Saturday, July 7, 2007

GOING TO PIECES (2006) Movie Review


Produced for the Starz cable channel, and based in part on the book, Going Tp Pieces: The Rise and Fall Of The Slasher Genre, 1978-1986 by Adam Rockoff, this is part Slasher 101 for those who have not waded very deep into these waters, and part Greatest Kills compilation for those who have been swimming here for a while.

The documentary kicks off with a look at the seminal proto-slasher, PSYCHO, and all the lavish praise it fully deserves. From there, it jumps forward to a dissection of HALLOWEEN and the template for modern horror that the film inadvertently created - teens in peril, a masked killer, POV shots, low-budget, creepy music. It flows smoothly into the release of FRIDAY THE 13th, and the stakes that film played on the 80's, from graphic gore (Tom Savini and his effects get some great screen time) to the "holiday" setting.

When FRIDAY THE 13th started to rake in the cash, it was a mere matter of months before a slew of knock-offs, cash-in's and sequels began to take hold in the early 80's. Films noted here include PROM NIGHT, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME and MY BLOODY VALENTINE among countless others.

It is here that the documentary begins to take a look at the effect the slasher/horror genre had on society at the time, the misconceptions of what the genre meant and brought to the screen, and how the genre became another cog in the money-making machine that was go-go greedy 80's. Archival footage of Siskel & Ebert are shown as the two discuss the demerits of the genre, particularly in the way they believed the genre viewed women. They completely fail to notice how it is only women who seem capable of dispatching the antagonist, or that men seem to meet their maker much more often than women.

Much like music had to bow to the power of "Explicit Lyrics" by the power of uninformed moms, so too did the slasher film factory. When SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT began its marketing campaign, the killer, who is dressed as Santa Claus, is prominently promoted. Mothers took the streets picketing theatres and making calls demanding that the film be pulled, because of the harm it could do to the Santa Claus mythos. The marketing was quickly pulled, and the film was basically buried. It was a move that already marked the beginning of the end for the splatter and chaos that was flying across the screen.

By 1984, audiences were looking for something different. Enter Wes Craven, and his almost universally rejected and almost un-produced NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Before this, films were set in familiar places to the viewer, be it camps, dorms or suburbia, but now it was your dreams that were not safe. The film was an smash, and kept the genre going for a few more great years.

All things must come to a close though, and as the 80 crept into its last years, so too did the slasher genre. The 80's was a decade of greed, and these low-budget features were the perfect product to churn out again and again. Sequels became retreads of previous material, the great icons were become tired and watered down, and merchandise was flooding the market. By 1991, when SILENCE OF THE LAMBS became a huge success and swept the Oscars, no one dared to label it a horror film, due to the stigma attached to the term. Instead, it was a psychological thriller. Nevermind the fact that the boiled down premise is a serial killer is murdering and skinning women, and eventually comes in contact with the film's heroine who stops him.

GOING TO PIECES finishes off with a look at SCREAM and its undeniable influence and revitalization on the horror genre. Again, imitators and cash-in films such as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and URBAN LEGEND are looked at, as well as stars that are attached to the film. Before, horror was where new talent broke in to the industry and quickly shaked free of the genre, TV stars were now advancing into horror. The documentary finishes off with a glimpse into today's horror fans, the films that are flooding the market, and speculation as to where the genre is going next.

GOING TO PIECES is a slick, face-paced documentary that tries to cram too much into its 90 minute running time. Most diehard fans that may come across this will probably say in their head after each segment "What about...?" and they are right to do so. Had this been a multi-part mini-series that could take the time to really concentrate and flesh out each segment, it would have been more successful in its approach. The talent attached to this though, is what will really draw in the horror crowd here. John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer, Felissa Rose (the "girl" from SLEEPAWAY CAMP), Rob Zombie and many others all make poignant commentary on the genre.

As mentioned before, GOING TO PIECES does not skimp on the clips. Half of this documentary is basically a highlights reel of incredible set-ups and kill scenes from all your favorite franchises and a few not-so-well known flicks. Starz is to be commended for not pulling any punches here, and showing some really graphic carnage. The only downside to this is that none of the clips are marked as to what movie they are from, so for instance if you happen to be intrigued by the girl being chainsawed in half and have not already seen PIECES, you would have no idea where it is from.

The final product here is a worthy rental for the entertaining interviews and to maybe catch a few film names that you may have either missed or dismissed, and may need to finally see for archival purposes. If you are a little unfamiliar with the genre, this is a good cheat-sheet to take notes from, so the next time your friends are talking about the double impaling in FRIDAY THE 13th Part 2, you can chime in about how it was stolen from BAY OF BLOOD. However, like many of the films it documents here, GOING TO PIECES is good for about one watch to fill some time on a Saturday night.


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