Slasher movies were a sta­ple of movie the­ater fare dur­ing the ‘80s but most of them released dur­ing this era had their crim­son high­lights neutered by the MPAA before they made it to the big screen. This was not the case with Pieces, a Spanish import that was released unrat­ed in the U.S.. To the delight of the teenage gore­hounds, it piled on the red stuff and threw in a European lev­el of gra­tu­itous nudi­ty, to boot.  However, Pieces is no mere slash­er quick­ie: it also throws in ele­ments of European hor­ror and some weirdo humor to cre­ate a hybrid that is 100% eccen­tri­cal­ly mind-blow­ing camp clas­sic.

Pieces-posPieces is set on a Boston cam­pus where the stu­dents are pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with the slash­er movie tra­di­tions: i.e., get­ting high and get­ting laid. However, their bac­cha­na­lian par­adise is inter­rupt­ed by a black-clad mys­tery killer who swings a mean chain­saw, killing nubile young ladies and steal­ing dif­fer­ent body parts each time. Kendall (Ian Sera), a cam­pus stud with Bert Convy hair, is pressed into ser­vice by local cop Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) to work with under­cov­er oper­a­tive Mary (Lynda Day George) and unmask the killer. It all has to do with a past tragedy involv­ing a nudie jig­saw puz­zle and an ax mur­der as we dis­cov­er the killer is try­ing to make his own life-size jig­saw wom­an.

The result was adver­tised with the tagline “It’s exact­ly what you think it is!” and it lives up to that grind­house hyper­bole. Spanish gen­re jour­ney­man Juan Piquer Simon nev­er wor­ries about real­ism or plau­si­bil­i­ty, instead choos­ing to tar­get his audience’s col­lec­tive rep­tile brain desires for cheese­cake and splat­ter. Along the way, he crafts an array of stalk-and-slash set­pieces that all have enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly gory punch­li­nes: high­lights include a vicious knife attack atop a waterbed and a mem­o­rable bit where the killer sud­den­ly pulls a chain­saw out from under his trench­coat (!) to carve up anoth­er young love­ly in an ele­va­tor.

Eurotrash fans will also be inter­est­ed in how the film is assem­bled in a way that reflects its European her­itage. Though it bor­rows from the American slash­er with its cam­pus set­ting, bub­ble-head­ed coeds and use of chain­saws, it has the kind of plot pro­gres­sion you’d expect from a gial­lo or a krimi, com­plete with a ros­ter of col­or­ful sus­pects, a child­hood trau­ma dri­ving the may­hem and a killer whose black hat/suit/gloves com­bo evokes mem­o­ries of Blood And Black Lace. Simon even makes a point of hav­ing two or three poten­tial sus­pects turn up on the scene after sev­er­al of the killings. This col­li­sion of body-count movie stylings gives Pieces a dis­tinc­tive con­ti­nen­tal style that sets it apart from the rest of the ear­ly ‘80s slash-pack.

Pieces-01More fun is added by an amus­ing cast full of slum­ming Anglo actors who earn their pay by bring­ing a lit­tle dead­pan pro­fes­sion­al­ism to the pro­ceed­ings. George anchors the film’s flights of macabre whim­sy with a no-non­sense per­for­mance as the film’s cen­tral cop char­ac­ter: he was in the exploita­tion movie twi­light of this career but he nev­er con­de­scends to his work, instead giv­ing it the same lev­el of com­mit­ment and charis­ma he brought to all his per­for­mances. Lynda Day George is sim­i­lar­ly charm­ing as the female hero but she does man­age on the great mod­ern camp moments with her over-the-top anguished reac­tion to one killing (“BASTAAAAARRRD!” ).

Elsewhere, Edmund Purdom brings a sub­tle humor to his role as an ever more flus­tered dean and Paul Smith mugs for all he’s worth as the film’s most obvi­ous red her­ring, a chain­saw-tot­ing gar­den­er. He also gets a fun, Bud Spencer-style fight scene. As for the Spaniards, Sera makes for an unlike­ly big man on cam­pus but he gives his all, even throw­ing in a sur­prise bit of equal-oppor­tu­ni­ty nudi­ty that always makes American audi­ences gasp. It’s also worth not­ing that there is a sur­prise cameo by an Pieces-02actor best known for his work in anoth­er gen­re… but that’s a sur­prise that the audi­ence is bet­ter off dis­cov­er­ing on their own.

One final top­ic worth men­tion­ing: with­out get­ting into spoil­ers, Pieces has one of the all-time great shock codas. In all seri­ous­ness, it’s right up there with Sleepaway Camp and The Fury as one of the Greatest Endings In The History Of Endings. Even if you’ve seen it sev­er­al times, it’s the kind of gonzo closer that rais­es a smile from the trash fans with each view­ing.

All the­se ele­ments have lined up in the right to ensure Pieces has a per­ma­nent place in grind­house his­to­ry. It’s the kind of movie whose sin­gu­lar mix­ture of out­landish plot­ting, gore, sex, slum­ming name actors and odd­ball humor makes it an endur­ing, splat­ter-driz­zled joy to watch — and whether you’re a gore­hound, a slash­er buff or just fan of bizarre cel­lu­loid in gen­er­al, it’s some­thing you need to see.