The Film (5/5)
When people tend to think of the chainsaw in horror films it tends to be centered around the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it's sequels, and remakes. Pieces capitalized on that notoriety with a tagline stating that "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre." In this case Pieces is set on and around a college campus in Boston, MA. (with Madrid, Spain standing in for that particular New England locale).
Pieces opens in 1940 with a young boy putting together an erotic puzzle depicting a nude woman. The boy's Mother enters his room, sees what her son is up to, and begins to go into a tizzy. She starts searching her son's room for other erotic artifacts, and begins to punish him. He is having none of this, retrieves an axe and promptly dismembers her before hiding in his closet, and playing the part of the victim.
The film then picks up decades later at the aforementioned college campus, a young woman is skateboarding down a hill, and crashes into a mirror causing it to shatter. This causes the now disturbed man to lose his mind, and begin a chainsaw centered killing spree on the campus, cutting off certain parts of their body to use as part of a human puzzle. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) of the local police is assigned to the case, and is determined to stop the killer as the body count continues to rise. Helping him on this investigation is fellow officer Mary (Lynda Day) who goes undercover as a new tennis instructor at the school and Kendall, a student at the university.
Pieces falls at a sort of cross section between a slasher film and a giallo. The film was lensed in Spain, and though some traditionalist choose to look at films outside of Italy as not falling within the giallo genre, Pieces certainly uses elements from those films. First and foremost it is a whodunit. The identity of the killer is not revealed until the very end of the film. The film drops a succession of possible (and impossible) red herrings along the way. The film also true to the giallo mold also features a killer decked out in all black (down to the gloves). Of course, the film is very well known for it's body count and gory set pieces, which put it more in the realm of the slasher films popular at the time.
I will just cut to the chase, Pieces is probably one of the most singularly entertaining horror films of the early 80's if not all time. It probably won't scare viewers, but it will keep them glued to their seats cheering on the next gory set piece, or cracking up at some of the absurd and hysterical goings on in the film. This is a film that never takes the time to be boring, if the viewer thinks it is starting to slow down, something weird and wild is coming around the corner that is certain to pick things right back up. The special FX in the film are top notch and executed quite well. The performances are all across the board with Christopher George performing quite well as always, and the rest of the cast having fun with the material. Most notably Paul Smith who plays Willard the campus handyman, he does not seem to be taking a single onscreen moment seriously, and is amazing to watch every single second he’s on screen.
Grindhouse has done incredible work restoring Pieces. The film is presented in a 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films OAR. There are 2 versions present on the discs, a Spanish language uncut version, and and an English version, the Spanish one runs about 2 minutes longer, but maintains the same quality standard. The Blu-ray has highly increased detail from prior DVD editions, as well as excellent color reproduction, and deep inky blacks. Flesh tones are accurate, and there is a natural, but well-balanced grain structure present.
The audio is present in DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound in both English and Spanish. Both tracks sound incredibly well with dialogue, score, and ambient effects coming through clearly, and no audio anomalies to report.
Grindhouse's Blu-ray release of Pieces is PACKED with extras. Some are listed on the package, and some are hidden as Easter eggs throughout the presentations. The disc kicks off with a commentary track by actor Jack Taylor who provides his thoughts on the film. Grindhouse then provides a 5.1 audio track that simulates the experience watching the film in the Vine Theater in the early 2000's with the sound of the audience interacting the film. There is also a brief video intro of people waiting in line for the film, where Eli Roth and also members of the Grindhouse team (including the late Sage Stallone) can be seen. The first disc of the set also includes a theatrical trailer. On the second disc we get the excellent 42nd Street Memories Documentary, this runs 81 minutes in length, and though it isn't explicitly about Pieces, it is sure to be of interest to fans of the film as the documentary explores the history of the Grindhouse theaters around New York's Times Square and the films that played there. Following that we have an interview running nearly an hour in length called Pieces of Juan with Juan Piquer Simon where he discusses his career at length and, of course, PIECES. We also get an interview with Paul Smith who played Willard in the film. The interview is mostly a career overview for Smith, but Pieces is brought up for discussion. There is also a short audio only interview with Steve Minasian the producer of the film. The set also includes a remastered version of the CD soundtrack, a booklet of liner notes, and for the first 3000 copies an exclusive miniature copy of the puzzle from the film.
Pieces is a film I've watched on VHS, DVD, with an audience on 35mm, and now on Blu-ray. It works great as a singular viewing expedience, and is also one of the best crowd films you will never see as the film is just naturally funny and weird without an audience having to jump in and add to it. It is an absolutely gonzo classic of the horror genre, and the Grindhouse Blu-ray is the best looking the film will probably ever look and sound on home video, and is positively loaded with extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.