Friday night at the home drive-in: Pieces (1982)

When I was 13, a friend convinced me to sign up for Tae Kwon Do lessons. The school he attended was about a half hour bus ride from where we lived. There were closer places, but my friend had an overprotective mother who didn’t want him to go downtown. I’m not sure what she thought would happen if he did, but it most likely involved crime, violence, and/or drugs. So, we were stuck taking two different buses into a suburban area that was far away from our own neighbourhood.

On Saturday afternoons, when the weather was nice, we would sometimes walk home. It probably took us a good two hours – longer if we decided to pop into any stores or restaurants along the way. This was back in the early days of the home video boom, when it seemed like there was a Mom and Pop Video store on every block, and when we came across one we’d never seen before we would often go in.

On one of those occasions, we found ourselves standing in front of a horror section, perusing the titles, when a nearby adult man began to speak to us. I’m not sure how old he actually was, but at the time he seemed really old to us – like in his 30s. We were surprised that anyone that old could be interested in horror films, but he was clearly browsing through the section just like us.

“If you’re looking for a good chainsaw massacre,” he said, perhaps reacting to the box of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) that was in front of us, “You’ve got to take a look at this!” He picked up a movie called Pieces (1982) and handed it to us. “It’s nothing like Texas Chainsaw,” he explained. “You can see everything in this one! It all takes place in broad daylight!”

I think it’s fair to say that we were intrigued by this information. We had rented The Texas Chainsaw Massacre about a year before and been disappointed to discover that the image was incredibly dark. So dark, we used to joke, that all we could see during the second half of the movie was a black screen. We could hear screams and sound effects, but we couldn’t see what was going on. Years later I finally saw a good print of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it blew my mind. But when I was 12, I just didn’t get it.

So, the news that you could see EVERYTHING in Pieces was definitely exciting. Of course, we didn’t know if we could trust this old man. Perhaps he was a lying huckster who was trying to drum up rental business for this video store. But he seemed legitimately excited as he talked about it – and his assessment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre matched our own experience of it.

Incidentally, the old man also recommended a movie called Don’t Go In The Woods (1981) for the same reasons. “It takes place in broad daylight!” he repeated with a gleam in his eye. But that is subject for another Friday…

By the time this ancient horror fan walked away with an armful of tapes, my friend and I were convinced that we needed to see Pieces, but we couldn’t do anything about it. Neither of us had a membership to this video store. And in those days, you generally needed an adult with a credit card and other valid i.d. to get one. All we could do was put the box down and hope to find Pieces in one of the stores that we frequented in our own neighbourhood. Alas, it did not happen for some time.

When I eventually saw the movie, it did not disappoint me. It was shocking, and sleazy, and unlike anything I had ever seen before. And it DID take place in broad daylight, and you COULD see an extreme amount of gore. That creepy old video store man had not lied to us. Looking back on that first viewing of Pieces, I think I found it downright disturbing. Something about the stark, gritty sleaziness of it. I guess it creeped me out.

Years later, as an adult, when all those Mom and Pop video stores were being driven out of business by the corporate giants, I found a copy of Pieces for sale and bought it. Ironically, it was a censored print that did not have all of the extreme gore. But the funny thing is, I still loved the movie. But perhaps for slightly different reasons. I could appreciate the campy humour of the film in a way that my 13 year old self could not. Details like the killer wearing back gloves while woking on a jigsaw puzzle at home – alone (!) – tickled my funny bone. I guess he was protecting his identity from us (as if we could have recognized his fingers).

I could describe many scenes and moments that I think are absolutely #Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema gold, but this is already the longest blog post I’ve ever written and I’m not a big fan of spoilers. Suffice it to say that I find this movie a delight from beginning to end.

I’ll finish by saying that I recently bought the super deluxe Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing and it is some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Finally, I can watch the uncut version of the movie again. Perhaps even more uncut than the version I saw back in the ’80s. This three disc set contains two different uncut versions: the unrated U.S. theatrical cut and the original director’s cut. I’ve only seen one so far, but am looking forward to the next.

It also includes the original soundtrack on cd (!), and you know I’m going to be listening to that for many years to come…

Pieces (1982) is a #CertifiedAngusKohm personal favourite, and a masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema – if you’ve never seen it, take this creepy old horror fan’s word for it, it’s unbelievable!