You would think that a blog dedicated to showing exploitation films some love would have covered this title sooner, sorry to disappoint y'all. So at long last, I am going to talk a little bit about Juan Piquer Simón's giallo/slasher Pieces.
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Paul Smith, Frank Braña and Edmund Purdom
Pieces is a difficult film to pigeonhole into either one of the giallo or slasher sub-genres, as it lifts themes from both the Italian and American sides of 'stalk and slash' cinema.
The usual gialli tropes are evident; mysterious villain, complete with a black fedora, black gloves and you guessed it; a black raincoat. As are the usual slasher staples: shots from the killer's POV, complete with heavy, throaty breathing. His motivation for killing linking back to a deep-rooted, childhood-related psychosis and of course; the main plot is very slasher-centric: college girls being slaughtered in and around the campus.
Luckily these borrowings don't serve as a detraction and it all comes together in a unique way to form a very stylish, not to mention very gory, exploitation flick.
IF there had to be a detraction, I would be pushed to say the only major downfall of this movie is the silly dialogue. Now, whether that is due to poor dubbing or it is literally down to the script, I can't be sure, but it gets to the point where it becomes laughable, even farcical. There's also a handful of admissible goofs along the way, but like I previously mentioned they don't really subtract any quality away from the movie. I suppose, in an odd way it make all the more acceptable.
Also the gratuitous ending kind of lets it down, but I won't spoil it; if you've not seen it for yourself...all I'll say is that it reminded me very much of Lamberto Bava's Macabre (1980).
The moment the film opens, you can tell it's Euro-horror, it just has that aesthetic. You know what I'm talking about, that lovable look. You can see it in the film grain, in the colours and in the camera work. I know that I'm beginning to spiral into down into the dark pit of a 'spouting fanboy', but when it comes to these Spanish, Italian and French films, I just can't help myself.
The plot is such a simple set-up, that it can be explained in one sentence. A spate of grisly murders are being committed on a college campus. That's it, that's all you need to know. Sure, it has a bunch of twists and turns along the way; but essentially that is it. I shouldn't forget to mention Paul Smith's role as the titular Willard either; who's probably the biggest and most obvious red herring character in the history of cinema.
What I've always liked about Pieces is how it essentially takes the well established giallo villain and replaces his knife with a chainsaw. Now, I know what you're thinking; a chainsaw isn't easy to conceal, but somehow the killer in Pieces manages to do it. It's silly, yes I can't deny it and the scene in the elevator is a prime example of this. But let's face it, it's all about how that scene is shot. How it looks and for all the gorehounds amongst us, it's all about the girl getting her arm lopped off.
On the topic of beautiful murder sequences, J.P. Simón must have ripped a page straight from Argento's book for a scene involving a stabbing on a water bed. The set up, his use of camera angles; close-ups of a glinting, bloodied knife and slow-motion is perfect. Words honestly don't do the scene justice and it's these moments that make Pieces really standout.
This would make a great double bill with Ramano Scavolini's Nightmare/Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981). It's also one of those movies that I wish that I could have experienced upon it's initial release, I would love to have sat down and had my mind blown by this without any prior knowledge of it. Honestly, if you've not checked it out for yourself, or have heard of it and have been putting it off, do yourself a favour and watch it the next chance you get.