Think of the producing savvy of Roger Corman crossed with the directing enthusiasm of Ed Wood and you have something like Juan Piquer Simon, a Spanish exploitation director who ran his own studio making some terrifically bizarre genre pictures from the mid-70s through to his final flick Manoa, The City Of Gold in 1999. Currently still acting as co-director of the Valencia Film Festival, the man is clearly one of us - in his own words - an ”adamant fan of fantasy, thriller and horror films”.
Tonight we look at two of his most well known, er, pieces; Pieces (1982) and Slugs: The Movie (1988). The gloriously sounding Pieces is pure drive-in chainsaw slasher fodder, perfectly marketed at it’s time and now revered by some (such as Eli Roth) as a ‘masterpiece of early 80s sleaze’. Slugs just sounded cool and promised much messy action and fun on it’s title alone.
So join us as we delve further into the delights of the finest Eurotrash exploitation movies have to offer and raise a glass or two to Senor Simon along the way.
Juan Piquer Simon Night was brought to you by Rawshark in association with Cool 4 Kidz Chainsaw and Rubber Slug Shop – for all your kid’s chainsaw and slug needs
Plot Who's cutting up the kids on the college campus with a chainsaw?
Rawshark Boston 1942; a shot of a young boy putting together a jigsaw puzzle to the sounds of Humpty Dumpty (the lyrics, it’s in the lyrics!). However, his mum’s not happy to discover that the puzzle her sweet young boy is doing is actually a naughty nudie girl jigsaw puzzle so she tries to punish him. Little boy promptly chops her to pieces in a display of gory gore that Jim described perfectly as ”Brilliant! But shit! Shit brilliant! Shilliant!”. Calmly, the boy returns to put the final piece into place (”I like how he saved the bush piece til last” - Jim) before the cops call round and discover the mother’s head in the closet whilst the boy blames it on a ‘strange ”big man”…
Forty years later the film returns us to its present day and a nice little ‘whoisit?’ giallo style slasher movie, albeit with enjoyable characters, nudity galore and some really rather groovy splattery stuff. Indeed, when one young girl is decapitated with a chainsaw early on, Zomblee claimed it as ”one of the best spurts we’ve had at Zombie Club”.
Tasked with trying to track the killer (or indeed could be the killer) are such characters as the college Dean, Det. Lt. Bracken, Caretaker Willard (”that’s the other bad guy in Crimewave” – Jim), Professor Brown, a random ninja and Mary Riggs; hot blonde babe, champion tennis player and undercover cop. The murders come thick and fast (”that’s the third cool murder scene in 20 minutes!” - Zomblee), whilst in contrast the long lingering shots of black gloves and jigsaw pieces linger longingly. And they do linger. Quite often.
Yet overall Pieces bowls along at it’s own furious pace and is much fun to anyone who likes seeing everything being thrown onto the screen including the kitchen sink. Some of the effects work is delightful in a ‘being able to see the puppet’s strings’ way and is suitably gory and grotesque, both in imagination and execution. Throw in hilarious characters and performers, a cheeky sense of humour and some truly bizarre moments and you have a great film with lots of all the good things we exploitation fans love. Lap it up.
”I want to do it underwater. See you in the pool”
Zomblee Pieces starts like it means to go on, depicting a young boy sawing his mum up with a chainsaw after he gets abused for working on a naked lady jigsaw puzzle. He cuts his mum up in to 'pieces', and the jigsaw also has 'pieces', get it? Righto. Fast forward some years and we see what must be this young boy as a grown-up - an ominous figure who walks about very slowly indeed, no doubt having taken his cue from the Michael Myers school of 'no-matter how fast you run I will still catch you' maniac killers ("It must take him three hours to get ready every morning" - Rawshark).
So, this Spanish El Myers type has taken to savagely murdering young co-eds at a Boston college where Edmund Purdom (Absurd, Nightmare City) is the Dean. And there is an assortment of other characters worth noting:
• Willard - massive hulking brute usually armed with a potentially lethal gardening implement. Loves squinting. And appearing randomly.
• Inspector Bracken - confident-yet-laidback cop who looks suspiciously like the reporter dude in City of the Living Dead. Shares surname with Haddonfield Sheriff in Halloween. Loves cigars.
• Sergeant Mhhhrrrhrr - follows Inspector Bracken around. Also goes by the name Sgt. Holden. Looks like he wants to be more important than he is, but he can't.
• Professor Brown - dodgy looking brain-box. May be the killer. May also be really into children, but we'll never know.
• Goggles - really nerdy kid with big glasses, the kind Jim obviously used to bully at school ("He's the kind of dweeb you just want to beat up"). Loves looking really stupid and trying to make himself look cooler by hanging around with...
• Kendal - bright, go-getting young student who ends up helping the police find the killer. Loves the ladies, especially...
• Mary - hot undercover cop dispatched to identify the killer from within the college. Loves tennis. And shouting 'Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!' when murders occur.
This one plays out like a college giallo, as the police and helpful student Kendal persevere with their investigation amidst a backdrop of serious carnage whilst also trying to fend off nosey reporters. After all, "just think what would happen to the university if this got leaked!" Every now and again, we see the killer's hands completing that dirty jigsaw he got in trouble for all those years ago, just to remind you why the film is called Pieces, and although we were never sure which of the above characters has a penchant for chainsaw-wielding (apart from Willard - too obvious!), we really should have predicted the final denouement long before the final ten minutes.
What a great little movie. Sure, it's rough around the edges, but the body count is high and director Simon really goes all Fulci on the excessive gore, especially during that awesome slo-mo waterbed-stabbing scene. And as if boasting no less than four pairs of boobs (that makes eight boobs in total) isn't enough, we're also treated to an unbelievably inappropriate kung-fu scene halfway through, attributed to the fact that producer Dick Randall was making lots of kung-fu movies at the same time. A genuine 'What the fuck?!' moment of the highest order. Why not eh?
"Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!"
Jim &hlYeah, what the hell was that? One minute a couple of characters are walking along, next minute they're dropkicked out of nowhere by a tracksuited Bruce Lee lookalike. Then we get 30 seconds of fighting before they stop, the guy goes, "Hey, it's my karate Professor!" before the tracksuited one walks off, apologising.
Yes, welcome to Pieces, Juan Piquer Simon's talking on the exploitation slasher movie. And as the guys have said, it delivers from the word go. Gore, chainsaws ("He's got a chainsaw erection!" - Zomblee), water bed deaths, axe to the head deaths, random karate, you name it. It's also got one of the slowest killers ever - "You can really pad the running time with all this slowly handling stuff shenanigans." - Zomblee, "This guy must take about three hours to get dressed in the morning." - Rawshark, "He's competing with the guy from Night of the Bloody Ape in slowness." - Rawshark, "He can't be the killer, he's moving too fast!" - Zomblee. But so what if it has crappy editing and some obvious padding between the gore, it's got that guy from Crimewave that's not the one in Blade Runner as the chainsaw obsessed gardener, how cool is that?
Okay, as the movie wraps, 8 breasts later, it becomes quite obvious who did it (look for the sloooowest character) but the movie concludes well, even if Christopher George used one to many 'gotta match?' gags for my liking.
Not a great film by any technical means then, but one hell of a fun Zombie Club movie.
"Noone is allowed to use my office as a mailing address."
Director Juan Piquer Simon
Cast Christopher George
Lynda Day George
Paul L. Smith
Runtime 89 mins
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Plot Killer slugs on the rampage!
Jim After a pre-credits man and dog slug death, we're quickly introduced to Mike Brady, small town health inspector, who thinks the local small town sheriff's assessment of said man and dog's death is a bit fishy. Then we're introduced to Mike, Kim, Don and Maria ("Reminds me of Turkish food." - Rawshark), who come up with a plan ("Follow the slime!" - Rawshark), although the most interesting out of those characters is Don, who wears a big yellow haz-mat suit. He's from the small town sanitation department. Don't you love this already?
And it gets better. Next an old bloke called Howard gets his hand caught in a glove containing one of the pesky slugs, so he's forced to chop his own hand off before his greenhouse explodes. Then a girl called Bobby shags this bird while her parents are out and don't notice the slugs piling in through the toilet until it's too late, and consequently die naked in a slippery slug bonanza, Bobby while trying to climb naked out of the window. As far as slug stuff goes, these are pretty good slug deaths ("I enjoyed the greenhouse scene too, not as much as that, that was a slug carpet." - Zomblee, "They certainly haven't scrimped on the sluggage." - Rawshark).
Then what? Well, value for money John the scientist is now introduced and he spends the movie experimenting on slugs (cutting them up, dropping them on gerbils, that kind of thing) before coming up with a pump lithium / arsenic into the sewers plan, so him, Mike and Don from sanitation head off for a yellow haz-may suit finale, which results in some more slug deaths and some wicked explosions ("If in doubt at the end of a movie, just blow things up." - Zomblee), although of course one slug gets away, in case they ever find the budget for a sequel ("There's always one isn't there." - Rawshark).
Higher budgeted and glossier than both Pieces and the ridiculous Supersonic Man, Slugs is a wicked mid-80s eco-horror of the finest order. Gory, cliched to hell, great fun. Everyone should have a copy of slugs in their collection. I have, even though slugs in general totally gross me out and I spent a lot of the movie feeling slightly sick. Urgh.
"You explain the slug shit on the floor and the dead bodies."
Zomblee I know what you're thinking. You've seen Slugs and you thought it was a piece of shit, just like metalhead horror scribe Shaun Hutson did when he saw it ("You can almost understand Shaun Hutson's despair. But then again, he did write a book called 'Slugs'!" - Rawshark). It's by no means any masterpiece, but for a cheap little eco-horror, this is incredibly good value from start to finish. Its failings are likeable, and that goes a long, long way here at Zombie Club.
As our man Jim has already told you, they really didn't scrimp on the sluggage, which has got to be a good thing, given the title of the movie. There is literally a writhing carpet of the slimy little fuckers in some scenes, which, lets face it, really is quite disgusting (Jim shouted "Eugh!" several times throughout this movie). The small town USA setting is an entirely perfect backdrop for this sort of eco horror shenanigans, not to mention the toxic waste dump and 'lithium based arsenic'.
This is the kind of movie where 'guys doing stuff' gets the job done. Mike, Don and John throw themselves into action towards the end of the movie, complete with stock action plan-style music. One of them (can't remember which) has an amazing mullet, from which the slugs hang at one point ("Is that a slugget?" - Rawshark). "I quite like the mullet guy, he's a complete wanker...", was Jim's take on the one with the rear hair display, and who am I to argue? Hell, it's even got one of those classic references to Vietnam, the kind you hear in hundreds of other movies. Some would call that lazy, cliched writing. Not me. You can't have enough references to 'Nam in any movie. Ever.
"I ain't seen nothing like that before. Not even in 'Nam."
Rawshark You know you’re in for a good eco-horror creature feature when one girl strips off whilst her guy gets dragged underwater in bloody bubbles in the opening couple of minutes. Yesiree, we’re in Slugsville USA, the kind of place where the slug sightings are increasing in proportion to the number of people going missing. The next to go is an old man with bad hygiene and a filthy basement who seemingly gets eaten by his own sofa before we’re introduced to Health Inspector Mike and his girl Kim, and Yellow-suited Sewage Man Don and his girl Maria, who does in fact seem a bit old and mean for Don (”I really want the old woman to get slugged” - Zomblee).
As the local school begins its preparations for a Halloween Party (of course), the attacks increase with a brilliantly absurd set-piece attack on Harold the gardener. He spots some slug eggs on his plants (”it’s just a bit of moving lettuce” - Zomblee), before being bitten on the hand and getting trapped under a lightweight falling shelf stand. He tries chopping his hand off (”He’s done it!” - Jim) but alas, his extreme survival methods go awry when he dies anyway as the greenhouse explodes.
Meanwhile a naughty horny couple are slug-munched in coitus, one poor guy, who looks a bit like Nigel Havers, has a nosebleed that turns into a slug / head explosion, and Don and Mike slowly put slug and slugs together to realise that something may not be quite right about that toxic waste dump at the edge of town...
From here on in, we’re sold on the cute little ”dog-faced” (Zomblee) slimers and whooping up the fun eco-horror freefall as the threat builds up amidst the water and sewage pipes; masses of slugs oozing out of the taps, toilets and sinks to threaten the town. Luckily the local crackpot scientist has engineered a killer slug chemical formula, allowing Mike and Don the chance to herd all the slugs into one place and bomb them with infected meat giving us yet another ‘Drop the Beef’-style plan as previously seen in The Killer Fish back in Fishy Treasure Night - (”I never thought we’d see another ‘Drop the Beef’ plan at Zombie Club!”” – Jim). Ah, Slugs, good squishy stuff!
”Don’t ‘Sure, Sheriff’ me unless you’re sure about it."
Director Juan Piquer Simon
Cast Michael Garfield
Runtime 92 mins
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Well, you can’t say we were short-changed tonight. Lashings of inventive, but kinda cheap looking gore, copious amounts of nudity, wonderfully bizarre characters and some great lines of dialogue - all wrapped up in a chainsaw slasher giallo pic and an ‘classic template’ eco-horror movie with killer slugs.
Pieces is terrific fun and ticks all the boxes you’ll need from a fun and nasty slasher romp. It also pleased the martial-arts fan in both Jim and Zomblee with a random appearance from a karate / kung-fu ninja. Slugs proved itself to be far from slug-ish, instead being good solid cheap entertainment with some cracking highlights.
With now three of his films screened at Zombie Club (the other being Supersonic Man back in Crap Superhero Night), you can’t say Juan Piquer Simon doesn’t deliver, and we’re already looking forward to checking out some of his other movies soon, especially some of the wonderfully titled following; Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth (1976), Monster Island (1982) and Dirty War (1984). Viva la Espana!
Join us next time when we’ll be having three classically bad Ninja movies in Ninja Ninja Ninja Night