Friday, July 18, 2014

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK: Not Quite Cinecittà – Popping My Pieces Cherry

SHAWN SAVAGE is one bad motherfucker, but how bad can you be if you haven't see the gore splatter flick that put Texas and chainsaws to shame in the early 80's Today Shawn writes about Pieces, his "first time" and makes the argument for its inclusion in the Italian Horror world (which is completely justified in this doctor's opinion). Shawn runs The Liberal Dead and is my cohort in crime along with Jeff Konopka and Jesse Bartel on the Dead Air podcast.

You can check out Shawn's other work here:

I have a confession to make, which may, or may not, threaten to tarnish my sterling horror street-cred. Despite having own Pieces on DVD for quite a while, I have never in my life actually sat down to watch the film. It's not that I didn't have interest. Clearly, I was interested, I purchased the thing, right? What you have to understand is that I have an ungodly amount of DVDs and Blu-rays. I know every collector thinks their collection is bigger than the next guy, and I'm not arguing that mine is superior, I'm just saying, it's far beyond massive. It has actually ventured into absurdity. With the amount of DVD and Blu-ray that I buy, coupled with all of the promos and freebies I get for the purpose of review, there is not a single room in the house that doesn't have its own pile of movies. It becomes a bit overwhelming, to the point that very seldom do I actually get to watch something that I want to watch. I know free DVD and Blu-ray sounds like all fun and games, and don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but it is quite a daunting venture to undertake. On any given Tuesday, I have around 10+ DVD & Blu-ray that have to be watched and reviewed, otherwise I risk not having them sent to me in the future. I realize this has nothing to do with Pieces, but, I wanted to explain to you how such a movie could be in my possession, and go unwatched. Couple that with the fact that, every time I head into the archive in search of a specific title, I feel like I'm taking a mine cart into the temple of doom, and it is quite easy for things to slip through the cracks. In any event, when I mentioned this to James, we came up with the idea for Not Quite Cinecittà as my Italian Horror Week entry. Originally, this was going to be a discussion of both Pieces, as well as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. However, life got in the way, and I decided to make this about my first experience with this classic piece of partial Italian cinema.

The fact that pieces exists in the first place isn't shocking, there are lots of over-the-top movies out there, some watchable, some not so much. None of them are quite as absurd as Pieces. I'll admit that most of my interest in this film has always been in-part because of the love Eli Roth has for it. I'm not afraid to admit that I love that guy's work – all of it – and when he says something is awesome, I tend to listen. I didn't even know that Pieces had garnered such a cult following up until a couple of years ago. I knew that Grindhouse had rescued it from obscurity, and released a fantastic DVD release(which was the source of my viewing), and that they'll probably be releasing a Blu-ray in the immediate future, but recently I've seen major T-Shirt companies releasing special edition shirts, to the point that they sell out. I see people mention Pieces all of the time. I don't know if this started before, or after Grindhouse Releasing put it back in front of the mainstream's eye, or before or after Eli Roth was speaking at screenings of the film. Hell, I don't even know if all of the people that talk about this film all of the time have actually even seen it. But I do know that this ridiculous little Italian splatter film has embedded itself into our popular culture, far more than most films of its ilk. Is it as well-known as something like Cannibal Holocaust? No, most definitely not. That film is so infamous, that even if you haven't seen Cannibal Holocaust, you've seen Cannibal Holocaust. There are no animals slaughtered in pieces, so no infamy. What Pieces delivers that Cannibal Holocaust does not, however, is entertainment. Don't get me wrong, I love CH. I think it is one of the most important films that came out of the eighties, and still influences horror to this day, but it's not entertaining, in any sense of the word. Pieces, however, had me laughing my ass off. Some of the lighting in the film is entertainment in and of itself. When the killer's entire body is obscured by unexplained darkness, that seems to follow him around as he creeps near his victims is a nice play on an early horror cliché, and turns out chainsaw-wielding killer into a cartoon character.

“You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre”, is the famous tagline for this film. More people have probably heard that tagline, than have actually seen the movie. It is very catchy, and absolutely accurate. You get far more “chainsaw massacre” in this film that you do with almost any TCM flick. Yes, the violence in Pieces is hilarious, but it exists at least. How many people did you see get chopped up with a chainsaw in TCM? Were any of them literally sawed to pieces and stacked into neat little piles? Nope. You get all of that and more with Pieces. Also, just as the whodunit aspect of the movie, as utterly incoherent and riddled with red herring as it is, starts to build steam, we venture into a dark alley for for a random display of kung-fu. It is a completely unnecessary scene, but oh, so hilarious. Also, in one of the scenes when the killer is attacking one of his victims with a knife, he throws her onto the bed, jumps on top of her, and drops his knife down beside the bed as he does. He stuck it out, though, and managed to retrieve it without losing a beat. It was fantastic, and I laughed out loud. I think I even messaged James right after scene to express how hilarious I found it to be. Honestly, I tried to keep in touch with him all throughout my viewing, so that he would know how much I truly appreciate what Pieces is. This may have been my first time, but it most certainly will not be the last. Pieces is the ultimate party film. I can't wait to get a group of friends together, alter our minds in one way or another, and press play on this thing again. I know that some of you will argue that Pieces doesn't qualify as Italian horror, but doesn't it? Does having a Spanish director take away any of its fine Italian horror qualities? I say, no it does not. It is very much an Italian horror movie, both in heart, and in technicality. It has all of the bright red spatter, and quirkiness that we love in every other Italian horror movie, so why not? Sure, it was filmed in Spain, and partially in Boston, but how many Italian horror movies were filmed in New York? I may not be as well-versed in the world of Italian cinema as some of you, but I have seen my fare share. I have seen most popular Italian horror movies, and I quite frequently purchase Raro Blu-ray releases, so I have seen some of the not-so-popular Italian genre films as well. Pieces fits category perfectly. Now come on, Grindhouse, bring on that Blu-ray you've been teasing!

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite Italian Horror film. One of my reviews was on this very movie, and I also get into the big "it's not Italian"debate. The fact that the screenplay was written by Joe D'Amato makes it an Italian horror to me. When the argument arises I simply say, "Joe D'Amato".