Forty years ago, a young boy was piecing together a jigsaw puzzle in his bedroom when his mother walked in and noticed what the picture on the puzzle was. It was a photograph of a naked woman, and his mother was horrified, smacking him around as a result and sending the boy downstairs to fetch a plastic bag to dispose of the offending item. While he was away, she ransacked the room looking for anything else pornographic, but when he returned it was with an axe which he planted in her head. Presently, a friend of the family arrived and wondered why she couldn't get in, so called the police. They broke down the door to discover the boy hiding in a closet, pretending that someone else had cut off his mother's head...
If ever you needed a film that combined the obsessive nature of jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts with the thrills of a police procedural, then Pieces, a Spanish co-production originally titled Mil gritos tiene la noche, was the film for you. Although it was set in America it was more of an Italian giallo than a straight ahead slasher movie, with no female protagionist save for a tennis player turned undercover cop, Mary (Lynda Day George) who ends up sidelined for much of the film. Yes, you read that correctly, she's a tennis player using her fame on the courts to provide a cover story as she assists in a university campus investigation.
So you see, good sense is not exactly the order of the day, here, and no wonder with a script co-written by Joe D'Amato. In fact, the film is positively ridiculous and more likely to inspire hoots of derision than any chills, with the killer's modus operandi centred around his skill with a chainsaw. For you see, he is the boy we saw in the prologue now all grown up and carrying his love of jigsaws too far. He's making his own puzzle out of dismembered body parts, not for any discernable reason, it's just the movie's gory gimmick, but nobody, least of all the detective on the case, Bracken (Christopher George, Mr Linda Day), can work out his actual identity.
There are plenty of red herrings on the Boston campus, including regular heavy Paul L. Smith as a scowling gardener (too obvious) and a prissy professor (Jack Taylor), but what really distinguishes this film is the amount of false scares. Characters will jump into frame willy nilly simply to give other characters a fright, we will cut to a woman who will scream for no very good reason, and most notoriously, Mary is surprised while walking alone at night by a Bruce Lee impersonator showing off his martial arts moves. What?! He's never referred to again, and his appearance is frankly bizarre, but this is par for the course in an opus where making sense is secondary to cheap effects.
Another suspect is Kendall (Ian Sera from director Juan Piquer Simón's Mystery on Monster Island, which looks the height of rationality in comparison), a student who, as with all the other students we see is not only interested in frightening their fellows, but also sex. He has the reputation of being something of a Casanova about the place of learning, but could this mean he is the killer? Well, no, as he's too young for a start, but sure as there will be an aerobics sequence in an eighties movie (just check... yup, there's one here too) the surprise villain in a horror movie such as this will be the one we least suspect. Or actually, most suspect, not because of any great deductions, but because the film has studiously presented him as non-suspicious throughout. With a shock ending that is nothing short of hilarious, Pieces could not in all honesty be described as a good film, but it is stupidly funny and for many that will be enough. Music by Librado Pastor, including one presumes the oompah band's parping that ruins the suspense of one murder sequence.