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Schlock & Awe: PIECES is a Bananas and Baffling Chainsaw Massacre

Some horror movies achieve cult infamy and you go “Eh, I guess it’s scary” or “I can see why people in the ’70s or ’80s thought this was shocking.” As a later-in-life hardened horror hound, I’ve seen many movies with just such a reputation and I’m rarely astonished. Then I saw the 1982 slasher movie Pieces.

It might be the weirdest and silliest horror movie ever made. Seriously. I’m going to describe a lot of this movie to you, and it will still need to be seen to be believed.

Pieces was directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón, who would go on to direct schlock staples The Pod People and Slugs. This one might be his masterpiece, though. It has everything a great early-’80s classic needs: incredible gore, immense sleaze, scenes that make absolutely no sense, and acting that boggles the mind. A perfect cocktail of insanity. Hell, its tagline is “It’s exactly what you think it is.”

The movie starts in the 1940s, with a kid putting together a puzzle in his room. His mother approaches, smiling at her sweet little boy, until she realizes that the puzzle he’s putting together is a nudie picture of a lady. Mom gets real mad, smacks her son, and yells that he’s just like his good for nothing, whoremonger father. The boy then runs away, only to return with an ax, which he uses to kill his mother, and then hides in a closet when the neighbors come over, pretending to have been the victim and not the aggressor.

40 years later, a psychotic killer is using a chainsaw to hack up young women on a college campus. We know it’s the kid all grown up, but we don’t know who that person actually is — it could be the effete psychology professor or the gruff groundskeeper or the controversy-shy dean of students. Police Lieutenant Bracken (Christopher George) is called in to head up the investigation into the serial slayings, and officer Mary Riggs (Linda Day) goes undercover as a tennis coach to investigate. Also on campus is the inexplicable ladies man student, Kendall (Ian Sera) who coincidentally beds all the young women right before they die.

Okay, so that’s the basic breakdown of the plot and characters. You get it; it’s a graphic Euro slasher movie mixed with a whodunit mystery. But, guys. Oh my goodness, guys. This movie is so much more than that, because within that context, we get scenes that defy logic. From a scene in which the killer (who’s dressed like the Shadow for some reason) gets in a very tiny elevator with his next unsuspecting victim and pulls out a massive chainsaw as though there was any way on Earth he could have hidden that from her, to another where a girl is murdered atop a waterbed just so slow-motion water and red food coloring could engulf the frame.

But you also get scenes like this: Mary is walking across the campus at night when she’s suddenly attacked by a kung fu master. He’s hitting and chopping and kicking at her and she barely is able to fend him off, kicking him in the crotch to subdue him. Kendall rides up on his motorcycle and says “That’s my Kung Fu Professor,” who then gets up and says “Sorry, must have eaten some bad chop suey. So long!” We never see this Kung Fu professor before or after; he’s simply an actor from a martial arts movie the producer was making and thought it’d be funny to put him in. Here’s the scene in all of its glory.

Another infamous moment comes when Kendall and Mary are searching the grounds of the sports field (which has showers attached?) to find the source of the constantly repeating Souza-esque march music filling their (and our) ears. During all that hubbub, the killer has managed to hack up another girl. Kendall finds her and vomits, and then Mary sees the dead body and…well, she kinda loses it.

But the real kicker, the real moment that made me sit up and go “Wait, WHAAAAAT?!?!?” and actively hurt the brain of my poor girlfriend watching with me was… [I’m going to spoil the ending of this movie for you. If you don’t want to know, go watch the movie (it’s on Shudder as we speak) and come back, but honestly even knowing about this scene will probably just make you want to watch it more.]

Are we good? Okay, so at the end of the movie the person who is the murderer has drugged Mary, after she went to his house to ask questions (I won’t spoil the identity). The cops and Kendall (who, yes, is allowed to help in the investigation FOR SOME REASON) are racing to get there before Mary is killed. They manage to save her in the nick of time, and Lt. Bracken kills the bad guy.

Okay, great. All is well…except Kendall leans against a wall panel and Uh Oh! A dead body falls out, and right on top of our poor, strangely promiscuous young hero. Not just any body, but a body made out of parts — PIECES if you will — of the girls killed by the murderer. See, he wanted to make a puzzle of a girl in real life, just like when he was a kid.

But even THAT’s not the end. The dead puzzle lady is now under a blanket and Kendall has recovered from his shock, laughing with one of the other cops about it. As he turns to leave, the arm of the dead puzzle lady suddenly juts out from under the blanket, grabbing Kendall by the crotch, and TEARS HIS DICK OFF. He screams in agony, the music blares, and it cuts to the credits. WHAAAAAAAT?!?!

If you’re not laughing, maybe picture me laying on the couch for an hour and 20 minutes and then STANDING UP IN EXASPERATION while that happened, and my girlfriend crying tears of laughter and yelling “Why?!?! Why did this happen?!?!”

Anyway. Pieces is bananas. The end.

Images: Film Ventures/Grindhouse Releasing

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He writes the weekly look at weird or obscure films in Schlock & Awe. Follow him on Twitter!

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