), to go undercover as a tennis coach.
As the body count rises, the lead detective is reduced to chomping on his unlit cigar and calling the killer "creepy," while his partner spends his time enjoying the greasy taste of his Wendy's fries and promising to send helpful peers boxes of lollipops.
The afro-ed Kendall is very eager to assist in the capturing of the campus psycho, but the inherent womanliness of Lynda Day George's tennis instructor has rendered the unlikely Lothario inert. It's no wonder so many shapely coeds had to buy it, and so horribly, I might add. I mean, with a group like this, I'm surprised there were any students left alive at the end.
At the end of the day, Miss Day's threefold verbalization of the word "bastard" at the top of her lungs captures this sleuth-based frustration perfectly.
My love of supple coeds and astute blood-shedding is repeatedly put to test in Pieces, as both come in close contact with one another with an uncomfortable regularity. The fact that the majority of the victims all had it going on in terms of being attractive didn't help matters.
As wonderfully shameless as it is, this heady mix of alluring and bloodcurdling had me questioning my loyalties at every turn. Take, for example, the aerobics sequence. A scene like this is my reason for living (I was like a malnourished kid in a leotard store). The synthesizer music (with vocoder-enhanced vocals), the kicking in unison, the super-tight exercise clothes (their respective crotches no doubt overwhelmed by the leotard's excessive tightness), and the overall chromatic splendour of it all was a thing of perverted beauty.
Only problem is, one of them has to be murdered to move the plot forward. It's quite the dilemma, and it's not the only time it happens. Every coed who comes face-to-face with the killer's chainsaw is just so darn cute and sexy, that it's a shame they all have to be violated in such a grotesque, yet highly creative manner.
Just for the grisly record, the waterbed stabbing and toilet evisceration were my favourite death sequences. In the case of the former, victim was clearly chosen because of the exquisite shape of her delicious gams (like I said, the killer is collecting body parts). And the fact that she wore tan pantyhose during her demise only exacerbated the quality of her legginess.
Luckily, the grotesqueness is balanced with a wicked sense of humour. Now, whether the film's comical moments were intentional or not is irrelevant. It's extremely funny and that's that. As is the case with most films by European directors that take place in a North American setting, the awkwardness of the cultural transition can't help but make even the most serious of scenes appear nonsensical. This happens over and over again, despite the mostly American cast (which includes Paul Smith and his world famous stink eye).
However, in the long run, it is this clumsiness that makes Pieces the comedy/horror/erotic classic that is. I highly recommend seeing this film, like I did, with a packed audience filled with smart ass horror fans. The level of snarky applause that greeted Lynda's multiple bastard line was glorious.

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  1. I love this movie more than spaghetti! And I love me some spaghetti, let me tell you! I just recently got the new 2 disc dvd and can't wait to revisit it....

    Holee mackerel! Where did you find that picture of Connie Francis?! I almost gave myself a black eye with the excitement in my pants area!

  2. More than spaghetti? Yikes! That be some high praise.

    I find the expression "pants area" to be quite humourous.

  3. I used to work with a grown woman who referred to her pink taco as her "Pants Area".

    ..she also refused to ever use tampons for fear of "The Toxic Shock"...AND...get this...she adjusted her sanitary napkins (in public) by sticking her hand down said pants area and rooting around until she got the right fit.

    ...and she didn't even wash her hands after.

  4. Woo hoo! Callum Keith Rennie won a Genie Award!

    Oh, my God, your Hitler's Brain review is one of your best. (Goes back to my theory of bad movies making for better reviews.)

    I love the word "flummox." "Lummox" is a good word, too.

    It's also good to see Crystal Bernard.

  5. I don't love this movie more than spaghetti, because I am Italian and all, but I do sure love it a whole bunch. Sometimes in my day-to-day life, I find myself wanting to just scream: Bastards!!!

  6. Mr. Canacorn: Wow, I think I just acquired a yeast infection from your tampon anecdote. But don't worry though, I like yeast infections.:)

    Oh, and I'm still working on getting Evil Toons.

    Karim Amir: The fact that you found out about Callum's Genie win before I did is kinda sad (I didn't even know it was on). Speaking of Canadian cinema, One Week has made over a million dollars in Canada alone.

    They Saved Hitler's Brain is a bad movie?!? ;)

    Yeah, "flummox" rules.

    A guy named "Kamir Grant" was mentioned in a local paper the other day. How weird is that?

    Cinema Du Meep: I'm no primal scream expert, but I bet yelling Bastards!!! at full volume is quite cathartic.

  7. I love this movie! It was one of the first movies I saw when we got our first VCR back in the mid-80's. I watched it with my dad and brother. We all got a kick out of it. I haven't seen it in years though.

  8. The first movie I saw that utilized VCR technology was Conan The Barbarian at a friend's birthday party.