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  Going to Pieces Behind The Mask
Year: 2006
Director: Adam Rockoff
Stars: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Savini, Amy Holden Jones, Harry Manfredini, Gregory Nicoreto, Betsy Palmer, Felissa Rose, Robert Shaye, Anthony Timpone, Joseph Zito, Herb Freed, Rob Zombie, Armand Mastroianni, Joseph Stefano
Genre: Horror, DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Depictions of violence have been part of humankind's artwork for thousands of years, and usually the first thing archaeologists look for cutting tools and weapons when discovering how advanced early cultures were. That position is the starting point for this documentary covering the history of the slasher film, that much maligned part of the horror genre whose entertainment value the interviewees here, who each have experience of making such productions, justify. Many major players are given screen time, such as John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham, and their chats are interspersed with a wide variety of clips by way of illustration.

As with any overview of a genre that includes so many examples, there are going to be things missed out, but in Going to Pieces director Adam Rockoff adapts his own book with engaging skill, plainly setting out the appeal of the subject. One might wonder at The Texas Chain Saw Massacre being offered only fleeting mentions, and then mainly for the sequels, but Tobe Hooper isn't named at all - did he refuse permission for the film to be used or does Rockoff simply dismiss it?

He begins by citing Psycho and Peeping Tom, one a hit and the other not, as what started off slashers on their rocky road to mass success, and then the film that really made it cool to be chased around by a masked killer, Halloween (John Carpenter must be sick of talking about it by now!). This is familiar territory for fans, who after all will be the main audience for this, and there are perfunctory allusions to the Italian pioneers such as Mario Bava and Dario Argento as strong influences, but then it's on with Tom Savini telling us how he impaled Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th and suchlike.

After that, things do get more interesting if you think you've heard it all before, as the less enduring moneymakers of their day, i.e. the early eighties, get their chance in the spotlight: your Prom Night, your My Bloody Valentine, your Happy Birthday to Me, which comically points out that low budget filmmakers would scan the calendar for holidays and commemorations to name their latest opus after. These films were never popular with critics or moralists, and by the time Silent Night Deadly Night's killer Santa came along they prompted an outcry in the media, accusing them of being anti-women and corrupting to the young, never mind that resourceful young women were almost invariably the heroines.

In fact, slasher films were one of the few types that encouraged their male or female viewers to identify with young women, but the appeal of the violence is not a factor that Going to Pieces shies away from, highlighting it as part of the scare sequences that were presented as over the top spectacle. To that end, there are a wide variety of deaths shown, from cheesy special effects to the more impressive, some recognisable and others more obscure. Unfortunately this means a whole host of plot spoilers and as these films rely heavily on a big twist, Rockoff seems to accept you have seen them all before which is probably not the case unless you've written a book on them. The slasher's resurgence with the huge popularity of Scream is covered, but you get the impression Rockoff prefers the horrors of his youth, although is pleased the genre has weathered various storms. All in all, an intelligent look that can't help but be defensive; worth seeing for the interviewees. Music by Harry Manfredini.

[Metrodome's Region 2 DVD has a commentary, extended interviews, quizzes and a trailer as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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