“I can’t say much about his performance, but that Kendall…wow!”
“What a cock!!!”
Thus, was Father Lou’s nuanced, all-encompassing assessment of Pieces, the Euro-trash epic I had, gleefully, discovered in the video section at the mini-mart in East Randolph, NY. This store had sprung up, seemingly overnight, at the corner of Main & Williams during my freshman year at college, a rumored tax write-off for a group of enterprising parents hoping to gather funds to pay for the college educations of their small town fleeing offspring. I definitely appreciated that notion of escape and the fact that the walls of the tiny rental area in the bodega sized pop-up were filled with such offerings as the Friday the 13th films, Dario Argento’s Creepers and Blood Sucking Freaks.
The lurid red of the Pieces’ VHS box had practically called out to me upon entering the space one evening, while the film itself had delighted me with its decidedly weird energy. The actors seemed unconnected not only to each other, but to the material as a whole. The violence was over-the-top, but ultra-unrealistic, as well. The unexpected supernatural twist at the film’s end also reminded me of the out-of-the-grave hand reach from Carrie and I was proud of myself for beginning to recognize influences and repeat behaviors from film to film.
Most importantly, as a collector of actresses, Lynda Day George’s name beneath the advertising artwork had definitely drawn me in, as well. I adored her from her performances in such environmental horror epics as Ants and Day of the Animals. Despite her almost artificially stunning Hollywood beauty, she always seemed ready to throw herself into the muddiness that the roles she played required. In particular, the plotline of Ants required her to breathe through a tube, remaining perfectly still, while a quadruple baker’s dozen of insects crawled wildly over her impossibly porcelain skin. In Pieces, she almost one upped this dynamic in a sequence that found her paralyzed by a drug injection while enduring the threats of the recently revealed serial killer culprit of the film.
Savoring the multi-day rental period, I brought the tape over to Lou’s rectory on a heat strewn Wednesday evening. Occasionally, I would share my cinematic discoveries with the teen residents at the home for troubled kids, where I was employment-summering, but I felt this one may be too extreme even for their street savvy senses. Thus, I was dying to get Lou’s reaction. The orgiastic energy of the film even seemed akin to the slaughter strewn graphics of Joyride, one of our favorite cheapie horror paperback novels. But unfortunately, Lou’s Vatican-Latin didn’t translate well to the subcontinental fare on (severed) hand…or, despite my assessment, Ian Sera’s member in those final celluloid driven moments really was of review-banning magnitude.
More than likely, though, it was just another case of those universal lessons that life metes out to you slowly- never meet your heroes and never ask the pervert local priest his true opinion of your latest, greatest horror film.
Note: (My first horror movie buddy was a priest named Lou Hendricks. Several years ago, Hendricks was named by the Western New York Catholic diocese as one of their most unrepentant predators in the ’70s and ’80s. Thus, I grew up watching monster movies with a monster – a man who was like an uncle to our family. Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of my stories from that period of time.)