It was during my 9th grade year that I saw my first European horror film and it was on the big screen. Lucky me!
In the 9th and 10th grades I attended a boarding school in
Being trapped in a campus dorm Monday through Friday made some type of escape
on the weekend absolutely necessary. Not being overly interested in drugs and
only marginally interested in alcohol I usually spent a few hours each Saturday
in a movie theater sucking up whatever Hollywood would throw at me. But on this
particular Saturday night I was in for something a bit more…..odd.
Several of us had spotted the newspaper ads for PIECES and were taken aback by the forwardness of the rather lurid image. By this time I had heard of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE but had yet to see it so this seemed even more dangerous. If this was striving to top that film what might be sprayed across the screen? A few of us teenage boys made plans to see this sucker no matter what. Understand- we were under no illusions about the nastier elements of the film. Hell! That’s why we were daring each other to go! We saw PIECES as a test of our masculinity, a rite of passage that without experiencing might point towards us becoming less than we were capable of being. We were men in training and we could handle anything this film could throw at us! Take your best shot!
Needless to say we were appalled by what we saw. Stunned! Shocked! Sickened, even! Grotesque on a level none of us had seen before we were reduced to trying to ‘man up’ by making fun of the gore and pretending we weren’t scared when the sounds of a chainsaw (or, in a smart cheap scare, a motorcycle) roared out of the screen. Luckily there were enough ridiculous moments to allow us the respite of humor to salve our raw nerves. I’ll never forget one of my buddies’ stunned reaction to the killer getting into a small elevator with an intended victim while hiding the chainsaw under his coat. His ‘Is that woman blind’ was one the biggest laughs I’ve ever had in a movie theater to this day.
Although I didn’t know it at the time this was a turning point in my love of the movies. Not immediately but over the next few years I began to return to the horror genre more often and found that I preferred it to all others. The thrills of scary movies have remained my favorite viewing and exploring the European horror films has been the most fascinating area of this most frowned upon hobby of mine. Oh well.
Several years ago my dreams of a Special Edition DVD of this mad film became glorious reality and I can now pull this bit of cinematic insanity off the shelf any time, on any whim. And having discovered that the Spanish director of this one made the just as crazed 'monster' film SLUGS (which is its own brand of giggle inducing joy) a few years later I’m now interested in seeing more of Juan Piquer Simon’s list of credits. With titles like MYSTERY ON MONSTER ISLAND (on the shelf and waiting), THE FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (has this gone out of print?) and SEA DEVILS (where the Hell am I gonna find this?) on that list my curiosity is aroused. Of course, he also made POD PEOPLE which was one of the worst pieces of crap Mystery Science Theater ever heckled. The joys of cinematic discovery are many and varied! And to think that the seeds of this were planted 31 years ago in a little theater in