Pieces (1982)
A different perspective on this slasher classic
19 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I must admit, it's been cool being Spanish lately. What with the immensely popular and equally as successful Rafael Nadal tearing up tennis and La furia roja wining the Euro then world cup whilst playing the best football imaginable, it has to be said that from a patriotic standpoint, all is going well for my country.

The thing is, when we look at slasher movies, our output leaves me pretty much lost for words when it comes to banter. It makes it harder when I notice that despite a few stabs, this is the most recognised effort of my country's involvement in the cycle. Just a quick browse through the reviews here on IMDb and as of yet, I haven't seen one that mentions any credibility.

So I took it upon myself to start preparing my defensive arguments. A legend of Spain from Simón's era was singer/poet Joan Manuel Serrat. His most renowned LP was Mediterraneo, which got him expelled from fascist Spain for its intelligent subtle lyrics and views on the struggle of Spaniards under El Generalissimo, Francisco Franco. A fine example is the track, Barquito de Papel (small boat of paper). At first appearance it seems quite harmless and even my brother still likes to look at it as a song about a young boy, at a time when money in villages was invisible, floating the aforementioned boat down a local stream (something he used to do.). But lines like, "without a boss, without a direction it travels wear it wants to" were a shrewd dig at the struggles of our people under fascism and the truth was in the subliminal messages.

What if Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche was made under a similar pretense? What if Simón's slasher was really a social comment on our obsession with image? Maybe he was hinting that you can't build the perfect person and that we should all accept that everyone has pluses and minuses and we could get lost in the search forever? Or maybe the chainsaw wielding maniac was our lust for credit and the message was that and we are starting to dismember our economy? OK so I'm reaching...

In the end I decided to try a different trick. I returned home and told my wife, a film (but not slasher) fan, who generally trusts my judgment - that Simón's effort had a 7.5 rating on IMDb and was an intelligent psycho thriller. I wanted to see if the film's reputation had led it down a path of poor reviews because people had read so much rubbish about it that they went in looking exactly for that. Media opinion can have a big sway on our considered expectations.

A masked maniac is stalking a college campus and murdering co-eds, leaving them with missing body parts. Armed with a chainsaw, the police are baffled as to his identity and bring in extra help to solve the case.

One thing that critics never acknowledge is that this is in fact a tribute (dare I say rip-off) of Narciso Serrador's La Residencia. It probably had a big effect on Simón when he was younger and the influences are undeniable. The film was shot in both Boston and Valencia (not Madrid) with producers from Italy, Spain, England and America. As far as I am aware cast members like Frank Bruña, Gérard Tichy and Silvia Gambino could not speak English, so you can imagine some of the on-set confusion.

Admittedly there are some great unintentionally humorous moments that I can't provide an excuse for. The best of these is when a Bruce Lee lookalike violently attacks an undercover Police officer and then the pair laughs it off as it's all down to '..Some bad chop suey'. This was actually intentional as the actor was from another movie that Dick Randall was working on at the time and Simón wrote the scene on the spot to include him in a cameo. You also have to laugh at the funky soundtrack, which sounds like it would be better suited in a seventies porno!

Credit has to be given for Basilio Cortijo's gore effects, which are very well done. The film is one of the goriest of the period and for that alone it is well worth a look. It also never gets boring and has become a classic Grindhouse/drive-in favourite with a strong and loyal following.

You definitely can't knock the director for his effort and if you watch it with an open mind some of the murder scenes are effective if not creepy. Also, the girl smashing through a mirror in the beginning DOES have something to do with the plot, as it is meant to signify the return of his psychosis (it was launched by a smashed mirror in the opening). It's not handled in the best way, but that was the aim.

OK so I have tried to give a different perspective and can openly admit that there is a lot to laugh at with the production of this feature, but then there was with most slashers of the early eighties, even those that did not have such a mixed production (Graduation Day, Fatal Games etc). My wife actually really enjoyed it (partly because she thought she was cool by working out the killer's identity by his shoes) and she gave it the thumbs up (admitting however that it's not scary).

Mil Gritos does deserve its place in the annuals of slasher history and kudos to Simón who said he never cared what the critics said; he just really enjoyed making these movies. It may not have come out how he intended, but I loved watching all the same. Ignore the lack of logic and hilarious dialogue (the water bed line still does it for me) and simply enjoy the ride. Just as the advert said, it's exactly what you think it is...
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