Review: Pieces (1982) Blu Ray Release from Grindhouse Releasing (2016)


“You Don’t Have to Go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre!”

When I was a burgeoning teenage horror fan, there were certain films which held a certain fixation because of their lurid box art and reputation. Movies like Faces of Death, Shocking Asia, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Zombie, Transmutations and Day of the Dead always stood out because of their salacious imagery and outlandish copy tags. Pieces always stood out for me because of the fact that it was calling out Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre as somehow being too tame with its tag insinuating that Pieces was as bloody as Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I finally checked it out much later on, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it still stands out as one of those essential 1980’s exploitation slasher flicks even if it is heavy on the campy side. Grindhouse Releasing, the preeminent repertory cult/exploitation film distributor founded by Oscar winning editor Bob Murawki and the late Sage Stallone, has just released a brand new 3 disc 4k restoration of Pieces on Blu Ray that cuts through the competition as the definitive release of this slasher classic.

Grindhouse Releasing sets the camp meets horror mood immediately once the Blu Ray loads with a jittery FBI Warning complete with the knife from the opening credits before leading us to a gorgeous motion menu with the title score by composer Cam playing. The remastered transfer from Grindhouse is gorgeous with vibrant colors sourced from a flawless print. Pieces has and never will look better than it does in this release with natural grain throughout and excellent sound.


For those who haven’t seen Pieces. the film revolves a killer stalking a college campus in Boston, Massachusetts where he is killing beautiful young co-eds and taking certain “pieces” from each body to put together a doppelganger of his beautiful but deceased mother. A mother we see him gruesomely murder with an ax in the opening credits as a young child after she spies him putting together a puzzle of a naked woman. The director J. Piquer Simon is not subtle about this puzzle piece motif at all, as we see the killer add new pieces to the same bloody puzzle whenever he finishes murdering a new co-ed. The killer’s current identity is not revealed early on in the film, we see the killings from his perspective in some scenes ( ala Maniac ) and in other we just saw his black gloved hand and dark cloak and hat; motifs seen very often in the Italian giallo films of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.


But before you think that Pieces is something too much like Dario Argento’s Deep Red, it’s actually really campy and silly with a lot of obvious red herrings and weird plot elements. The motif with the killer child is deliberately meant to echo Michael Myers in Halloween, with the kid just being an evil seed. The murder of co-eds is meant to mimic Black Christmas and it’s basically a slasher exploitation film with elements borrowed from lots of other more successful films of the time. Some of the death scenes are more than a bit over the top; including an out of control skateboarding girl decapitated by a mirror moved by 2 handymen. The film sets up gruff gardener Willard (played by Paul L. Smith, most notably known for playing Bluto opposite Robin Williams’ Popeye in the 1981 Popeye film) as a grimacing, Groundskeeper Willy-esque red herring for the actual killer. Most notably, the film stars the celebrity couple of Christopher George (Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead) as a detective who sends college kid Kendall undercover to try and protect Lynda Day George (Casey from TV’s Mission Impossible) as she goes undercover as a tennis instructor to flush out the killer on campus. Along the way there are many memorable set pieces for the killer’s murders. Pieces treats the death scenes in the film the way a sexploitation film treats its busty stars – stay on them for as long as possible – so the money shots in the film are overly gratuitous bloody murders, like when the killer stabs a reporter to death on a waterbed in slow motion. It’s something to behold and the film doesn’t skimp on bloody decapitations and chainsaw vivisections. Along the way, you also get a kung fu mugging caused by bad chop suey and a coda ripped right out of the original Friday the 13th. In fact, if you saw Astron 6’s The Editor in 2015, there is a random aerobicising scene in it that is directly lifted from Pieces as an homage and serves as a good companion film for a movie night at home.

That’s not to say Pieces is a bad horror film or even schlocky. It is definitely a drive-in favorite and a cult classic and benefits from being seen with other people. It has an optimistic point of view you don’t see in many 80’s slashers and Grindhouse Releasing has definitely made their restoration a labor of love that highlights exactly why you don’t have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre. Their package includes some awesome extras and features that make this the definitive version of Pieces and one to add to you collection alongside Cannibal Holocaust and The Beyond.



Soundtrack – The original film soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani, Carlo Maria Cordio and Fabio Frizzi credited to Cam in the film with all new packaging including in the slipcase. A great extra that Grindhouse has taken to including in all their recent releases. I feel that Grindhouse should invest in digibook packaging so this isn’t a loose release, but the cardboard packaging is nicely designed and fits in the slipcase nicely.

42nd Street Memories and 2nd Disc Extras – You get a feature link documentary on the grindhouse film scene with interviews with many luminaries. This is new to U.S. releases but was found in 88 Films’ foreign blu ray release of the film Anthropaphogus, a cool extra definitely worth checking out for fans of grindhouse and exploitation film. There’s also a bonus commentary track from star Jack Taylor who plays Professor Brown, another red herring character in the film to round that out alongside photo galleries and filmographies of those involved.

Umberto Rescore – This is one of the cooler features. It’s a complete custom rescore of the film by Umberto, who has also done these types of rescores for films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The way the rescore is presented is as audio commentary with no dialogue. The score is very ambient and synth based, very much in line with queues from Fabio Frizzi. It gives the film a dream-like quality that needs to be experienced.

The Vine Theater Experience – This is my favorite feature in the release. Grindhouse screened the film at the Vine Theater and recorded the live audience reaction which is presented in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. If you want the live experience of seeing the film, this is a close approximation as you get the audio from a crowd that loves the camp and horror elements cheering and laughing along to the film. Audience reaction can make or break a film. Years ago, I saw a screening of Pieces in Tempe, Arizona which was being heckled and the audience turned on the heckler who was performing running commentary on the film. This is different since you get honest reactions along with the film. Grindhouse’s release of Gone with the Pope would have benefitted from this, as the crowd in Arizona I saw it with didn’t know how to react to the film versus in L.A. at the New Beverly where it was a solid repertory performer because of its odd campy tone. Some may like this feature, some may hate it. I love it. Plus, at the start you see the line and the attendees including a shot of the late Sage Stallone excited to check the film out.

The Puzzle – The first 3000 copies of Pieces came with a recreation of the film’s puzzle as a bonus. This has been a make/break deal for many who’ve ordered the release. The puzzle is commanding over $80.00 online so if you randomly get one, I’d say awesome, consider it a bonus and if not, you’re not really missing anything. Full disclosure: this copy I am reviewing is a screener for review and did not include it.

Overall, Pieces is a solid recommendation and well-worth being a part of any serious horrorphiles library and a definitive release which will never look better than this transfer from the films at Grindhouse Releasing.
Purchase Links

Pieces (2 Blu-rays + CD) from