Over the weekend I participated in an event of geekery that should probably come as a surprise to no one to knows me. Along with several of my best friends, I drove down to Philadelphia for a 24 hour horror movie marathon hosted by Exhumed Films at Philly's International House; Exhumed has been doing classic horror screenings in the South Jersey/Philly area for 10 years now, so this show was as much an anniversary celebration as it was a Halloween event, although as Halloween events go, this one was pretty god damn up there. The films screened (which were not revealed until the moment they began) were a solid mix of 70s and 80s favorites, from legitimate classics (HALLOWEEN, PHANTASM, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, ALLIGATOR, HELLRAISER) to gore faves (DEMONS, GATES OF HELL, BURIAL GROUND) and camp (GODZILLA VS. THE COSMIC MONSTER, BLACULA, the TVM DON'T BE AFRIAD OF THE DARK, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, TEENAGE MOTHER), all of them on 35mm (some prints are faded, sadly), with trailers and shorts to liven things up in-between shows. I don't mind revealing that I dozed off during most of BURIAL GROUND (which I had seen at a previous Exhumed show several years ago) and DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (I know I wasn't alone there), but stayed up throughout the show for the most part and made the 2-hour ride home OK with no problem. I caught up on a lot of sleep afterwards, needless to say, but it was all worth it, not just for hanging out with friends and seeing wonderful horror films on the big screen, but because the experience also introduced me to one of the most amazing horror films I've ever seen in my life, a film so unbelievably incredible that I can't forgive myself for having never seen it before. That film? Jaun Piquer Simon's 1982 slasher epic PIECES.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
You know, maybe I should be glad that it took me this long to get to PIECES. I'm sure I could have appreciated it in it's oh-so-very special way at any point in the years before, but to see now, especially as part of this Exhumed marathon, made it really, really special. To start, the print they had was excellent, so it looked good, and there was a very loud and appreciative crowd that was sitting there watching the film with me, and the roar of a good crowd can certainly help most any movie. Added to this was the fact that Scooter McCrae was sitting behind me, giving the occasional shout of "Greatest movie EVER!!!", which is something I cannot argue with. But in the end it's the movie itself that you're really watching and PIECES is a stunning piece of work. It's not "good" by the traditional standard, but it also feels almost like an extremely clever parody of the slasher genre, though you know it really isn't. Perhaps the filmmakers decided to camp it up, but no matter what, the result is astonishing, a near-perfect melding of camp, crap, and gore. It's exactly what you think it is.
This is a film that wastes no time in getting down to being amazing. In the opening scene, a little kid hacks his mother with an axe because she caught him putting together a "dirty" puzzle of a nude woman. Years later, a college campus is plagued with a series of murders; all of the victims happen to be women, though I believe that profits, not misogyny, is what's on the filmmaker's minds, so I don't think you can really take offense. So PIECES then follows the standard plotting of the slasher films of the era, but it keeps coming up with surprises, though they're idiotic and moronic surprises than anything else: lines of dialog like a cop saying, "Right now we're just buying clothes without labels and trying them on for size"; a cameo appearance by Bruce Le that is offensive; ridiculous, over-the-top gore and last, but not least, an incredible exploitation movie cast: Christopher George, Susan Day George, Edmond Purdom, Paul L. Smith, and Jack Taylor. A part of me wants to easily call PIECES "So bad it's good", but I don't really feel that entertainment this good is in any ways bad. I'll just call PIECES an incredibly fun and incredibly stupid piece of work and leave it at that. If you can find it, make it your Halloween viewing this year and laugh your ass off. You won't regret it.
PS - There is a DVD in release right now, but it's nothing more than a bootleg. DVD rights are owned by Grindhouse Releasing (who I think supplied Exhumed with the print), but they haven't announced a release yet. Get with it, Muraswski!
PPS - I feel I should also mention that PIECES was produced by Dick Randall, producer of many a terrible movie, whose story was told by the brilliant blokes at Mondo Macabro. You can check it out in, uh, pieces here, here, and here.