Dir: Juan Piquer Simon, 1982. Starring: Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Brana. Horror.
A young, neatly dressed boy sits in his room mumbling the lyrics to the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme with the words, “couldn't put the pieces back together again” the most audible. He's kneeling over a puzzle in deep thought when his mother enters the room and peers over his shoulder to look at it. It's a jigsaw of a naked woman, and in disbelief and outrage she starts slapping her son around. She instructs him to go get a plastic bag so that she can throw away the “filth.” She compares him to his no-good father and breaks the mirror with his framed portrait before rummaging through his things looking for a smut stash. The boy returns with an ax and hacks her to death before sawing off her head. He then returns to and completes his puzzle with blood-smeared hands. During the time it took for him to dismember his mother, their maid quizzically stood outside the home wondering why no one answered the door. She worries that something's amiss, so she gets a pair of policemen to break the door down. The boy hides in the closet while the maid and the officers search for him and his mother. They find her head on a chest of drawers and him standing in a closet hollering for his mother and creating the impression that an intruder killed her. The adults believe him and send him to live with his aunt.

Forty years pass and the plot is now focused on a university at which a girl has been murdered with a chainsaw. The details become grizzlier when they discover that a part of the girl's body is missing from the scene. Detectives Bracken (Christopher George) and Holden (Frank Brana) are on the case snooping around the school and asking questions. The Dean (Edmund Purdom) of the university is more than willing to give them access to the school’s resources in order to catch the killer. Meanwhile, Kendall (Ian Sera), the campus Romeo, is flirting with a girl he intends to meet later at the campus pool. Their meeting never happens because she becomes the killer's next victim. The detectives start to believe that someone on the campus is the killer, so they interview the staff and look to Kendall for help in profiling students since they've ruled him out as a suspect. Despite their diligence, more girls are found cut to pieces. The viewer watches from the killer's point-of-view as each stomach-churning death unfolds. The disgust is amplified by extreme close-ups of the chainsaw sinking into what looks like real flesh, and the sound of the killer's heavy breathing alongside blood-curdling screams. You then see cut-away shots of his gloved hands returning to the old bloody jigsaw puzzle and carting limbs into an industrial-sized refrigerator.

The detectives are getting desperate to crack the case and they have no leads. They decide to fight fire with fire and get two beautiful women to go into the university undercover in order to lure the killer. But since the role is offered on a volunteer basis, only one woman enlists her services: Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), a professional tennis player who becomes the new tennis instructor at the college. Kendall becomes smitten with her and is instructed by the detectives to keep a watchful eye on her. When it becomes apparent that she might be the next target, Kendall works with the police to uncover the pasts of everyone involved in order to see who is likely to be their guy. But the killer is almost done completing his jigsaw puzzle made of real women, dressing the creation in the garments his mother wore when he killed her. All that's left are the feet, and that doesn't leave much time for the others to zero in on him before he goes after Mary's perfect legs.

The most appealing thing about the movie was its uniqueness. It is a Frankenstein movie of sorts where a killer who has “mommy issues” sets out to create the perfect woman. The Freudian aspect of the movie is what makes it so thrilling and ironic; a boy was found in sin by his mother and was rejected by her. He went into a crazed shock and killed her, but he saved her dress and high-heels and now intends to revive her memory via an idol of decaying limbs that will now don her clothes. It turns his love and guilt for his mother into a kind of incestuous desire (Oedipus complex). Horror films just don't play with these kinds of thoughtful scenarios anymore. Slasher films usually fail to have an effect on me because they lack substance, or even a provocative execution. I've stated over and over again that the level of skill and consideration with '70s and '80s gore will probably never be matched, nor will the use of psychology and philosophy in them. The psychology is what holds up the mystery and creates a mental puzzle for the viewer, similar to slashers like Sleepaway Camp. Pieces surpassed my expectations for slashers, and therefore is a must-see for anyone who has standards for the genre.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Aug 8, 2011 1:18pm
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