Bits and Pieces 1985 Review
Bits and Pieces 1985
Directed by: Leland Thomas
Starring: Suzanna Smith, Brian Burt, Tally Chanel
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s an interesting job reviewing slasher movies. Despite how it may look, I don’t only spend my spare time watching cruddy horror films and I’m actually a big fan of cinema in general. My favourite directors are Luis Buñeal, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar and I love the writing skills of Charlie Kaufman. The reason I’m telling you this is because a different form of ratings apply to me between slasher and ‘normal’ flicks.
Allow me to explain what I mean. Ok let’s take a well known movie; – let’s say Casino with DeNiro and Pesci for example. Now I would give that a three star rating, but on a SLASH above, I gave Killer Workout exactly the same. How could that be? Well because I have taken in to account the target audience and intended results. If I sit down to enjoy a big budget motion picture with an Oscar worthy cast, I expect a different kind of sensation than if I watch a David Prior cheese marathon. So in effect, a three star slasher is different to a three star top box office hit – catch my drift? As much as I love seeing a method actor wrap himself in a portrayal (Rourke, Norton and Brando are my favourites), I equally find haven in an ‘unknown’ trying to be convincing with his one and only shot.
So with that cleared up, we turn our attention to Bits and Pieces; a trash extravaganza that is as far removed from Scorsese as an episode of Sesame Street. Maybe, even further…
Note – I had to try to put in a killing, but most of them involve nudity, so this is the best I could do – but it is intercut with some non-murder plot stuff
Police have been finding dismembered corpses of young females around the city. It seems there’s a psychopathic killer on the loose. The maniac in question kidnaps women, dresses them in wigs and then kills them in his grimy bedroom. Unbeknownst to him though, he has left a possible witness. Will he be able to silence her before the police track him down?
I have recently learned that director Leland Thomas went on to teach filmmaking years after the release of Bits and Pieces and he uses this as an example of how not to make a movie. He informs his classes in part about the production before finally showing them the feature in its entirety. The producers put together the funds with the simple intention of cashing in on the slasher craze and were very vocal on what they felt was needed to make it a success. Apparently the final version omitted the majority of John Naulin’s gore effects, because the decision makers got cold feet about the explicit violence. As it is unavailable on DVD and very hard to track down any information on, it’s difficult to see exactly how much was removed. From what I have learned though, it does seem that it was jinxed by development woes.
The film itself is best described as a remake of 1980’s Maniac; especially in the way it gives the killer a lot of screen time and the viewer a chance to see the reasons why he has become so unhinged. The influences are most evident in the psycho’s obsession with his mother and the mannequin that he keeps stored in his apartment. Pieces is nowhere near as good though and lacks Lustig’s stylish direction, Tom Savini’s remarkable gore effects and even the twisted presence of a Joe Spinnell type actor. There are a few of this kind of slasher flick that differentiate themselves from the masked assassin synopsis that the genre is most renowned for. Others that include a characterisation for their bogeyman include, Skinner, Murderlust and Mardi Gras Massacre. It’s a much harder task to make a monster with a personality and dialogue creepy, but when handled correctly, the results can be genuinely effective.
Bits and Pieces is not one of those though that could be described as ‘effective’ however, and it’s pretty bad in all departments. It spends a long time developing its characters, but they are so badly acted that I felt like throwing my sock at the screen. The two leads enter different realms of awful dramatics, which are each as laughable as the other. Detective Lieutenant Carter must be on Temazepam as he has no awareness of human emotion and mutters in the same drab tone no matter what the situation. Then we have Rosie; our big-haired bleach-blonde final girl. Now she screams and cries and overacts at every given opportunity, but again it’s so rubbish that you just want to cringe. There’s tonnes of padding, which sees those same ‘stars’ falling in love and heading out to the beach a few hours after they have first met (!), but it looks drawn out and laborious because we have zero connection with anyone on the screen.
A slasher this low grade will always provide some campy comedic moments to lift the mood and there are a few here courtesy of the dim-witted script. At one point the police find a decapitated head in a dumpster and an officer tells our leading detective on the investigation that they have a positive ID on the killer’s number plate. If you’re expecting an immediate reaction, like putting out an urgent APB or for him to break from his tranquiliser-induced trance at least for a second, you’re out of luck. His only response is, ‘Ok great. I’m going home!’ I also liked the moment during the longest, least passionate ‘make out’ scene ever, when they finally begin to kiss and then suddenly, the girl starts crying. Whether it be intentional or not (I would say definitely not) it has a great sense of comic timing. It’s almost as if you can feel the thwarted lover’s frustration and him thinking, “Do you have to start the tears now, for gawd’s sake?! I was just about to get it on!!!” The use of musical accompaniment and effects here is also pretty funny. The score sounds like it was put together on a toddler’s keyboard and every now and then they chuck in peculiar sci-fi noises for no obvious reason in the strangest of places.
Some of the victims are abducted from outside a male strip bar and we get to see a couple of the bare chested, heavily oiled studs (although one of them is painfully anorexic looking) performing. I suddenly felt like I guess all slasherettes must feel when they have to sit through endless mounds of boobies in these flicks, so it was a moment of table turning from the crew behind this piece. The killer lumbers about in his shirt and tie, trying to be scary, but comes across as a bit of a wuss; and most of the gore that the producers left in was penniless. I did, however want to see this through to the end and despite teetering on the brink of tedium, it kept me interested.
Things pick up somewhat towards the final pay off and the last scene is quite lurid and mean spirited. It’s touching on torture porn more than slasher, but unsettling all the same. Aside from that, there’s not much here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, but if you fancy a poor man’s Maniac then you can give this a look. There’s quite a bit of nudity, one really cute chick as a victim and some cheesy moments too. Don’t pay the extortionate video prices, but if it gets a DVD release, it may take your fancy. I give it one and a half stars, so not quite the slasher equivalent of Gigli, but more like Righteous Kill.
Final Girl √√