Pieces

Although clearly Europe, the purportedly Boston-set slasher, Pieces, does take the viewer to another place entirely.

(For 80s gore-heads, Bean Town is the setting for the fairly pedestrian slasher, Night School, filmed in the city’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood).

Like other slasher masterpieces from the era, Pieces whets appetites with a delicious prologue and a nudie puzzle-obsessed kid who wastes his mommy all in the first five minutes.

When the authorities arrive, no need for any further forensic investigation, as they just take the word of the child.

Fast forward into adulthood with the nature-nurture problem solved, and Timmy is back to his murderin’ ways, attacking coeds on a campus in a string of set pieces that are more bush than Ivy league.

Pieces then lives up to (or down to) its name depending on one’s perspective, with a couple of whiz-bang gruesome chainsaw killings, and a Red Herring in the form of a leering, cross-eyed college groundskeeper, Willard (such is the level of sedateness / quietude at this particular institute of higher learning that the school’s Dean himself, rather than an underling, is responsible for hiring the gardener and negotiating his contract!)

The real hilarity ensues when genre stalwart Christopher George (City of the Living Dead/Grizzly/Graduation Day) wanders in as law enforcement, with an oft-repeated gag about him needing a cigarette lighter that is as dead in the water as this pic’s vics. Rather than put out a notice to the study body that there are student bodies piling up, he hatches a plan to have one of his colleagues go undercover as a varsity tennis coach! (played by Linda Day, real-life missus to Mr. George).

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to “love” about the embarrassing strokes (the cast members weren’t quite adept at racket sports). The crowd’s reaction to the matches, and women who the Williams sisters could best with just their backhands, is priceless.

Still, as some wag on Instagram put it, this is the finest Italian, Spanish, Puerto Rican production they’d ever seen! A total blast.

*** (out of 5)

Mountaintop Motel Massacre

Part Tourist Trap, part Psycho, Mountaintop Motel Massacre lacks the charm of the former and the direction of latter.

We’re in small-town Louisiana at some roadside dumpy motel (the kind that “steal your towels” according to the late, great Rodney Dangerfield).

Our antagonist, Evelyn, is released from a looney-bin and returns to her place of business. When she finds her daughter practicing witchcraft in the basement of their nearby house (this involves having a rabbit and a goat as dining companions for some as yet unperformed ritual) Evelyn the sicko sickles her to death.

Bayou cops quickly descend, but as quickly as they turn up, they bail, satisfied by Evelyn’s explanation that her daughter died in a bizarre gardening accident (a la one of the numerous early-demise mishaps suffered by Spinal Tap’s various time-keepers). Slipping and falling on a sharp gardening implement doesn’t seem worthy of a coroner report, but what do we know? We’re not carrying a badge.

Evelyn is soon back in business Norman Bates-style (actually, this one is a bit similar to the unheralded, but more than competent Psycho sequel). And gruesome Procrustean innkeepers need victims, right? And what better way to ensure there’s a steady stream than one of the hoariest cliches in all of movie-making: the downed tree blocking the road! (sure, pedants may quibble that the road being washed out by a flash flood is close competition).

Either way, a disparate patron demographic show up to the motel in question with no way to leave, and thunder-claps aplenty. The cast of characters includes: an old black carpenter, a drunk preacher who resembles a bloated William Conrad (Cannon/Gunsmoke), a Memphis ad-man/con-man, a couple of White Trash honeymooners, and two wanna-be country warblers in tight jeans whose bug broke down.

Evelyn begins to take them out, Ten Little Indians style, hiding in a crawlspace and using various creepy-crawlers from around the premises, snakes, rats, roaches (the latter at least thematically on-point for a motel) to torment her tenants. There’s also a bizarre subplot about two of the girls auditioning for the ad-man, who later admits he’s not really a Columbia Records exec and that it was part of a ruse to get one (or both) of the girls in the sack. Unfortunately, we’re witness to the girls’ singing a few frames in, and let’s just say they couldn’t carry a tune even in zero-gravity.

Plodding and idiotic, Mountaintop Motel Massacre nonetheless features 10 minutes of solid atmosphere and it should be said a pretty whiz-bang soundtrack. But what about the other 80 minutes?

Trusty viewers/readers, lead-foot it to a Motel 6 instead, where at least they’ll leave a light on for you (much of this one is shrouded in murky darkness).

** (out of 5)

[Listen to our discussion of Mountaintop Motel Massacre on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]