Pieces – Juan Piquer Simon – 1982

Pieces is exactly what you think it is according to the tagline. If you think it’s a condemnation of secondary education rife with nudity, grisly violence, and some very misanthropic comedy, you think right.

Our tale begins as a young boy assembles a jigsaw puzzle of a nudie spread. His mother enters and begins berating the child for possessing the same filth as his father, and if he continues to put this rubbish in his brain he’ll end up just like his father. (What his father was like we never find out.) The mother sends her boy out of the room to get a bag to place all his contraband. The boy returns with an axe and slays his mother with a number of horrifying blows to her head. When the police come the child hides in the closet and is seemingly exonerated due to his terrified mumbling to the police. In this first scene is a type of suggestion that denying a child a healthy sexual development can be detrimental, and the repression felt thereafter has repercussions that echo in eternity.

Forty years later.

The child is the dean at a university. A university that employs homosexuals, a fact brought up by the dean in an attempt to show his progressive side, that he is not judgmental, though he might be judged mental, by the stories end. The dean is slaying students with a chainsaw and assembling their pieces into a strange jigsaw corpse who he dresses as his mother. Here we have a comment on absentee parentage. Even though the child has slain his own mother, the longing for her remains, not in a sexual fashion, but in the need for the guidance, removed by his displaced mom.

The bit players are fairly inconsequential to the story, a campus Casanova named Kendall, and a few entertaining cops who eschew familiar tropes, such as “Holy mother of God, let’s hope we aren’t too late!” The film serves generally to provide exploitation thrills by way of heaving naked bosoms, and shaved dead mammals eviscerated with actual chainsaws.

Though not wholly original, Pieces wears its derivative nature on its sleeve. It’s a pretty crass move, but the actors are game, the score by CAM is much better than many of its’ giallo contemporaries. Despite being released in 1982, the killer’s identity is kept secret until the end, a hallmark of late seventies Italian horror. Clearly the filmmakers and knew what the fans of the era wanted and marketed directly to the “boobs and blood” crowd, and no one left disappointed.

The film is often comical, to the point of satire, joking about the archetypes of cops and killers and even the gregarious nature of college students. Even in the final scene, where Kendalls’ genitals are ripped apart by an unexplainably animated corpse doll, the theme of sexual repression or lack thereof is made apparent. The mother corpse rips the college deviants bits off just as the actual mother expressed her displeasure at her sons sexual growth and kept her son from looking at salacious images. The film almost dares criticism by saying, if you don’t let your kids watch innocuous sex and violence as harmless release, they might be doomed to enact base fantasies without such an outlet.

Pieces: put them together, and you’ll find more than you bargained for.

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